The Time Is Here to Prepare for World Day of Prayer 2019

Jan 30, 2019

Women in Southern Ocean County will be celebrating the 92nd annual World Day of Prayer at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 1, at the United Methodist Church of Manahawkin, located at 116 Stafford Ave. in Stafford Township. Men are invited to attend as well, but the World Day of Prayer was, historically, a women’s initiative and is still dominated by women.

Now, women are making a major move in politics these days, what with over 100 women being elected to Congress in 2018 and four – Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – having already tossed their hats into the 2020 Democratic presidential race. But women’s movements and involvement in politics are nothing new.

Women’s suffrage was the talk of the town all across the United States 100 years ago as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, was being debated in the House and Senate. If you think men were the driving force behind that amendment, think again. It was women who had fought for the vote since the historic 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Yes, 32 men, including Frederick Douglass, joined 68 women to sign the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments that came out of that convention, but it was women – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Coffin Mott and Martha Coffin Wright – who organized the convention and who, along with Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, remained the suffrage movement’s guiding forces.

If women were basically shut out of politics until 1920 (basically, because women in several states, mostly out west, had already earned the right to vote for offices other than U.S. president), they were also shut off from the pulpit and the altar. But at about the same time that they started fighting for the right to vote, they started to organize in churches as well.

They didn’t attempt to become members of the clergy, but they did organize women’s boards for foreign and home missions designed to meet the needs of women and children despite the opposition of church men. Interestingly, the women’s boards movement caught fire in the United States in 1861 when the Civil War broke out. So many men were off fighting that women had to look after themselves.

Women who were providing services to other women and children also started organizing prayer groups. That led Presbyterian women to call for a national Day of Prayer for Home Missions and Methodist women to call for a week of prayer and self-denial for foreign missions in 1887 (a period of time when American missionaries were shipping out across the world). By 1897, the women of six denominations had formed a joint committee for a day of prayer.

The devastation caused by another war, World War I, convinced the women that world peace was tied with world mission. So the day of prayer idea spread rapidly over the United States and Canada and, eventually the world. The first official World Day of Prayer was held in 1927.

Now over 170 countries participate in the ecumenical World Day of Prayer, celebrated on the first Friday of March. The movement aims to bring women of various races, cultures and traditions together in a common day of prayer.

Each year the World Day of Prayer focuses on a different country, with women from the designated country picking the theme and writing the worship service. This year the country in the spotlight is Slovenia, a Balkan country and formerly a part of Yugoslavia. It has a population of just over two million people, is a parliamentary republic and member of the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, and is predominately Roman Catholic (Catholic women were allowed to join the World Day of Prayer movement beginning in 1967 after the Second Vatican Council).

The theme for the 2019 World Day of Prayer is “Come, Everything Is Ready.” It is inspired by the Gospel of Luke 14: 15-24, a parable in which a man gives a great dinner and orders his servant to tell his invited guests that dinner is ready. The theme, then, invites all to the table of Christ.

As of this writing, 10 area churches are participating in the service at the United Methodist Church of Manahawkin.

If you would like to participate in the service by reading, acting, ushering, etc., rehearsals will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, and Friday, Feb. 8. Call Eileen at 609-290-8903 if you want to participate.

One need not call or attend the rehearsals if planning on simply attending the March 1 service.

Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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