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Weekly Prayers from CCOW

CCOW Weekly Prayers for 1 - 7 March

 

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This week:


  • Pray and Fast for the Climate - St David's Day
  • Fairtrade Fortnight (2)
  • Women's World Day of Prayer

In this week's Revised Common Lectionary readings, Christ calls us to follow Him by denying ourselves, taking up the cross, and being prepared to give up our life for the Gospel. A hard saying! But it comes with the statement: "those who lose their life for my sake, and the sake of the Gospel, will save it." Can we, emulating Abraham's faith, leave security behind and, accepting God's promises, follow Christ's footsteps?

Pray and Fast for the Climate - St David's Day

God our Father,
You called your servant David to uphold the Christian faith amongst the people of Wales,
to encourage them by his observance of fasting and obedience,
and to show them compassion through small acts of great love.
As light is poured onto the mountain-tops and as fresh rain is sprinkled on the hills,
help us to be good carers of one another and of Your great and glorious Creation.
Amen.

Prayer sent by the current Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev'd Dr Barry Morgan, for Pray and Fast.

This month, the first of March is not only a Sunday in Lent; it is also St David's Day. Little is known about St David, and most of us probably simply know his name. But the primary account we have of his life, an eleventh-century hagiography by Rhygyvarch, makes him an inspiration for our day of prayer and fasting.

David, in Rhygyvarch's portrayal, was a monastic bishop, famed for his faith and simplicity of life. His central task was to help people come to know Christ, and he preached and lived a radical dependence on the grace of God. In  this he had - and demanded of the monks who were his closest followers - a great singleness of mind, allied with compassion. His monasteries were poor; contrary to many, they did not receive the wealth of those who entered them, and the individual monks themselves were not allowed to call anything "theirs" - all was held in common. " Possessions they regard with disdain;" Rhygyvach says, "they reject the gifts of the unjust; they detest riches. No care of oxen is introduced for ploughing. Each to himself and the brethren is riches, each too an ox." The focus was on prayer and worship, with manual labour to provide for each person's needs.

But this was no sterile austerity. ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things’ were said to be St David's final words to his followers. The closeness to God that inspires joy was at the heart of the community as, the Life tells us, was compassion - those in the community who were in need of better food or care received it, and the monks were reputed to be constant in their care for those who were vulnerable, such as women and orphans.  David's dependence on God also placed him in right relationship with God's creation, which the Life portrays as pouring forth its abundance in response to the saint's prayers.

Today we live in a world where our drive for wealth and comfort often leads to a break in our relationships with God, with creation and with each other.  Governments take some steps to address the climate crisis, but are often reluctant to tackle major issues and instead focus on their citizens' short-term self-interests. Businesses make moves towards sustainability, but still often prioritise profits over care. And we all too often fall in with the consumerism around us, focusing not on God and right relationship, but on our own desires.

This is the month when national governments prepare to publish their commitments on emissions reductions. The European Commision published a document last week that offered the EU's strategy for Paris and an outline of its proposed emissions reduction commitments; the detailed commitments should be published by the end of March. Early responses from environmental campaigners suggest that some areas show leadership - while consideration of some other issues, such as climate finance, is regarded as insufficient.

As we look at the challenges facing our world, can we be inspired by the example of St David ... use the Pray and Fast prayerpoints to bring the climate situation before God ... and, conscious of Christ's reconciling work and aided by God's grace, pray the prayer above for ourselves, for governments, and for businesses?

Fairtrade Fortnight (2)

At a talk in a church last week, a church member asked whether products labelled with the Fairtrade Mark in supermarkets are genuinely Fairtrade. The answer is that any product labelled with the Fairtrade Mark, whatever its provenance, must have met the criteria for certification: producers must, for example, have received the Fairtrade premium and the Fairtrade price where applicabl. They must have met the appropriate Fairtrade environmental and labour standards. You can buy the marked products, therefore, with confidence.

But while all marked products in supermarkets must meet the basic standards, some supermarkets go beyond the standards. When I (Maranda) visited one group of Fairtrade growers, they had just found out that the company that bought their produce was paying the Fairtrade minimum, while Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, who bought from their neighbours, were paying more. One of the leaders of Fairtrade in that region spoke warmly about how Waitrose worked relationally, not just communicating from afar, but sitting down with the farmers and knowing them by name.

And then there are the Fair Trade Organizations, the companies for whom Fair Trade is their reason for existence. They're seeking more than just improved conditions and returns for growers and workers; they're seeking to transform trading relationships. Some of them, like Divine and CafeDirect, have producers on their boards. Some, like Traidcraft, deliberately seek out marginalised producers - the ones whom huge supply chains wouldn't bother with - and help them to enter the market.

If you've used our Fairtrade bookmark, you've heard of one of these producer groups, the Eksteenskuil Agricultural Cooperative in South Africa. Eksteenskuil is a smallholder cooperative farming grapes in the Orange River. It's often difficult in South Africa, even post-apartheid, for non-white farmers to gain access to land and markets. But Traidcraft has helped these farmers, who originally were squatting on land no one wanted on islands in the Orange River, to gain title to their land, to put together business plans, to gain Fairtrade certification, and to export their dried fruit. Traidcraft has brought in consultants, done surveys, stood by the farmers when a flood destroyed their crops, and modelled what a fairer partnership might look like.

Years ago, a staff member from a Fair Trade Organization was discussing what happens when one of their producer groups becomes successful. Sometimes it means that the growing group starts to seek out different people to whom it can sell - larger manufacturers and retailers who will have turnovers that allow them to buy more products. The Fair Trade Organization, he noted, was sad to lose the producers, but happy to see them grow and take flight. The company's not in Fair Trade to ensure its own supply chain; it's there to empower people to make change.

As we continue our celebration of Fairtrade Fortnight, please pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the way that Fairtrade benefits the lives of producers throughout the world
  • that fairness in trade will become the norm, rather than an ethical option
  • in thanksgiving for the work of the Fair Trade Organizations
  • that they will be given wisdom and discernment about ways to take their mission of fairness and justice forward

 

Women's World Day of Prayer

This year the Women's World Day of Prayer falls on 6th March. The day's resources come from the women of the Bahamas. The theme they have chosen -  "Do you know what I have done to you?"- is a quotation from the Last Supper and an invitation to consider the radical love that Christ modelled for his disciples ... and its relevance to Christ's modern followers.

In the materials prepared for the service, the Bahamian women also highlight some issues for prayer - primarily around the inequality women in the country still experience. They note that whilst some women have taken high levels of political office, including the President of the Senate, for the majority of women there are few educational or employment opportunities beyond domestic work. Women have fewer legal rights than men, including barriers to equal citizenship for their spouses and children. Whilst efforts have been made to change laws, particularly to protect women from rape within marriage, these have been met with opposition from many citizens, including church leaders and women themselves.

Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for the Women's World Day of Prayer and for the work of the Bahamian women who produced this year's materials
  • That harmful attitudes that diminish women - in the Bahamas and around the world - will change, and that churches might lead the way in this.
  • That laws to protect women from rape and to give them equal rights will come into effect in the Bahamas and in other countries where they do not exist.
  • That opportunities for work and education will be opened up to women in the Bahamas and in other countries.

Resources:

While the main service leaflet for the Women's World Day of Prayer needs to be purchased (which can be done online via the website), many of the ancillary materials (Bible study, children's activity, music, etc) can be freely downloaded on the UK WWDP resources page (go to the pdf download tab). The resources offer insight into the theme of the radical love of Jesus and what this might mean in terms of prayerful action.


 
CCOW Year Planner for Churches - 2015


Do you have expertise in any of the areas touched on in this week's prayers ? If so, we'd love to hear from you with comments, thoughts or suggestions! Please do email us.