St Eugene’s Cathedral
Francis Street, Derry
BT48 9AP | Tel: 028 7126 2302
Praying for the unity of the Church involves a recognition not only of the brokenness of Christian relationships but also how injustice in the world at large rends asunder Christian communities and impedes our participation in God's mission.
History too plays a part, casting a shadow over how we live our lives together in community. All of these issues emerge from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials for 2018. The churches of the Caribbean region describe to us their own context, how the hand of God was active in ending slavery, and how God's mission in the world is a call to us all to unite together in ending injustice, that which casts a shadow from the past and current forms of injustice such as poverty, trafficking and discrimination.
This particular Caribbean experience is a challenge to us in our context to reflect more deeply on the injustices in our own nations in Britain and Ireland which create the divisions that impede our participation in God's mission, with the call to actively work to end all division. Within these resources you will find not only the worship service derived from the International material that is resourced by the Caribbean churches, but also additional material written by the CTBI Writers Group. I hope and pray that you will find these materials inspiring as you seek to participate in the life that sets us free to be one in God. Bob Fyffe, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Introduction to this year's theme and background:
The material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 has been produced in the Caribbean.
There are 1.4 Million Christians living in the Caribbean region, across a vast geographical spread of island and mainland territories. They represent a rich and diverse tapestry of ethnic, linguistic and religious traditions, with a complex variety of governmental and constitutional arrangements. The contemporary context is deeply marked by the history of the colonialism which stripped people of their identity, dignity and freedom. Christian missionary activity, closely tied to the colonial system, seemed to support, encourage and excuse it. During five-hundred years of the colonial system, scripture was used to justify the enslavement of the indigenous people. In a dynamic reversal, those same scriptures became the inspiration and motivation for people to reclaim their liberty. Recognising the hand of God in the ending of enslavement, the Caribbean Christians offer Exodus 15, a song of triumph over oppression, as the motif of the Week of Prayer.
The hymn, 'The Right Hand of God', reflecting the song of Miriam and Moses in praise of the liberating action of God, has become the anthem of the ecumenical movement in the region. Like the Israelites, the people of the Caribbean have a song of victory and freedom to sing. Yet, contemporary challenges continue to enslave and threaten the dignity of the people. Many of the contemporary challenges are the legacy of the colonial past.
The Caribbean economies have traditionally been based upon the production of materials for the European market – sometimes producing only a single commodity. They have never been self-sustaining and their development has required borrowing on the international market. The servicing of the debt has caused a reduction in spending upon the development that it was meant to facilitate. The chosen passage from Exodus 15 allows us to see that the road to unity must often pass through a communal experience of suffering.
The Israelites' liberation from enslavement is the foundational event in the constitution of the people. Although our liberation and salvation is at God's initiative, human agencies are engaged in their realisation. Christians participate in God's ministry of reconciliation, yet our divisions hamper our witness to a world in need of God's healing. The themes of the daily material raise some of the contemporary issues addressed by the churches of the Caribbean. Abuses of human rights are found across the region and we are challenged to consider our manner of welcoming of the stranger into our midst. Human trafficking and modern-day slavery continue to be huge issues.
Addiction to pornography and drugs, continue to be serious challenges to all societies. The debt crisis has a negative impact upon the nations and upon individuals – the economies of the nations and people have become precarious. Family life continues to be challenged by the economic restrictions which lead to migration, domestic abuse and violence.
The Caribbean Churches work together to heal the wounds in the body of Christ. Reconciliation demands repentance, reparation and the healing of memories. The whole Church is called to be both a sign and an active agent of this reconciliation.