A Letter from
January 18th of this year will mark the beginning of the 104th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU). These eight days are framed by two unusual feast days in the Church (unusual in that they mark events rather than people): The Feast of the Confession of St. Peter (1/18) and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (1/25).
This week of prayer began in the United States shortly after the end of the First World War, organized initially by various Protestant missionaries who realized that simply competing with one another globally for converts probably wasn’t exactly what Jesus has in mind when he commissioned his followers to proclaim the Gospel in Matthew 28. The annual prayer service eventually drew in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox participation after the Second World War and is now marked by various inter-Christian prayer gatherings around the world (including Rome, often hosted by the Pope) with a common liturgical service and other activities that various churches can participate in together in their local communities.
For many years, Assumption University hosted the local Worcester WPCU service on campus in the Chapel. But the last one was held in 2017, mostly due to a lack of interest and involvement from other communities and individuals outside of Campus Ministry. On the one hand, it makes sense that a simple prayer service would be pretty far down the priority list of the many important activities that parishes and faith communities engage in throughout the city. On the other hand, it’s been an unfortunate loss of relational connections across our historic divisions as well as a way for us to demonstrate that what unites us is greater than what divides us.
Sadly, that’s all a bit of a moot point this year, since at the beginning of 2021 we’re still limited by the pandemic from gathering in groups to pray (or do much of anything else) in person. But the good news is that we can still pray for unity between the followers of Jesus. We can pray individually: would you be willing to commit 20 minutes sometime in the eight days between the 18th and the 25th to pray for “a radical increase of love in the whole body of Christ?” (seems like a pretty key thing right now). And we can pray together virtually. You’re welcome to join Christians around the US in an online prayer service on Saturday evening, January 23rd. More information on that below!
(Scott Brill is a representative of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who serves on the Assumption Campus Ministry staff.)