Today is the first day of the annual world-wide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 18-25 January, which is book-ended by the octave of Saints Peter and Paul.
This year’s theme, chosen by the Latvian churches, is ‘Salt of the Earth.’ This theme is inspired by Jesus’ metaphors of salt and light (Matthew 5:13-15)
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
While churches in Britain and Ireland are emphasizing the ‘Salt of the Earth,’ other churches are expressing the theme as ‘Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of God,’ which is inspired by 1 Peter 2:9-10:
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
These verses seem particularly apt in light of the Catholic Church’s ongoing ‘Year of Mercy’.
To start the week, I think it’s worth reading those verses and letting them start to sink in.
And we can ask, how we, as ‘salt of the earth’, can together ‘proclaim the mighty acts of God?’
The week of Prayer for Christian Unity is usually marked by churches in Ireland with joint services and events. These are often local and carried out quietly, without fanfare, and have done much over the years to ‘normalise ecumenism’, as I put in a chapter profiling the Fermanagh Churches Forum in my forthcoming book, Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity features in the personal journals of the late Fr Gerry Reynolds CSSR, whose biography I am working on. I’m impressed by how much time, energy, and indeed prayer, that Fr Gerry invested in the week each year.
Of course, for Fr Gerry, Christian unity was more than a week long activity – it was a life-long pursuit.
Following Fr Gerry’s example, I think that making Christian unity a life-long pursuit may be the best way that Christians in Ireland can proclaim the mighty acts of God.