Brazil leads 2015 Week of Prayer

By on December 8, 2014

Each year, a writing team from a different country prepares liturgical materials and resources to be used internationally for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed annually from Jan. 18 to 25. This year, a team appointed by the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil chose its theme from John 4:7, in which Jesus meets a Samaritan woman and says, “Give me a drink.”

The materials, available from the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), explain that the biblical gesture of offering water to a guest as a welcome is familiar in all regions of Brazil, where offering beverages are “trademarks of acceptance, dialogue and coexistence.”

Maria Simakova, co-ordinator for the CCC’s commission on faith and witness, told the Anglican Journal, “This image the Brazilian Christians are offering to world Christians and to Canadian Christians is an image speaking of complementarity; so to drink the water from somebody else’s well is the first step toward experiencing their way of being and being in communion.”

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She said the theme is meaningful for the CCC because its mission is to promote this unity and diversity. “Each denomination witnesses to its truth but through dialogue and fellowship we do arrive at a mutual complementary understanding and a deepening of that truth.”

According to material from the Brazilian team, the promotion of Christian unity is of particular importance in Brazil because the country is experiencing a time of growing fundamentalism and Christian denominations have adopted a competitive attitude toward one another. Intolerance among the denominations was most vividly demonstrated in 1995 when a bishop from a Neopentecostal church kicked a statue of Our Lady Aparecida, the patron of Brazil, during a nationally broadcast TV show. Other examples of that intolerance have continued in the years since.

The image of a woman giving water also resonates with other issues of concern in Brazil. The materials point out that there is a high level of violence against women and also against the indigenous population, related to large hydroelectric developments and the expansion of agribusiness.

When asked if any Canadian events would be drawing parallels with current concerns in Canada about violence against aboriginal women, Simakova said she hadn’t heard of any yet. But, she said, “the similarity of themes has been noted, so hopefully the congregations and the national churches, when they plan their ecumenical events, will somehow link them, and we would encourage that.”

Canada was the country invited by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to prepare the resources for 2014, and Simokova said that the CCC estimates Canadian participation increased by as much as 30 per cent last year, based on traffic on the CCC website, downloads, requests for resources and feedback from churches across the country. That increase is encouraging, she said, “because one of the major reasons for week of prayer is to pray for unity but also to promote unity on the ground since the ecumenical services bring people together locally.”

Simakova noted that the three ecumenical centres in Canada – Canadian Council of Churches (Toronto), Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (Saskatoon) and Canadian Centre for Ecumenism (Montreal) worked closely together to produce the Canadian materials the Week of Prayer used last year, and it marked the start of a new phase in their relationship.

The week of Jan. 18 to 25 is designated as the Week of Prayer and was first proposed by Franciscan Fr. Paul Wattson in 1908. “In the Western calendar, this week begins with the feast of St. Peter and ends with the conversion of Paul, so ecumenically it is a symbolic moment and a unity of the church,” Simakova explained.

She noted, however, that both the WCC and CCC remind local congregations and national churches that they don’t have to be bound to that particular week. “If it makes sense in their context to pray during Pentecost or to incorporate the materials into their yearly liturgical year, or to even do private prayers, we try to make our resources as adaptable as possible,” she said.

The CCC receives the resources each year from the WCC and adapts them for the Canadian context. French and English versions are available for download from the CCC website, weekofprayer.ca, and Simakova said the materials include “anything a pastor would need – a poster, a bulletin cover, the text of the service, preaching resource, introduction to the theme of the year, bible studies.” The CCC will also mail hard copies of the material out to churches upon request.

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Author

  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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