How does the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity resonate especially for churches in your region?
Rev. Canon Wallace: “Do good, seek justice” is a theme which resonates well in Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand churches need to be reminded about Christian unity and about racial injustice. Aotearoa New Zealand is a prosperous and peaceful country sometimes seen as a success in terms of racial justice. However Aotearoa New Zealand's Indigenous people Maori continue to be disadvantaged in many ways. Maori continue to suffer the effects of colonial policies regarding land, resources, language, and participation in decision making.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity theme reminds churches to address systems which marginalise people in Aotearoa New Zealand and to address injustice by actively doing good and actively seeking justice for our marginalised sisters and brothers.
The churches are most effective when we walk in unity, so the best way of doing good and seeking justice in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world is for Christians to work together.
What are some special ways the Week of Prayer is observed?
Rev. Canon Wallace: In Aotearoa New Zealand as elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, the Week of Prayer is observed from Ascension until Pentecost. Ecumenical gatherings to celebrate the Week of Prayer liturgy often take place on Pentecost afternoon or evening. There is generally a time of fellowship and food after the service.
Christians in Aotearoa New Zealand need the week of prayer to remind us about Christian unity. Aotearoa New Zealand churches collaborate in many ways—through Te Runanga Whakawhanaunga I Nga Hahi (the Maori Council of Churches), the National Dialogue for Christian Unity, through women's organisations such as the World Day of Prayer, in work for the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our communities, through youth organisations such as the Student Christian Movement, through our ecumenical aid and development agency Christian World Service, in theological education and formation, in tertiary, prison, military, and hospital chaplaincies. Although so much collaboration already happens, the churches need the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to strengthen us in our walk together.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity liturgies are like a family reunion; we gather joyfully in brisk autumn weather with sisters and brothers from different traditions who we perhaps don't see often.
This year Aotearoa New Zealand's National Dialogue for Christian Unity has adapted the materials for the Aotearoa New Zealand context.
What can the ecumenical family pray for churches in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Rev. Canon Wallace: Please pray for deepening unity amongst Christians in Aotearoa New Zealand, for the churches to recognise the marginalised in our society, especially those suffering the burden of racial injustice. Please pray for renewed commitment from the churches to do good and seek justice together.