From today Thursday 18 January until St Paul’s Day on Thursday 25 January Christians are both praying for the unity of churches and sharing services and social events.
The idea of the annual prayer for unity came in 1907 from Spencer Jones, the Rector of St David’s Moreton -in-Marsh in Gloucestershire, and was suggested as best being a week by his friend Fr Paul Wattson in New York State.
Over a century later Moreton’s Congregational Church now hosts the weekly Roman Catholic Mass. The two congregations interact taking turns, for example, making the Advent Wreath.
The second day of the Week of Prayer, Friday 19 January, is St Henry of Finland Day when there is a focus on the Lutheran Church and its now good relations with Canterbury and Rome.
In London Friday the St Paul’s Cathedral choir will go to Westminster Cathedral to sing Evensong at 5pm and the Westminster choir will be at St Paul’s the following Tuesday at 5pm to sing Vespers.
The Society of the Sisters of Bethany, founded to offer regular prayer for the visible unity of the Church, holds its Unity Service on Wednesday 24 January at 2.30pm at their house in Southsea.
The climax of the week in Rome is when Pope Francis goes to St Paul Outside the Walls Church for Vespers on Thursday afternoon. This follows the tradition of his predecessors since Paul VI who there in a gesture of friendship gave his episcopal ring to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey.
Now Archbishop Justin Welby wears it when visiting the Pope and representing the Anglican Church at ecumenical gatherings.
*** The latest book to look at previous efforts at seeking unity is Reunion Revisited by Mark Vickers (Gracewing £14.99). This is a fascinating look at an over optimistic attempt at dialogue in the 1930s. The author’s thorough research produces much new material. Included is information on the later years of Spencer Jones and an explanation of other initiatives including the Malines Conversations.