A Moment of Unity: The Week of MLK Day, the Presidential Inauguration and Christian Unity

January 13, 2021

Dear Seattle University Community,

Each January, for as many as 50 years, we have celebrated the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.” It is intended to bring Christian communities together with one another and with communities of other faith traditions praying that we might be more unified in addressing the issues that most affect people’s lives. The Week of Prayer always begins Jan. 18 and concludes Jan. 25.  

I write to you today about this Week of Prayer for the sake of unity because of the unprecedented number of issues we face as a people, which come to our special attention at this time and which call for prayer and action. As we celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day during this coming week, we do so in a much more urgent and committed way than ever before because of our renewed awareness that Black Lives Matter and the tragedy that occurs when they do not matter. (Visit MLK Jr. Celebration: Good Trouble in 2021 to learn more and register for the university’s event featuring Dr. Angela Davis at 6 p.m., Jan. 19.)

In the same week we inaugurate a new President of the United States with a need for greater unity as a people than we have ever known, especially because of the recent frightening assault on democracy at the U.S. Capitol. These events take place as we are all living within this long-lasting pandemic, beginning to have hope because of the vaccine, but mourning the loss of so many people, the impact of the pandemic disproportionately upon the poor and persons of color and concern for the heroic but exhausted health care workers who are feeling betrayed by the lack of attention to protective measures by many citizens. It is always important—and particularly in these times—to remain informed and civically engaged and I hope that if your schedule allows, you will make time to watch the presidential inauguration next Wednesday. It is also during this week that we begin our annual Seattle U United Way Campaign as a way for us to put our mission into practice for people in our community who need us.                

If there was ever a time that we needed to come together in prayer that unites us, raises awareness and leads to concerted action, it is now. This year the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, always opening itself to all persons of good will and of all traditions, thus takes on a very special character for us. I invite you to find your own way to participate in the week. Our Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs is providing a rich set of links to resources, along with personal testimonies that may be of interest to you. I am grateful to our center for this help for all of us.

May I conclude my invitation to this special week with a quote from the recent book by Pope Francis, Let Us Dream, which I believe is relevant to these times. He writes, “… if the Church has a particular role to play at times of crisis, it is precisely to remind the people of its soul, of its need to respect the common good.” 

I do not believe it is exaggerated to say that we live in a time of crisis and that we need to be reminded of and rediscover our soul as a people and the common good of all people. 

With prayer and thanks,

Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.