Week of Prayer for Christian Unity marked in Chester Cathedral
Hear how churches in Cheshire celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity…
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a significant part of the life of Churches Together in Cheshire. Churches and Churches Together groups in the county have been active in their commitment to Christian service, in relation to Food Banks, Street Pastors and Street Angels, night shelters, social provision for the young, the elderly, the lonely and those struggling with issues of mental health, and for Churches Together in Cheshire, their sponsorship of the Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy. However, it is essential they are balanced with and supported by these times of both individual and collective prayer.
Churches Together in Cheshire has for some years alternated its Week of Prayer service between Chester Cathedral and being hosted by one of the Churches Together groups in the county. This year the service was at the Cathedral, and it followed the form of the Ecumenical Service that had been prepared by the Churches of Malta, and focused on the account of Paul’s shipwreck on that island.
The service was attended by a broad spread of church leaders, the trustees of Churches Together in Cheshire, who led the different elements of the service. The readings were voiced by our County Ecumenical Officer and the Denominational Ecumenical Officers from the Chester Diocese, the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army and the Shrewsbury Roman Catholic Diocese. The preacher was Lord David Alton of Liverpool, and also in attendance was Fiona Bruce, one of the county’s MPs, though in her capacity as a Lay Canon of the Cathedral.
As suggested in the service material, children from Wrenbury Primary School, in one of the villages in Cheshire, contributed by providing both visual and sound effects to accompany the readings – long strips of cloth, spread across the front of the Cathedral, were waved to create waves, whilst percussion instruments replicated rain, thunder and lightning. Later in the service the children processed down the aisle of the nave carrying specially designed oars, which were then brought together to form a large Maltese Cross which stood at the front of the Cathedral. The children fulfilled their roles impeccably. For most it was their first visit to the Cathedral, but careful preparation by the school staff ensured their performance was wonderful.
Lord Alton in his address focused on the story that the readings had provided, and reflected on what that shipwreck might teach us about ourselves, our contemporary society and our faith; particularly how faith can both help make sense of and give strength for the shipwrecks in our own lives and relationships. Learning from that could give confidence for the challenge of passing faith on to future generations.
Response to the service has been extremely positive. For some, the sight of church leaders from across the denominations and church traditions leading worship together has been heartening and encouraging. For the children involved, and their parents – a full coachload came from Wrenbury – the experience of being part of worship in such a historic setting will be with them for a very long time. Others have spoken of the excellent address from Lord Alton, which is now available on the Cathedral website.
As well as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January, we look forward to praying together at Pentecost during ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, which the church leaders of Cheshire are commending as an important and complementary occasion for local ecumenical initiatives.
Revd Andrew Taylor, County Ecumenical Development Officer for Churches Together in Cheshire