It has been the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I have observed this time of prayer at the beginning of each year since the early 1970s. This week I have been praying with J. Philip Newell’s book The New Harmony (St Andrew Press 2012)
At its beginning he writes:
The word kosmos in Ancient Greek means ‘a harmony of parts’. In the classical world, everything in the universe was viewed as moving in relation to everything else. This ancient understanding of the cosmos is being born afresh today in radically new ways. We are realising that the whole of reality is one. In nearly every dimension of life – whether economic or religious, scientific or political – there is a growing awareness of earth’s essential interrelatedness…it means any true vision of reality must also be a cosmology, a way of relating the parts to the whole, of seeing our distinct journeys in relation to one journey of the universe.
Ten years on from his time of writing his views are no less important in the light of the pandemic and climate crisis.
The longing for Christian unity is important but only as much as it serves the wider needs of our world.
The late rabbi Jonathan Sacks stated, ‘God has created many different paths for faith to find him but only one world to live on’. He then wondered what impact any religion should make on our broken harmony and suggests:
‘The influence of religions lie only in the force of their example, the cogency of their teachings and the spiritual beauty of the lives they inspire so they must maintain a critical distance from the values of the age’.
Thomas Merton was an American monk and worked and prayed for peace for all. In the last weeks of his life he was in Thailand meeting people from different religions. He is remembered for these words at that time “My dear brothers, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.”
Revd John Rackley