This month, Christians throughout Canada and around the world will gather to celebrate the common faith they share in Jesus Christ. Differences in approach to church practice and interpretation of Scripture will be transcended in recognition of Jesus’ prayer that “they [all Christians] may be one as we [Jesus and the Father] are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23).

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which originated at the turn of the 20th century, was initially referred to as the Octave (eight days) of Christian Unity. The use of musical nomenclature was telling, as church leaders called all Christ followers to live in harmony, thus fulfilling the prayer of Jesus “that we may be one.”

The week begins on January 18, traditionally viewed as the confession of St. Peter, and ends on January 25, when many Christians celebrate the conversion of St. Paul. “You are the Messiah,” declared Peter (see Matthew 16:13-20) at Caesarea Philippi. Paul’s transformation took place on the road to Damascus when he encountered the living Christ (see Acts 9:1-6). Two thousand years later, these two events help serve as a framework for all Christians to come together in a spirit of unity to celebrate a common faith in Jesus Christ.

Since 1904, different countries have taken turns to develop an appropriate theme and resources for the week of prayer. This year, the theme comes to us from the Christian churches of Malta and Gozo: “They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2). The theme recalls the historic shipwreck of Paul on the island of Malta and calls us to a greater generosity to those in need. As an island nation, boats are an important part of Maltese life. The Scripture reading in this service describes a perilous sea voyage by the Apostle Paul. A boat is also symbolic of the sometimes tempestuous journey Christians make together toward unity. Resources, including an order of service, can be downloaded from the Week of Prayer website:

Christian unity is a divine imperative, a witness to the world that we belong to Christ (see John 17:23). Why not ask your corps officer or pastor where a week of prayer service is being held in your area?

In the Greater Toronto Area, an ecumenical service will take place on January 26 at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, with Captain Deanna Scott and the North York Temple Band participating on behalf of The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army's Southlands Community Church in Winnipeg is hosting a service on January 23. Find more service listings at

If you are attending or hosting an ecumenical event during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we want to hear from you. Email photos and a brief report to Salvationist at

Lt-Colonel Jim Champ is the territorial ecumenical officer.

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