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Friday, March 24, 2017
Churches in South Africa inspire prayers for unity
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¬†Saturday is 'funeral day' in South Africa when communities, devastated by HIV/AIDS, bury their dead. Week after week, they cope with mourning and carrying on with life. Their experience ≠of despair, resilience and hope ≠ forms the backdrop for the worship resources launched by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2007. Prayers from Africa and striking posters and pamphlets with vibrantly coloured designs of hands reflect the wish from the Churches in South Africa to speak out for those whose suffering is overlooked. The design of hands was inspired by the British Sign Language (BSL) sign for 'speak out'. Christians in South Africa find their faith in Christ gives them the courage to speak out, to break their silence, to overcome the shame of victims and to overcome ignorance about preventing the disease. The Revd Bob Fyffe, General Secretary of CTBI, said the annual Week of Prayer was more than just an intellectual exercise. For the writers, to listen to the Churches in Africa became 'an exercise of the heart and into the heart of God'. Each year, Churches in a different country are invited to suggest a theme for Christians around the world to follow during the annual Octave of Prayer for Unity which runs from 18 to 25 January. Christians in Umlazi, near Durban in South Africa offered the theme 'He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak,' based on verses from the Gospel of Mark. Their material was then developed by an International Group appointed by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity of the Catholic Church. That text was then adapted for British and Irish Churches by a group convened by CTBI. In addition to the Ecumenical Service on the theme, an Order of Service for healing is offered in the worship resources booklet. Churches are encouraged to work and pray for all whose suffering is overlooked, who may be other than those with HIV/AIDS. The Revd Mary Hunter (representing the Irish Inter-Church Meeting IICM) said it was hard to relate to the experience of the Church in South Africa. 'I do not look at my congregation knowing that fifty percent or more have HIV/AIDS,' she said. Her challenge had been to set aside 'my suburban middleclass perspective and try and see the world through the eyes of a young adult with the constant threat of infection I hope that the shocking reality has not been sanitized or concealed. The voice of the people of Umlazi and many other places needs to be heard, loud and clear. They showed me that together we could do so much more. United in faith and love, east and west, north and south, could accomplish so much more for the world.' Mr Bede Gerrard (Orthodox Church) said 'Unity does not mean uniformity, but it does need to have us all moving and working in the same direction ≠ to the glory of God and for the unity of all the people of God.' The centenary of the Week of Prayer for Unity falls in 2008. The Revd Andrew Scobie (Church of Scotland) explained that the first observance of Prayer for Unity was conceived and implemented by the Revd Paul James Wattson, an Episcopalian priest and founder of the Society of Atonement at Graymoor in Garrison, New York. To celebrate the centenary, the international preparatory group will meet at Graymoor. CTBI's worship resources encourage prayer for unity all year round. The resources include a pamphlet (also available in large print), containing the special ecumenical service, 'Breaking the Silence' and daily reflections; a card with prayers for Africa and to encourage people to respond to the needs of others; a large A3 poster to advertise local services and a Resource Book containing additional worship. There is a bilingual English / Welsh version of the pamphlet and prayer card. The Week of Prayer worship resources are available from CTBI Publications, phone 01733 325 002 or via Source: CTBI
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