Weekly Prayers from CCOW
For your prayers February 23 - March 1
The Revised Common Lectionary readings this week are for Transfiguration Sunday. As we prepare for Lent, why not spend a portion of this coming week reflecting on the way these readings help us to understand more fully the Christ whom we will follow into the desert. Pray that Christ's lordship may be made manifest in our lives and in the lives of others.
Rt Revd Andrew Proud, Bishop of Reading
On Wednesday, Lent begins, and we are once again given a beautiful and challenging opportunity to go "into the desert," seeking God through our participation in the traditional Lenten practices of repentance, prayer, study, fasting and giving.
Christine Sine writes on the Mustard Seed Associates blog:
Recently I discovered the Japanese art of Kintsugi in which ceramics are mended with resin infused with gold powder. The repair highlights the brokenness, creating a transformed item of great beauty. It reminded me of the transformation God wants to accomplish as we journey with Christ towards the Cross.
As you go on the journey, there are many places which offer spiritual guidance and sustenance. Christine Sine's blog is one of them. And you can find others by looking at the lists compiled by her (Bible reading plans for Lent, general resources, Lent with children, music resources - ecumenical ), "The Text This Week" (devotionals, articles, worship planning, etc - ecumenical), Creighton University's "Praying Lent," (daily prayers, reflections and more - Roman Catholic), Anglicans Online (all manner of resources - Anglican and others), Jonny Baker (reflections, poems, art, etc), and Orthodox.net (prayers, reflections, readings, etc). And doubtless many more that you know!
We've also put together a list. It's quite a specific one: we've called it "Is not this the fast that I require?" ... and it consists of Lenten resources which help us to repent of our participation in injustice and the destruction of creation and to pray, reflect and act specifically on "doing justice and loving mercy" as we walk humbly with God. The list is attached - we hope you find it helpful in your Lenten prayers. Pray that all of us, and all Christians, may by God's grace, receive the blessings of a Lent given over to closeness with God.
Notes: #WithSyria Vigils, Women's World Day of Prayer, Make Bananas Fair
On the 13th of March, the #WithSyria coalition of organisations is asking people to mark the anniversary by holding vigils, calling on world leaders to do all they can to end the conflict, and sending a message of hope to the people of Syria.
The public vigils are being held in areas that do not have political or religious significance, to avoid giving the impression that those participating are taking sides in the conflict. If you would like to organise such a vigil, the instructions can be found here.
You may also wish to hold a separate prayer vigil, whether at home or at your church. If you would like to do this, Tearfund has prepared resources to enable you to do so. These include prayers from their partners working in the region. They can be found here. We would also call your attention again to the materials prepared in 2004 by the Christians of Aleppo on the theme of "My peace I give to you," which can be found here.
Please continue to pray daily for the people of Syria, especially those who are bereaved, displaced, and/or have suffered violence or hunger because of the conflict. Pray for Christians in areas controlled by ISIS, a jihadist group, who have been told that they must pay special taxes and face restrictions on their faith and daily lives, or face death. Pray for a change of heart in those who make war, and for peace with justice for the whole country. Pray for the success of this initiative - that it may be effective in putting pressure on leaders and that it may offer hope to those who have suffered so much.
Women's World Day of Prayer
Each year the Women's World Day of Prayer is held on the first Friday in March (which is generally also the Friday closest to International Women's Day, 8 March). The materials for the day are prepared by the women of one country. This year they have been prepared by the women of Egypt, and the theme is "Streams in the Desert."
Egypt currently faces immense challenges: this past week the entire Cabinet resigned (BBC, Guardian, Al Jazeera - whose journalists in Egypt are jailed, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Daily Star) Strikes are disrupting vital services, as workers protest the failure to get a minimum wage. The economy is in deep trouble. Fuel and power are short. Conflict between the government and Islamists continues. Human rights are routinely denied. Women face harassment and uncertainty about their position.
It is, therefore, a very appropriate time to be praying with and for the Egyptian people. If you possibly can, do see if you can attend a Women's World Day of Prayer service (men are also welcome!)
And please pray:
Further reading: Resources for the Women's World Day of Prayer, including a Bible study on the Samaritan woman at the well.
The campaign to make bananas fair has now launched! This week the Fairtrade Foundation released its report, "Britain's Bruising Banana Wars," which made clear the relentless pressure the banana industry is facing to drive prices down. It noted that the price of loose bananas in UK supermarkets fell over the ten years from 2002 by about 40% from an average of £1.06/kilo (which had been the price for several years) to 68p a kilo. This happened despite the fact that the price of a basket of other staple foods increased in the same period by 79%; the costs of production had often doubled (or more than doubled); and the costs of living in producer countries had increased by up to 350%.
"Don't you have a conscience?" Cato Ferreira (see last week's email) had wanted to ask his hypothetical housewife, wondering how she could ignore the fact that banana prices were sinking as other prices rose. But the reality is that few people do bother to think about the impact that low-priced food must be having on the producers. We're too focused on ourselves. Sometimes that's because of need - if we're struggling to make ends meet, we have to watch every penny and hope for bargains. But often it's because of simple selfishness: it's far more convenient for us to take cheap food for granted, even if we could afford to pay more.
The Fairtrade Foundation's new campaign is important partially because it's taking aim at the idea that we'll always favour policies and practices that correspond to our own narrow, short-term interests. If you sign the "Make Bananas Fair" petition, you're asking the UK government to "investigate retailer pricing on bananas and evaluate its impact on the long-term interests of banana producers and UK consumers." The Fairtrade Foundation is also asking DfID "to ensure the UK’s positive impact on poverty among banana farmers and workers is strengthened by supporting initiatives that incentivise living wages and payment of the cost of sustainable production in agricultural supply chains."
Both of these effectively mean asking for action that could result in higher prices for consumers. That's counterintuitive, perhaps. But it's something that could benefit farmers and workers. Some impacts might be direct: if living wages were paid on South American banana plantations it would make a massive difference - a World Banana Forum survey in early 2012 found that only 25% of Ecuadorean banana workers, for example, earned a living wage for their household. Some would be indirect: such moves would also make a difference to farmers who are currently doing the right thing and suffering for it because they can't compete. When I spoke with Mr Ferreira, he acknowledged that the labour costs he paid were uncompetitive, but said: “We cannot say we need cheaper labour; it would be unfair to the worker ... We may say he needs to be more productive, but as to cutting his pay, I don't believe in that. Every man has his family to feed.”
In the long term, moreover, these changes could benefit everyone - unsustainable supply chains are a danger not only to the producers but to the supply chains themselves.
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.