By Mark Taylor, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Worship, Seattle University School ofTheology and Ministry
For over a century now, Christians around the world have set aside January 18 to 25 as a week of special gatherings and prayers that the God-given unity of the church become more visible. Collaborating with the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Archdiocese of Seattle, and its Protestant and Anglican partners, Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry celebrates the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity with special morning services on campus, daily written reflections posted to the Worship and Liturgy blog, and a grand region-wide worship service (this year at Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle from 7:00-8:30pm on Thursday, January 22).
The unity of the Christian churches is sometimes most apparent when they work together for peace, justice, and human dignity. At the same time, the needs of the poor and marginalized around the world call out urgently to Christians of every sort. So, the Week of Prayer comes as an annual challenge to us to put our faith into action, together as children of one God.
Resources for the 2015 Week of Prayer were created by the churches of Brazil acting together. They chose the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 as a focus. Recall that story: Jesus is a foreigner in Samaria who arrives tired and thirsty. He needs help and asks for water. The Samaritan woman is in her own land; the well belongs to her people, to her tradition. She owns the bucket and she is the one who has access to the water. But she is also thirsty. They meet and their encounter offers an unexpected opportunity for both of them. Jesus does not cease to be Jewish because he drinks from the water offered by the Samaritan woman. The Samaritan woman remains who she is while embracing Jesus’ way. Even today, when we recognize that all people have reciprocal needs, our lives become richer and more generous.
This story and its key line: “Give me water to drink,” calls us to ethical action – because we need each other!