Tahiti holds ashes in his hand as he reads from scripture

5 September 2022, Karlsruhe, Germany: The Rev. Pihaatae Francois from Tahiti holds ashes in his hand as he reads from scripture during the morning prayer service at the World Council of Churches' 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany. The ashes were used during the service to symbolize healing and the renewal of creation. Holding the container is Dr. Lubina Mahling of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland. The Assembly's theme is "Christ's Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity."


Island nations and their churches provided many of the leaders for the service. The music included compositions, arrangements and texts from the Philippines, Singapore and Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand, Haiti, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Finland, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The prayers began in a mood of lamentation, recognizing that the world God created is currently “groaning from our greed, weeping from our waste, suffering from our selfishness.” The congregants in the Assembly’s prayer tent, or “oasis”, continued, “We lament for glaciers melting, sea waters rising, island homes submerged. We lament for forests hacked down, indigenous people driven from their lands, the loss of biodiversity.”

The laments led to a prayer of confession: “God of Compassion, who made all of creation in your image, and called everything good, very good, we confess that we treat your earth and your peoples unjustly, we fail to recognize your love in all of our relatives, we fail to advocate for life in its fullness in all of creation.”

The Bible lesson, John 9:1-12, recounts Jesus’s healing of a man who was born blind. Jesus spat on dust from the ground, made it into mud, spread the mud on the man’s eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man’s sight was restored.

Following the reading, a symbolic action was performed in the making of mud from ashes and a recognition of how “Jesus’s power of love came through the mud so that he was recognized as Teacher and Lord.” In this new life from the ashes, the possibilities and power of healing were displayed.

The assembled believers prayed, “Renew your world so that it is very good, so that it is an equitable, just, loving home for all, so that your people are empowered in action.” They were sent to the business of the day with this blessing: “Walk in the strength that is given to you. Walk simply and walk uprightly. Search out the wonders of creation. May God’s Spirit guide you. This day and all days. Amen.”

Livestream of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

Photos of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany