The inspiring World Day of Prayer was celebrated Friday, evening at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Crescent City.
This was a women’s prayer service, but men were welcome. The World Day of Prayer has been going on annually in late February or early March since 1927, but it didn’t get started in Crescent City until sometime after that.
Women from all over the world take part, and each year the women in one country are selected to write the service. This year the women in Egypt prepared the remarks, and Egyptian refreshments were served afterward.
The 2014 World Day of Prayer Egypt Committee invited the participants “to search out streams in the desert, finding living water in our world. Exploring the story of Jesus’ conversations with a Samaritan woman at the well, the WDP Egypt called the participants to bridge those things that divide us and to find unexpected results. From this process, advocacy opportunities emerge — clean water, girls’ education, intergenerational and multifaith dialogue.”
The WDP USA community is strong even when membership organizations are struggling and church membership is declining.
Locally, the women who had speaking roles in the service were from the Methodist, Episcopal and Catholic churches. There were nine speaking roles plus the pianist, Joyce Nightingale.
Pat Black, one of the speakers, said when she moved here in 1986, the service had already been taking place, but she wasn’t sure how long. Pat believes Alice Linsenmeyer, the retired Presbyterian minister who attended St Paul’s, got it started here.
This has always been a joint project locally of the Episcopal, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches because they agreed to do it. Pat talked to women at some of the other churches this year in hopes they would come and see what it was like and, perhaps, want to participate next year. It’s certainly open to everyone.
The writing process of this year’s WDP Egypt worship service started three years ahead of the actual celebration, and the mass demonstration at Tahrir Square in Cairo had already begun. Following the Arab Spring, Egyptian people, including young women, went to the streets to voice their desire for justice, freedom, and equality.
That hope took a new turn as another revolution took place in 2013 and many Christians are suffering as a result. But there is hope that with the majority of brothers and sisters from the moderate Islamic community, Egypt will be rebuilt and its democratic aspirations will be realized.
In the script written for the prayer service, we heard the voice of four Egyptian women who dramatized the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman:
“This moment offers us immense opportunity for deep dialogue and reflection about he borders the we, like Jesus and the Samaritan woman, must cross to get to the streams of living water.”
The well is a meeting place. We don’t even know the name of the woman at the well, but we know her deed: bringing her community to the well of living water:
“Communication, relationships, crossing borders, common ground and spirituality are the streams that will pour water on our thirsty lands.”
According to Pat Black, the same three churches represented in the program, Methodist, Episcopal, and Catholic, also get together for the Blessing of the Animals in October, and the Taize’ sung prayer service to be held March 16, 7 p.m., at St. Paul’s.
It’s not really a coalition. Pat said most of the things we do are spontaneous activities. It’s about relationships, friendships, things that people want to do together. And Father Adam Kotas is very open to the other churches. There’s been a relatively consistent connection between those three churches for a long time.
In closing, the focus of the World Day of Prayer was on women’s leadership. As a writer of the Senior Sleuth column, I was really inspired by the image of the Woman at the Well, bringing her community together.
I can think of no greater aspiration than to be like her and to help generate round table discussions and communication, “crossing borders” and seeking “common ground and spirituality.”