The event, organised by the Denominational Ecumenical Officers of Churches Together in Norfolk and Waveney, took place on Thursday January 20 in the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.
“Traditionally the Chain of Prayer has been held in the Anglican Cathedral,” writes Laurette Burton from Churches Together in Norfolk and Waveney. “But as it is an ecumenical service, it was decided to rotate it annually through the churches of the different denominations. So, this year by kind permission of the Canon David Paul, the venue was St Joseph’s Chapel in St John’s Cathedral.”
This ecumenical service is called a chain because ministers, joined by some of their congregations from different denominations in and around Norwich follow on, one from another, with services of about 15 minutes long.
Julian Bryant from Christian Aid, who led one of the sections, said: “It was very encouraging to join with different churches and groups to take part in a day of prayer about unity which is vital for the mission and witness of the Church today. Joining with the local Anglican Franciscan group, we led prayers for perhaps 25 people about the mission of the church in walking with people facing conflict, hunger and injustice and making a difference. We also prayed for our role in valuing creation and taking a leading role in the climate emergency. People told us how moved they were in praying for people going through so much. We left feeling encouraged that as a united body and inspired by the Spirit, great change is possible.”
Fr David Paul, an Ecumenical Canon of Norwich Cathedral, opened the day by offering the 10.00 Mass for Christian Unity. Parishioners of St John’s, led by Fr Simon Davies then took the first 15 minute ‘slot’.
Fr Simon read an extract from the Decree of the Second Vatican Council Unitatis Redintegratio:
“There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart…We should pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace to be genuinely self-denying, humble, gentle in the service in others, and to have an attitude of generosity towards one another…
“The words of St John hold good about sins against unity: ‘If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.’ So we humbly beg pardon of God and of our other Christian brothers and sisters, just as we forgive those who trespass against us.
“This change of heart and holiness of life should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement.”
“The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity can all too easily begin to feel like an obligation,” said Rev James Stewart, Rector of Thorpe St Andrew, “with little meaning, yet the Ecumenical Chain of Prayer Day each year provides us with something very positive and concrete to hold onto. Churches from across the City of Norwich and further afield attended throughout the day to pray and be still in God’s presence and urgently seek the coming of the Holy Spirit that we might all be one – united by our calling, our faith and our baptism.”
The subject for services in this this year’s Christian Unity week was written by people in the Middle East with the theme “We saw His star in the East,” based on the visit of the Magi to the Holy Family in Bethlehem.
The Rev Julian Pursehouse, Ecumenical Canon and Chair of the Methodist District, closed the day.
Pictured above is Fr Simon Davies at the prayer for Christian unity and, below, the Catholic group in St Joseph’s Chapel.