Over the years the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25th January) is something I have observed with varying degrees of enthusiasm. My experience is that where there is an active local Churches Together or similar ecumenical group it is observed and where there isn’t it is ignored. This is certainly true in the Islington and Camden Mission Circuit, where only Archway is part of an ecumenical network. The Upper Holloway Fellowship of Churches, to which Archway belongs, holds a united service every year, usually on the evening of the Sunday which falls in the WPCU. This year it was last Sunday, 20th January.
The venue for the WPCU service was St Mellitus Roman Catholic Church in Tollington Park and we ‘took over’ the 6.30pm mass. This is usually a spoken liturgy so we imported the pianist from Archway to provide musical accompaniment for singing. We substituted the scripture readings that had been chosen for this year’s WPCU and I preached the sermon, which included short contributions from three speakers.
The theme for this year’s WPCU is ‘What does God require of us?’ (Micah 6:8) I won’t say much about that here as I will post the text of my sermon separately. However it was fortuitous that that weekend the parish was hosting the splendid Pax Christi Icon of Peace and Reconciliation. The icon was made in the monastery of St John in the Desert, near Jerusalem, and was dedicated in 1999. Combining Eastern and Western traditions the icon depicts Christ as the source of reconciliation. During the service some of the details of the icon were pointed out by Valerie Flessati, vice-President of Pax Christi and a member of St Mellitus parish. (For further information on the icon, visit the Pax Christi website.)
For me the service at St Mellitus was a bitter-sweet occasion. Fr David, the parish priest, was very flexible in adapting the mass to the WPCU theme and accommodating the Upper Holloway Fellowship of Churches and it was good to share worship with the regular parishoners. However the fact that I and members of other churches were not able to receive Communion is a reminder of how far we are yet to travel on the journey to unity. But the icon stood in the sanctuary as a sign of hope: that it is from Christ and Christ alone that unity will come.