A team of forty women from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) have produced the resources for the World Day of Prayer, which takes place on Friday 4 March. Here two of the team’s leaders share their perspectives on the ‘creation’ of WDP 2022.
It is August 2017. I am in Brazil, in a meeting room in a hotel, together with nearly 200 other women from around 80 different countries. I am one of three delegated from the England, Wales & Northern Ireland National Committee who are attending the International Meeting of World Day of Prayer, which takes place every five years. We have talked, sung, eaten, laughed and prayed together for five days – and now we have reached the final session.
Before this meeting took place, national Committees were invited to submit suggestions for themes and writing countries for future Days of Prayer; and for the second – if not the third – time we have suggested a theme and put our names forward to be a writing country. These submissions have been considered by a group of delegates – a long process with much prayer and discussion.
The decisions of the group are announced:
“For 2022, the title will be ‘I Know the Plans I Have for You’. based on Jeremiah 29:11 and the writing country will be (pause – worthy of the Oscars) England, Wales & Northern Ireland; for 2023, the title will be…”
I’ll never forget that moment. But it was only the start. Four years of hard work were ahead of us…
The Executive Director of World Day of Prayer gave me a very long list of instructions: we had to form a writing group of 30 – 40 women, as diverse in background as possible – and most of them should be under 50, preferably under 40. We needed such a large number, she said, because some would undoubtedly drop out along the way. In fact, none did.
President of the World Day of Prayer National Committee for England, Wales & Northern Ireland, Dr Elizabeth Burroughs.
Informed prayer : prayerful action
In 1926 women in the United States and Canada celebrated a Day of Prayer on the first Friday of Lent. They distributed this material across the world and the Women’s World Day of Prayer was born. Six years later the first Women’s World Day of Prayer Services were held in England. (Scotland’s had started in 1930).
Since then, our World Day of Prayer National Committee in England Wales and Northern Ireland has developed and refined ways of preparing and presenting the service material for our own nations, distributing this, communicating nationally and internationally and ensuring the representation of as many denominations as possible. From Catholics, who joined us in 1969, to free and Pentecostal churches. Quakers, the Salvation Army, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Moravians, Lutherans and Congregationalists have long been represented. Interestingly, the number of different denominations rarely produces major differences in views. More often than not, National Committee members are first and foremost, simply Christian women on the National Committee!
Beyond the National Committee is a huge network of branches throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We encourage these local organisations to meet at intervals during the year to follow up the themes of our services and to maintain the links between the different churches. We also meet area representatives in July as we run through the service, which they in turn will roll out in a series of Preparation Days in the autumn.
Our strap line, “informed prayer; prayerful action” is reflected in our focus on the needs of those who live in the countries featured in our services and in other parts of the world. The charities we support, through the money collected at our services are usually geared to work with women and children.
Like many church organisations, the age profile of World Day of Prayer has increased over the decades. We have become aware of a need to reach out to younger women. In 2016 we began an outreach to these younger women in an annual Y Pray weekend at the beginning of May. Following the success of these weekends, we have co-opted some of the women who attended onto our Committee and their skill, concerns and expertise has fed into new ways of working.
As the theme of this year’s service suggests – ‘I Know the Plans I Have For You’ Jeremiah 29:1-14 – God has plans for us and the Covid pandemic has given us opportunities as well as challenges. Prevented from meeting and worshipping in person, we were obliged to explore the possibilities of Zoom. Like many other organisations, we found ourselves meeting and welcoming people on line from all over the world, as well as some who had been unable to come out and attend a service for many years.
All in all, the appeal of a wave of prayer throughout the world, led by women and focused on their concerns remains inspirational.
Vice-Chairperson, World Day of Prayer National Committee England Wales & Northern Ireland, Carole Bourne.