“I see hope everywhere … in faces and conversations with family … in the trees and the sunshine” said Maria from YMCA Russia, as YMCA members and friends worldwide joined the World Week of Prayer and World Fellowship from 8 to 14 November 2020.
Organised by the World YMCA and World YWCA, the Week has run every year since 1904, through times of war and peace, poverty and plenty. In 2020, with the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused such turmoil in young people’s lives, the theme was Rays of hope: creating resilient communities through practical spirituality.
“Faith and spirituality have proved to be central to resilience, hope and sense of global community”, said Patricia Pelton, President of World YMCA, and Mira Rizeq, President of YWCA.
World YWCA developed a resource publication in English, French and Spanish for the Week of Prayer, including six study chapters for use during the Week itself, and a year’s Bible Reading Plan for 2020-2021.
The shared Plan allows communities around the world to unite in prayer for a specific cause linked to current realities, while the six chapters covered: Breathing together in solidarity; Spiritual and economic empowerment through crises; Addressing social injustices in our communities; Keeping hope alive – finding peace and sharing kindness; Weaving fabrics of support; Transforming fear into strong vulnerability and loving trust; and Rays of hope. The booklet was assembled with help from the World Council of Churches and other theological experts, and kindly funded by Norwegian Church Aid.
The Week’s events opened on Monday 9 November with an online service held by the World Council of Churches, focussed on the churches and people of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia.
World YMCA and World YWCA spent the week supporting and retweeting social media content from around the globe, as local and national YMCAs held their own prayer sessions and services.
For example, past World YMCA President Peter Posner was the guest speaker at a Mumbai YMCA & YWCA virtual event,
while Kaligram YMCA, in a remote village in western Bangladesh, held a physical service.
The Week’s events closed on Friday 13 November when World YMCA organised an online Fellowship Service, streamed live on Facebook.
The service included sharing from both Movements on projects linked to the themes of the Prayer booklet, global prayers in multiple languages including Ukrainian, German, French and Spanish, in-house music, a series of reflections, and a message from Steve Clay, CEO of the YMCA Black Country Group, England, on the theme of ‘Remembering back, and looking forward’.
“We have been overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of the content and response to the Fellowship service!”, says Adrian Davies, Programme Executive at World YMCA. “Some 150 people watched live, with more than 400 comments on the Facebook stream. I hope they all found some peace and hope during these hard times.”
With over 40 submissions for the “Hope” video, many didn’t make the final cut.
Many YMCAs and YWCAs submitted projects connected to the themes from the booklet, including a short film piece showing how YMCA Singapore has brought food to vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We can be Rays of Hope in a hurting world”, said World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee in closing the event.
The Fellowship service played out to a recording of So Will I (100 Billion X), sung by Jake Isaac at YMCA’s 175th celebrations in London in July 2019.
Earlier in 2020, World YMCA held three online thanksgiving services as part of its Covid-19 response strategy.