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Churches Together in Farnham United Service

January 2012
A Call to Change

Members of most of the churches and denominations in and around Farnham joined in an ancient Polish custom when they shared 'oplatek' at the annual United Service, held this year at St Andrew's on Sunday 22 January.

The inspiring service marked the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, whose theme for 2012 of 'We will all be changed' was chosen by Churches in Poland.

Hosting the event on behalf of Churches Together in Farnham, the Rector Canon Andrew Tuck warmly welcomed the congregation of about 100 people.  He led the service, and clergy and others from different churches gave readings and prayers.

The speaker was Sister Ewa Pliszczak, of the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, a member of St Joan of Arc Church, who comes from Poland.  In a profoundly moving sign of peace, unity and fellowship everyone present joined with her in a Polish Christmas tradition of sharing a special wafer, the 'oplatek', with their neighbours.

At the end of the service Churches Together in Farnham Chair Pastor Michael Hall presented a bouquet to Kenton Sparks, founder of the Farnham Christian Community Trust, and his wife Hilary as a gesture of thanks for the massive contribution Kenton has made in promoting and enabling Christian action and service in the town.  After 11 years of involvement, he is stepping down from FCCT to 'take some time out', though the Trust’s work will continue as before.

Finally everyone joined in a bring-and-share tea.

In addition to the United Service there were daily ecumenical prayer meetings during WPCU, following the theme of the week, at Farnham Pentecostal Church and St Joan Centre.

Sister Ewa's Address [abridged]

'We will all be changed' - this is our theme this week.  I wonder how do you feel when you hear this.  How often we want to stay where we are with the things we are familiar with.  To be honest, we are all afraid of changes and transformations in our life.  However our life is dynamic - we are born to grow, to change, to transform.

In its history, Poland has attained greater heights and suffered deeper humiliations than any other country in Eastern Europe.  As a nation, they moved from a position of immense power in the middle ages to being literally wiped off the map for a century and a half during the 18th Century.  Yet despite continuous external and internal political strife and devastating major wars, Poland survived — a credit to their perseverance, faith and national pride.

Poland regained its independence after the First World War, but became the first to fall against German and Soviet attack in the Second World War.  Many thousands of Poles served in the armies.  Over half a million fighting men and women and six million civilians (22% of the total population) died — about 50% of these were Polish Christians and 50% Polish Jews.  So many Poles were sent to concentration camps that virtually every family had someone close to them who had been tortured or murdered there.  There were one million war orphans and over half-a-million invalids.

After the war, Poland became a satellite state of the Soviet Union under Communist regime, hidden under the mask of 'Soviet friendship'.  Socialism dominated all fields of life and seriously affected industry.  This led to the workers’ strikes and the birth of the Solidarity movement.  Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul ll. Poland became the first Eastern European state to break free from Communism.

Today we have different challenges.  Many Poles are living in different countries — many are here in England.  How this will change our history.

I grew up with real stories from my grandparents who remember the war and my parents who went through communism.  I can tell you — one thing I will always remember is that God is always with us and He is my mother and my father and that we are pilgrims on this earth and God is always faithful.

Jesus told the parable of the seed to explain the significance of death and rebirth.  His obedience and death on the cross obtain for us freedom and new life in the Holy Spirit.  His cross frees us from sin and death and shows us the way of perfect love.  Look at the world today — the seeds are everywhere to grow'

To finish my talk:-

Go, you are sent:

  • TO FIND YOURSELF - in your service, in your dedication, in your message.
  • TO FIND PEOPLE - ask who they are and what is alive in them.
  • TO FIND GOD IN THE PEOPLE - leave prejudices behind.  Speak their language, so they understand you.  Think their thoughts, so you understand them.  Let them come close to you, let them change you.

Go, you are sent:- You will speak in the language of love that brings understanding and makes communion possible.  Go and make known to many people the mystery of the love of God.


Background note:  The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an annual event observed in most parts of the world between the Feast of the Confession of St.Peter (18th January) and the Conversion of St.Paul (25th Jananuary), although some countries in the southern hemisphere use another season such as Pentecost.  The Week of Prayer was first realized in 1908 at Graymoor, in Garrison New York, when the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement held the first Church Unity Octave (an Octave is eight days).  Each year, Christians of every denomination pray for Christian unity during the Week of Prayer.
In 2008, Christians around the world observed an important ecumenical milestone as the annual Week of Prayer celebrated 100 years of international events that recognize the importance of prayer and promote unity between different Christian traditions.