On Monday 19 January 2015 Church leaders and representatives gathered in the Crypt at Lambeth Palace at the invitation of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury to share in a prayer service under the auspices of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) marking the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU).
In his warm welcome, the Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, read from a Middle East Council of Churches letter which called for unified prayer efforts and advocacy:
“Prayerfully together, we call upon all our fellow Christians around the world, both clergy and laity, who are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to share with us our fervent and passionate prayer for peace in our beloved and suffering Orient, especially in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, who are currently facing the harshest waves of persecution…We appeal for your prayers and ask you to spare no efforts of advocacy wherever and whenever possible, to alleviate and end this painful and tragic reality, and to bring a safe and immediate release to all who have been kidnapped and to preserve a sustainable and peaceful Christian presence in the Middle East.”
During the service, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom and Moderator of CTBI, delivered the sermon in which he said:
“Some may have asked today whether this service should have been in an Orthodox Cathedral, a Church of England Abbey, or in this Crypt, but at the end of the day it does not matter; the fact is that we are here, and how wonderful and blessed it is for us to be here to pray together.”
Speaking of the potential hindrances to realised unity he said:
“Of course we have traditions, history, and practices, but they should never become an obstacle to us worshipping the Father. We now come together in the identity that is most core to us; before we are called Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Evangelicals, or Free Church, we are called Christians and that is what we gather as today.”
Commenting on the suffering of many across the world Bishop Angaelos went on to say:
“There is no greater time for us to worship and gather because there has never been a greater need for us to stand and pray together. The world needs us; those suffering the effects of Ebola, HIV, and other diseases need us; the persecuted Church in the Middle East, Nigeria and around the world needs us, those suffering the results of global, ruthless, heartless terrorism that rocks our own communities need us, and contentiously, even those who are manipulated into horrible acts of violence need us; they all need us to stand to pray today.”
Concluding his sermon he said:
“Today we must work towards that one presence of one Body before one Lord. The ecumenical journey is a challenging one, but not impossible, and at the end of the day it is Christ's journey for us. Small sparks, like today, can turn into blazing infernos of the work of the Spirit; we are here as one such spark, albeit an important one.”
The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ‘The Well is Deep’ comes from the Churches in Brazil and is inspired by the account of the Samaritan woman found in the Gospel of John 4:1-42. The WPCU encourages Churches around the world to interact with other Christian denominations, and further develop and strengthen existing bonds through prayer, collaboration and shared witness. The service was led by Canon Bob Fyffe, General Secretary of CTBI.
Members of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative (LOI) Steering Committee, currently meeting at The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in the United Kingdom to discuss and prepare for the LOI 2015 International Consultation in Finland, also attended the service.
Listen to the Sermon by HG Bishop Angaelos here: http://bit.ly/15sfhQU