THE week beginning January 18 is the week of prayer for Christian Unity. It ends on January 25, the day that we celebrate the Conversion of St Paul, the great missionary of the early Church.

Jesus prays in his personal prayer, to be found in the Gospel of St John chapter 17, that all his followers “may be one”. Christians today are not one, but are divided into very many different groups.

There has been a great deal of work done to bring Christians together, but the closest that we have got is “unity in diversity.”

Perhaps this is a good thing because it reflects our differences but acknowledges our unity.

We should, at least, be able to say that we are one in Christ Jesus. Christians were first called Christians in Antioch (near what is now called Antakya, in Turkey), because they were followers of Jesus Christ.

The movement to bring Christians together is called the Ecumenical Movement and began at a World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910.

Today, the World Council of Churches is a fellowship of 350 different churches from more than 110 countries, representing over 500 million Christians worldwide.

The logo for the Ecumenical Movement is a sailing ship with a cross shaped sail. The Latin word for ship is navis. This is the same word for the nave of a church.

If you look up at a church ceiling you will see that it looks like the hull of a ship upside down. The ship is sailing on the ocean of life. The Greek word for ecumenical is oikoumene.

This year, the theme has been prepared by the Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland, based on a verse from John’s Gospel, chapter 15 verses 5 to 9: “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.”

It reflects the Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the church and the human family.

It is a great encouragement when Christians can work together locally and a great disappointment when they do not. After all, Jesus prayed that we should be one.

The Covenanted Churches in Wales met for a gathering in Aberystwyth in 2012 when many weighty documents were produced including a new Order for Holy Communion and the Covenant was renewed between the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church in Wales, the United Reformed Church and the Covenanted Baptist Union of Great Britain. Very little of this work has been implemented.

The Roman Catholic Church brought out an excellent report in 2002 called 'The Search for Christian Unity'.

In it is stated: “Ecumenism is a response to the grace of God. It calls all Christians to faith in the kind of Church God wants, to hope that Jesus’ prayer – “May they all be one”- may one day be answered in its fulness, and to charity(love) which is the Spirit’s gift uniting all believers.”

If you want to think more deeply on this, I can only suggest that you read the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel and meditate on it. I am sure that you will be inspired.


Thy hand, O God has guided

thy flock from age to age;

the wondrous tale is written,

full clear, on every page;

our fathers owned thy goodness,

and we their deeds record;

and both of this bear witness:

one Church, one faith, one Lord. (E.H. Plumptre. 1821 – 91)

Un Sylfaen fawr yr Eglwys

yr Arglwydd Iesu yw,

ei greadigaeth Newydd

drwy ddwr a gair ein Duw;

ei briodasferch sanctaidd

o’r nef i’w cheisio daeth,

â’i waed ei hun fe’i prynodd

a’i bywyd ennill wnaeth. (S.J. Stone 1939- 1900) cyf J.A. Jackson)


Jesus Christ

you seek us, you wish to offer us

your friendship

and lead us to a life that is even more complete.

Grant us the confidence to answer your call

so that we may be transformed

and become witnesses of your tenderness for the world. Amen

Iesu Grist,

rwyt yn ein ceisio ni, rwyt am

gynnig i ni dy gyfeillgarwch

a’n harwain at fywyd sy’n dod yn fwy

cyflawn beunydd.

Rho i ni’r hyder i ateb dy alwad

fel y cawn ein trawsnewid

a dod yn dystion i’th ofal tyner

dros y byd. Amen

Rev John Powell

Retired vicar of Cardigan