Published in Off the Wall - Fiji Times 1st March , 2011
This Friday morning, as we edge closer to the end of daylight saving, the women - and a few men - (the majority hopefully staying home to look after the children) of Dudley Church will gather in the pre-dawn light to pray and reflect on the theme “How Many Loaves Have You.”
Throughout the first Friday of March, Christian women and men all over Fiji and around the world will participate in the World Day of Prayer.
World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service.
The World Day of Prayer is an international ecumenical Christian laywomen’s initiative. It is run under the motto “Informed Prayer and Prayerful Action,” and is celebrated annually in over 170 countries on the first Friday in March. The movement aims to bring together women of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common Day of Prayer, as well as in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.
The Women's World Day of Prayer started in the USA in 1884, when Mary Ellen James called for a day of prayer in 1887, she was not planning a great worldwide movement, destined to become the largest ecumenical movement in the world organised and led by women. She was simply reacting, as a Christian, to the society in which she lived. The wife of a Presbyterian minister in New York and the mother of seven children, Mary Ellen was aware of the problems faced by many women around her, particularly new immigrants to America - the awful slums with their poverty, unemployment, poor housing, lack of health or educational facilities. Something had to be done.
Two years later, two Baptists called together a Day of Prayer for the World Mission. The Day of Prayer initiated by these two women expanded to neighbouring countries, then on to Europe and other continents.
Through World Day of Prayer, women around the world affirm their faith in Jesus Christ
share their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, their opportunities and needs. Women are encouraged to become aware of the whole world and no longer live in isolation to be enriched by the faith experience of Christians of other countries and cultures; to take up the burdens of other people and pray with and for them; and to become aware of their talents and use them in the service of society
Through World Day of Prayer, women affirm that prayer and action are inseparable and both have immeasurable influence in the world.
This year’s programme for World Day of Prayer has been prepared by the women of Chile, a country on the West Coast of South America and the western edge of the Pacific Ocean.
The theme for 2011 is in the form of a question, "How Many Loaves Have You?" The theme serves as an invitation to enter a process that draws us into the Bible, into the context of Chile, and into the real situations of lives and communities to which these women belong.
The theme and the Scripture readings have a special meaning for Chile and its history scarred by times of extreme exploitation. In four stories told during the service, the women describe critical devastating times when people chose to resist evil by forming community. Those participating in a World Day of Prayer service will be encouraged to consider times in their country or community when evil was overcome by people acting together for the common good and to seek out a deeper level of understanding by reflecting in small groups to answer the questions: “How many loaves have you?” “What are your gifts? What can you share?”
While the history and organisation of this special day of prayer is traditionally organised by the women of Christian communities, it is a time for all, women AND men and children to reflect on the struggles of other communities and at the same time acknowledge the blessings they receive that enable them to survive and even flourish despite the odds. More significantly we are challenged to be a source of blessing to others.
At Dudley, the World Day of Prayer service will begin at 6am. Prime Minister of Fiji, Commodore Bainimarama will join the congregation for the service in which women of all ages and ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds (and a few men) will lead the worship.
I invite you to join us or one of the many World Day of Prayer Services in communities around the country this Friday. We will share spiritual bread – the Word of God. We will break bread together. We will ask each other and ourselves, “How many loaves have you?” “What are your gifts? What can you share?”
Rev. James Bhagwan holds a Bachelor of Divinity in Ecumenical Studies (Hons) and serves as a minister in the Dudley Circuit of the Indian Division of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma.