HONG KONG (SE): Kowloon Union Church, Jordan hosted the English ecumenical prayer gathering for the week of prayer for Christian Unity on January 21. Annually, the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity jointly organise the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from January 18 to 25.
They showed us unusual kindness (cf. Acts 28:2) was the theme for this year’s Week of Prayer. The story of St. Paul and his fellow prisoners landing in Malta as a result of ship-wreck, which is narrated in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, paved the way for this year’s theme. Although total strangers and, moreover, prisoners, the people of Malta received Paul and his companions “with unusual kindness.”
Welcoming the gathering to the evening fellowship, Pastor Maggie Matheison of the Kowloon Union Church said that Christian Churches are reminded to show one another this “unusual kindness” to the needy brothers and sisters of the society. Reverend Mark Rogers, priest in charge of the Discovery Bay Anglican Church, preached the sermon on the occasion.
In his message for the evening, Reverend Rogers exhorted participants to look around to see God’s grace all around us. The “unusual kindness” that we receive in our daily lives from people and from nature are expressions of God’s grace. Explaining the providence of God through the story of the 2019 epic war film, 1917, directed by Sam Mendes, Reverend Rogers said God’s grace shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Enemy soldiers and rugged prisoners can find unusual kindness, on a far-end island; milk can be found for a hungry baby from the most unlikely source (in an in-action soldier’s water bottle!); extremists can become more moderate and move away from violence; people can and do find hope and couples can resolve broken relationships because God’s grace is real, active and very present,” he said.
The around 75 people who attended the gathering prayed for peace, trust, hope and reconciliation within and among the Churches and in the world at large. A solo recital by Reverend Mung Dang from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tao Fung Shan, Shatin, and Siyahamba (written by Andries Van Tonder), a South African hymn rendered by the Harambee Choir, added life to the prayer gathering. Siyahamba means “We Are Marching” in the Zulu language.
The traditional period for the week of prayer was chosen to cover the original days of the feasts of the Chair of St. Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), and therefore has a symbolic significance. The materials for the 2020 Week of Prayer were been prepared by the Christian Churches in Malta and Gozo (Christians Together in Malta).
On February 10 many Christians in Malta celebrate the Feast of the Shipwreck of St. Paul, marking and giving thanks for the arrival of Christian faith on these islands.
Through this time of united prayer, Christians around the world are reminded of the importance of need for “unusual kindness” in the dialogue that leads to growth in unity. Christians today live in a world where separation and division hinder the quest for Christian Unity. In 2020, the Churches are being challenged to show unusual kindness towards one another.