Posted by esbvm on January 19th, 2008
Nearly 1,200 people attended a special service at Westminster Abbey on Friday January 18th to celebrate the centenary of the week of prayer for Christian unity. Christians from many traditions were led in a service of commitment by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Armenian Primate and representatives of the Orthodox, Korean and other Churches of Great Britain participated. Apart from the Abbey choir, Armenian and Gospel choirs also sang. The epistle was read in Korean by a minister from New Malden’s United Reform Church.
The Salvation Army Commissioner, Elizabeth Matear, gave the sermon on this year’s theme “Pray Without Ceasing”, saying that Jesus said we must always pray, “Through prayer we come together,” she said, “Prayer is dialogue ,not a one way street.” The Cardinal commended her for expressing “so beautifully” that we must never give up on praying and working for unity. “God’s power sustains us,” he said “on our ecumenical pilgrimage, deepening unity.” He led a prayer of commitment over Dr David Cornick of the United Reform Church, newly appointed General Secretary for Churches Together in England, with the Archbishop of Canterbury at his side, giving thanks that “the triune God has drawn our churches closer together in faith and life, witness and service.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury before giving the Dismissal spoke of the importance of recogniisng and giving thanks for the unique gifts of other believers.
American priest, Fr Paul Watson, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and English vicar, Rev. Spencer Jones , conceived the idea of the January week of prayer in 1908. In 1934, Abbe Paul Couturier gave renewed impetus to the week of prayer for the unity of all Christians which inspired the World Council of Churches and was enshrined in the life of the Catholic Church at Vatican II.
Fr William McCloughlin OSM,General Secretary of The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, ESBVM council member Sr Teresa Burke, a Sister of Charity of St. Paul, and Atonement Friar, Fr Michael Seed ,the Cardinal’s ecumenical advisor, an Anglican sister and a young evangelical lay man from Sword of the Spirit were amongst those reading prayers of intercession. Following a prayer of commitment said by everyone,affirming “that what unites us is stronger than what separates us” the Lord’s Prayer was recited in many languages.
Introducing the final prayer and sign of peace the Archbishop of Canterbury said that we should give thanks for the unique gifts of other believers and be open to receive them.
The following day a special day of prayer was held at the Abbey and Fr Mark Woodruff, of the Society for Ecumenical Studies, and ESBVM Council member, gave an inspiring talk about the history of the ecumenical movement. Various workshops were held including one on praying with Icons with an Orthodox priest and two led by Fr Bill McLoughlin and members of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The afternoon session was particuarly well attended and extra chairs had to be found. At midday the Society’s Ecumenical Office was recited and sung by the youth choir from the Servite Church, Kensington and London and All Saints school, Blackheath led by Mr Ben Saul, Director of Music. The day concluded with Evensong sung by the Abbey choir.