The service was part of a Week of Prayer in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic, offered by the WCC after its member churches and regional partners voiced their need to express feelings of sadness, hope and unity brought on by one year of COVID-19.
Gathering online for prayers, music and reflections, people from across the globe shared prayers of lament, as well as prayers for suffering and hurting communities, leaders, healing, protection, and hope.
In an opening greeting, WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca said that the WCC and its member churches have recommitted themselves to active compassion across what separates them.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reached all the regions of our planet,” he said. “It has made manifest the danger of the ceaseless commodification of creation; it has revealed our unexpected vulnerability and interdependence.”
The virus has brought fear and panic, pain and suffering, doubt and misinformation, he said. “Yet, as a global community of faith, we affirm that, even amid our vulnerability, we trust in God as God is our hope. We are called to give account of our living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
From Nairobi, Kenya, WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom brought Lenten greetings to an historic moment of global prayer, expressing gratitude to those who made the special week possible and to churches around the world who continue to offer prayers as they walk and work together in addressing the impact of COVID-19.
“I bet we all can share story after story on both the negative consequences and potentials ranging from economic decline, increased domestic violence, children having to stay at home from school to loss of lives in communities,” she said. “May the God of life, justice and peace continue to protect, sustain and accompany His people and the whole creation.”
Regional voices ring out
Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune, chief operating officer, National Council of Churches (USA), prayed: “We affirm and recognize that you our God have been and continue to be present with us throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. In our lament, Oh God, may we not lose hope but even in the darkest night may we still be able to sing unto you a new song.”
Peter Noteboom, general secretary, The Canadian Council of Churches, prayed: “Oh Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger. Turn, oh Lord, save my life. I am weary with my moaning…my eyes waste away because of grief.”
Christian Conference of Asia general secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara prayed: “We place our hope in you: our rock, our salvation, our refuge. May we pour out our hearts in this time of prayer, trusting in your steadfast love. May the source of our inspiration be Christ Jesus.”
Rev. Grace Moon, from the Presbyterian Church of Korea, prayed for local church congregations around the world: “We pray that the spirit of unity and will bring healing and resilience. Grant them courage and hope.”
Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, prayed for leaders: “Give to leaders your divine wisdom. Broaden the vision of all leaders so that they will see beyond the parochial borders. May they not grow weary in doing good, in serving all with a sense of joy and purpose.”
Rev. Dr Lydia Mwaniki, director for Women, Gender and Youth at the All Africa Conference of Churches, gave thanks to God “for hands that have ministered your healing touch to our bodies, for lips that have uttered comforting words, feet that have carried us when we are too weak to bear our own weight. We have known you to be the God who heals. Help us to once again believe that, in this season, and at this time you will grant your children healing.”
Collins Kudakwashe Shava, executive secretary for Youth of the All Africa Conference of Churches, prayed for families, children and youth: “We also pray for families caring for the sick at home and in communities. Uphold them and help our communities to accompany them.”
Rev. Dr James Bhagwan, Pacific Conference of Churches general secretary, prayed for protection: “Shield them and all of us from the raging waters of the pandemic,” he prayed. “Bring a swift end to the virus and the suffering it causes. Turn, oh God, and deliver us.”
Dr Michel Abs, secretary general of the Middle East Council of Churches, prayed for peace and hope. “Bring peace and hope to the hearts of all people,” he prayed. “Loving God, we give thanks for the hope you have given us.”