A little while ago, I was at a funeral, and one of the hymns chosen was “The day Thou gavest, Lord, has ended” (words by John Ellerton, 1826-93.) I thought: yes, that does sound from the first line like a suitable funeral hymn, but it really isn’t.
In the hymn, the day’s end is literal, and not a metaphor for death. This in fact is one of the rare hymns to talk about the Church: not the Church Triumphant, nor the church struggling; nor the church seeking revitalisation; but the church worldwide.
“The sun that bids us rest is waking/Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,/And hour by hour fresh lips are making/Thy wondrous doings heard on high.”
I’ve always found this a powerful thought, and I’ll be singing this hymn next Friday (in the morning!) at the local service for the World Day of Prayer.
I can’t remember if I’ve posted about the WDOP before: if not, I wonder why not?
The World Day of Prayer (formerly the Women’s World Day of Prayer, and still organised and led by women) is perhaps the oldest ecumenical institution in the world. It is a very simple concept: once a year a service of worship, prayer, and challenge is designed by women of a selected country, bringing to the task their own culture and their own concerns. This is then adapted/translated by each of 170 national committees for their own use. On the first Friday in March people gather around the nation, around the world – and as the day moves on, and the sun crosses the sky, so does the service, from country to country, from east to west.
There is an offering, which is used to give grants to a wide variety of charitable and mission organisations, to help with anything from setting up small businesses in the Congo to supporting women prisoners in Romania.
Last year’s service was designed by women of Slovenia; this year’s by women of Zimbabwe.
Next year it’s the turn of Vanuatu.
In my area, several denominations (Church of England, Catholic, Baptist and Methodist: always room for more!) take turns hosting, and of course providing the tea and coffee afterwards. We meet in the morning, but some areas hold afternoon or evening services, and your neighbourhood service can be found on the website: https://www.wwdp.org.uk/services/?search=&radius=15
Although it is now World Day of Prayer, and men are encouraged to come, it is still a way of encouraging the leadership and participation of women, sometimes in countries where this is not traditional.
And in Britain, I think we always sing “The day Thou gavest…” even if we’re meeting in the morning, for it so encapsulates the thinking behind the service.
Yes, it’s true that most of the attendees next Friday will doubtless be grey-haired (I don’t know how it works for those who meet in the evening.) It doesn’t have the glamour of an evangelistic rally or a demo; or the glitter of Christmas; nor is there a video link. But the sharing of prayer and fellowship all over the world seems to me a quiet but immeasurably beautiful thing.
Love from the PPI Blogger
PS I’ve been finding it difficult lately to fit in all the things I want to do (such as writing the fourth Tale from Ragaris, which tends to get squeezed out!) and I’ve decided that the blog, although fun to do, takes up a disproportionate amount of the week. I think the time has come to cut down to once a fortnight, and see how that goes. See you again on 13th March!