The 2018 Service in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Last year you could see me really angry about the official international version of the ecumenical service in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

My opinion about the 2018 version is completely different: I really appreciate it! You can find the English texts on the website of the World Council of Churches (pp. 11–18).

The entire service is clearly focused on the Scripture readings, which circle around God’s power that liberates from slavery. Important biblical keywords are taken up elsewhere, e.g. Rom 8 at the beginning of the “Prayer of Reconciliation” (p. 13) or Exod 15 in the “Prayers of the People” (p. 17). I also like the “Invocation of the Holy Spirit” (p. 13) with its short verses: A chance for meditation instead of a verbose lecture.

There are only some details that I would like to change. Overall, the service seems too long to me. It contains many long texts, especially when you realize how long the Scripture readings are. Exod 15:1–21, parts of Ps 118, Rom 8:12–27, Mark 5:21–43, and a homily: All that takes a while, and most people cannot concentrate on even more than that. And when we gather in the cathedral of Innsbruck in January, the entire community will be frozen after 60 minutes. With regard to people’s health and awareness, we will have to shorten the service a bit.

I would like to replace the “Prayer of Reconciliation” (p. 13) by a simple collect. There is no collect at all elsewhere in the service, and a collect can contain all the same topics as the Prayer of Reconciliation. For example:

Merciful God,
we have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.
So we ask you, full of trust in your saving power:
Deliver us from all forms of disdain and slavery,
poverty and marginalization,
fear and suspicion.
For you are our strength and our might, and have become our salvation.
God, lead us all in the abode of holiness.

The “Prayers of the People” (pp. 17–18) is only focused on “us”. I would like to replace it by much shorter invocations for “others” (those who are in slavery, in need; those who work for peace and justice; those who are violent; for all Christian churches).

I do not think that we will let chains fall on the ground (p. 13) in our cathedral. But this is more for architectural and acoustic reasons in that building, not because of the symbolism itself which clearly makes sense.

In the almost 10 years I have been co-responsible for the ecumenical service in our city, this is the international model that I like the most.

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