Since 1908, Christians from different denominations globally have gathered in their respective countries annually to pray for the unity of the Church. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU), as it is called, is usually celebrated from 18 to 25 January.
This year’s materials for the prayer services were prepared by the Middle East Council of Churches. The selection of scripture and liturgical texts was inspired by the visit of the Magi to the new-born King, as described in Matthew 2:1-12, particularly verse 2: “We saw his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”
More than ever, in these difficult times, we need a light that shines in the darkness and that light, Christians proclaim, has been manifested in Jesus Christ.
In Singapore, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was observed at the following five venues:
- 19 Jan (Wed), 8pm – Covenant Community Methodist Church
- 20 Jan (Thu), 8pm – Church of St. Alphonsus (Novena Church)
- 21 Jan (Fri), 8pm – St. John’s-St. Margaret’s Church
- 24 Jan (Mon), 8pm – The Salvation Army Singapore Central Corps
- 25 Jan (Tue), 8pm – Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer
Our pastors who participated in the services share with us their reflections and highlight the significance of the rituals conducted.
In Singapore, the first prayer service for 2022 was held at Covenant Community Methodist Church with representatives from different denominations leading various sections and Bishop Dr Gordon Wong preaching from Matthew 2:1-12. Just as how the Magi together worshipped Jesus, may we, the body of Christ, despite difficulties and differences, unite together in worshipping the King of Kings.
— Rev Ling Kin Yew
Pastor Mei Ming and I joined in the WPCU prayer service at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer on 25 January. The service was inspired by the Magi’s visit to the new-born Christ. We were led by stars stuck to the floor from the entrance right up to the sanctuary. And on the right side of the chancel, a large lighted star was mounted on a dark blue cloth symbolising the Star that led the Magi to the stable in Bethlehem. There were representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, The Salvation Army and Trinity Theological College. We used worship resources prepared by the Middle East Council of Churches. Most Eastern Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in the region are members of the council. The Nicene Creed we recited was the form used in Orthodox churches as a gesture of goodwill. During the service, we were invited to add paper stars to the blue cloth under the lighted Star. This signified our commitment to share Christ’s light. A star led the Magi to Christ. Today this star points to the presence of Christ, who has been revealed to us and shines on us. As the Magi followed the star to Bethlehem, we gather under this star today, adding our own stars to the sky, uniting our gifts and prayers for the visible unity of the Church. As we journey towards that goal, may our lives together give a luminous witness that leads others to know Christ.
— Rev Ivan Tan
I first participated in the WPCU in 2020 when I was assigned to plan and organise one of the services that year. I found the experience to be meaningful because it was a practical expression of doing Jesus’ will and praying with him for the oneness of believers in John 17, and I am glad to continue to be part of it. The unity of Christ’s Church is crucial, if not necessary, for true and effective witness to the gospel (John 17:20-23), and is the demonstration of its power of breaking down walls among humankind and bringing peace (Ephesians 2:13-22).
— Rev Poh Zhihui
At least once a year, I am reminded, by the observance of WPCU, of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). This year, I was glad to be meeting up again with ‘old’ friends; I also looked forward to meeting ‘new’ friends. My heart is touched when Christians come together to pray for our unity. Still, I wonder whether more could join us? Doing so doesn’t negate the fact that there are real-time significant differences in theological understandings between the various ‘streams’ of Christendom. But this always reminds me to consider more deeply what German theologian, Rupertus Meldenius, iterated, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” For me, it is also praying forward with a wistful smile as I see the day when all who are truly followers of Jesus Christ will gather as one, united once and for all in spirit and in truth before Him. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
— Rev Chan Mei Ming
Every year, I look forward to this sacred hour where I am inspired and enriched by our siblings from the traditions of the various Christian denominations. When we are one, then the world will believe that God did send his son. Let’s seek to build the kingdom and kin-dom (kinship) of God and not our own religious empire.
— Rev Gabriel Liew
Rev Ling Kin Yew is a pastor at Cairnhill Methodist Church. Additional reporting by Alvin Tay, Managing Editor of the Methodist Message. | Photos courtesy of Novena Novum, Covenant Community Methodist Church and Gerald Kong.