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President's reflection


24-31 May 2020 

“They showed us unusual kindness.” (Acts 28:2)  

Loving and merciful God,

you hear the cry of the poor

and stretch out your hand to save them.

Look upon our world in its need:

give courage to those facing an uncertain future; give hope to those weighed down by fear and anxiety.

May our churches, by acts of unusual kind-ness, be living witnesses to the power of your love.

May we grow together in unity and peace, to the glory of your name, so that the world may believe.


(Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay)


My long involvement in ecumenical work had a simple beginning. One day on a bus, I noticed an orthodox priest holding the bus strap with one hand, his prayer rosary running through his other hand. I had an overwhelming awareness of our unity in the Spirit of the Lord.

Over the years I have been blessed with many friendships- people across the whole colourful spectrum of our diversity.

In the way of receptive ecumenism- open to learning from the discipleship of others- one fine teacher has been Richard Leonard, S. J. One of Richard’s publications is Why Bother Praying (Paulist Press 2013). In it he summarises four pieces of enduring advice on prayer.

As we enter this Week of Prayer, I thought you might find them helpful. Especially if the idea of a week of prayer seems slightly daunting!

Here is Richard’s enduring advice, drawn from his scholarship and pastoral heart:

• Each day some prayer, any prayer in better than no prayer.

• Prayer is not about doing things like the Offices to keep God happy. It is not about performance but about creating a space within which we can encounter the love of God

• If it helps do it; if it doesn’t, don’t- in terms of the different schools of prayer (assuming we will be praying over the Bible and celebrating the sacraments as ways we know bring God’s presence into our awareness.)

• Prayer teaches us we are wanted more than needed- both by God and our loved ones. The best prayer enables us to keep ourselves in check- so we don’t get too frantic.

“Some people need much more structure, ritual, a focus, and more texts in their prayers that others do. Some people like knowing that how they are praying is in line with hundreds and sometimes over a thousand years of tradition. That’s great. Others will never find that style of prayer helpful. As long as what we are doing is good in itself and is bearing spiritual fruit in our lives, then if it helps, do it; if it doesn’t, don’t.

Why bother praying? Because, while there are some very wise and venerable guidelines, there is only one absolute rule: Is what I am doing deepening my relationship of love with God, my neighbour and myself? That’s what makes prayer so dangerous” (R. Leonard).

Jesus special word to us as we pray is ‘Abide in me’ (John 15.1-8); ‘Abide in my love’ (verse 9). Visually this is conveyed in a wonderful painting that sits at the entrance to the World Council of Churches Bossey Centre, Geneva. We all sit on one of those branches together, unified by the one who says “I am the Vine”. 

Bishop Philip Huggins.

President, National Council of Churches in Australia 

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