Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024

“You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.” This annual celebration of Christian Unity takes its theme from the Gospel of Luke and the story of the Good Samaritan.


Michael Reid Trice

Author: Michael Reid Trice, PhD

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated around the world for eight full days (an octave), from January 18-25 in the Northern Hemisphere, and between the Christian calendar of Ascension and Pentecost in the Southern Hemisphere. Unity in the world matters today more than ever. 

Geopolitical conflict is entrenched in the continued Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Israeli-Hamas war; these are heartrending and brutal conflicts. For millions around the world, we must also remember the absurdity of the number of conflicts in the past 79 years alone, since the United Nations Charter was drafted to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” And yet, over 260 major armed conflicts have taken place since that document was first signed in 1946.   

Unity is not dependent upon a document. Unity requires an intergenerational commitment to our mutual safety and protection that both includes all of us and transcends us into the next generation.  

When a religion – like Christianity – sets aside eight days to pray, reflect, and act in unison for unity, it is signifying to the world that the gift of visible unity in the world is preferable, even essential, to war. Visible unity among Christians and throughout society, sets a high standard on other values in the world. These values include safety, security, equity, access, fairness, kindness, generosity, justice, truth, and love. When we live in a world that consistently demonstrates these values, human beings, and the world itself, flourish like green shoots rising up after a long winter.   

In addition, new forms of flourishing emerge within society.  

For instance, when human beings feel valued, they regain their creative elasticity in a fuller way. They experience a renewal of hope that may drive their imaginations. They participate in communities by engrossing themselves in trusting relationships that are necessary elements of daily life. They begin telling and writing stories about what they cherish and that express elements for why visible unity is so important to the world, especially when life is upended by conflict and war. 

In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – for millions around the world – the only way forward is to a horizon of the visible, the real, and the shared, especially amidst conflict and war. For all of us, we can live life like unity is not merely a word. Considering the values that this word requires of us, unity may be the most important word today.  


Michael Reid Trice, PhD 

Author: Rev. Dr. Kara Markell

A Love Story

The text for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a love story. It’s a story of the kind of relationships love invites us into. It’s a story of what love and relationship compel us to do.  

We often focus on the story Jesus tells, but it’s worth considering the conversation that instigates Jesus’ response. The posture of the legal expert that approaches Jesus is not one of love, rather it is described as a challenge, a test. The ‘expert’ appears to have their theological and missional checklist in order and wants to make sure Jesus does, too. When Jesus affirms their understanding, the legal expert presses him to identify exactly who they are obligated to treat with neighborliness. 

A strict belief about and adherence to prescribed orthodoxy and orthopraxy can often be a hinderance to the embodiment of the love God desires for all people. A posture of rigidity in theology and mission can often create a barrier not only to unity, but to compassion. Of course, Jesus breaks apart the listeners expectations with this radical story of inclusive love. Jesus invites us to more expansive definitions of what is right and who is worthy in order to fully inhabit this realm of love. We don’t have to agree on all things, nor do we have to abandon our ecclesial identities to experience unity and be a catalyst for transformation and healing.    

Ultimately, it is love that binds us together. Love that is embodied both in our theological understanding and our compassionate action for the sake of the other. Love is at the heart of what is means to be Christian, and it is love in action that moves us into deeper relationship with one another and with the Source of Love at the heart of all things.

Better Together 

As someone who takes great care whenever identifying myself with scriptural characters, I recognize my great desire to see myself in the Good Samaritan.  I recognize times in my life and ministry when I have embodied that courage and compassion. I see it often in the lives and ministries of others who I admire. 

And there are times when I have not. The Priest and Levite – the religious leaders – in the story invite me to reflect on the instances when I have, literally or figuratively, passed by on the other side.  I can’t sit in judgement of them, even though it’s easy to do so, because I see myself.   

The kind of care Jesus’ calls us to is often inconvenient, in that it requires something of me that I’m not always ready or able to give. This can be true of many aspects of the life of faith, including ecumenical engagement. I’m sure, if pressed, the religious leaders could have come up with many seemingly legitimate reasons not to stop; the demands on a religious leaders’ time and professional or emotional bandwidth are often immense.  It is also true that the needs of the world – individually, communally and globally – are equally immense.  

And therein lies one of the great gifts of ecumenical partnership – collaboration and cooperation. I can’t help but imagine how the three characters, and their communities, together could have brought healing to this situation. Not only the individual at the center of the story, but also the societal conditions that led to such a dangerous road, the economic injustice that led to theft, and the dehumanization that led to brutal violence.  The only way to change the story is together. The Week of prayer invites us to receive anew the Spirit’s gift of unity and then embody it together for our mutual flourishing.  

Author: Rev. Bishop Edward Donalson III

The Road

The curious thing to me as I think about this year’s theme for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is found in the parable of the Samaritan in Luke 10. The text invites us to consider a man on a road who is robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Along comes someone of a different culture to rescue the man who has been overlooked by the leaders of his own community and the moral of the story is often drawn from this cross-cultural exchange. What fascinates me in this season is not a focus on the men in the story or their cross-cultural exchange, rather my attention is drawn to the road itself. The road had a reputation for this kind of mayhem, and it had become normative to expect that people on this road would be unsafe, in peril, and victimized. Who would have been responsible to see that the road became safe?

We currently face many places in our world where the expectation is that the place itself is one where victimization has become normalized and many of us who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus have become numb to the realities of those places. There is an opportunity for The Church to think about infrastructure as we consider how we might love God and love our neighbor. While individual benevolence has its place, there are systemic ills that plague our society worthy of serious consideration. It is easy to blame individuals for their personal circumstances without ever considering the structural issues that contribute to how persons navigate the vicissitudes of life, however wisdom invites us to pay close attention to the “road” that led them there. As we seek to love God and our neighbor may our eyes be open and our hands at work.

The Samaritan

This year the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity invites us to explore the parable of the Samaritan found in Luke 10. All my life I grew up hearing this narrative referred to as the story of “The Good Samaritan”, the problem being that the act of identifying this Samaritan as good plays into the racialized trope that Samaritans were somehow an inferior group of people. Preaching this story with this title perverts the very message of the text and betrays the Gospel (good news) found in it’s meaning. Many well-meaning preachers have succumbed to the sin of making this Samaritan man “exceptional” rather than challenging the racism of the community that Jesus directed this story to. Point by point Jesus meticulously dismantles the racial animosity between his own community and the Samaritans which was a long standing religio-ethnic disdain rooted in superiority.

As we consider the theme of Love God, Love Neighbor I invite us to interrogate the ways the Christian community continues to overlook our habits of othering. How might we more clearly speak to equality and equanimity in what we have normalized in our liturgies and sermonizing. Let us query with all diligence the words we use to communicate through song and homily. What might it look like to be called into a season of Holy investigation? In this time where Christianity has in many cases been hijacked by voices of hate and repression. It is of utmost importance that we who believe in justice and liberation find ourselves as clarion voices calling the world to action in creating a more just and humane society. With all swift intentionality let us redouble our efforts to speak life affirming words that elevate those who find themselves with their backs against the wall.