The World Day of Prayer on the first Friday of March each year is a long-established, ecumenical global initiative led by women primarily for women. It has, in my experience in parish life, been capable of bringing women of churches together very effectively, with a strong focus and, refreshingly, without the dominating presence any central Church or diocesan control. It has a sense of freedom and a feeling of grass-roots enthusiasm.
This year, and it falls today, the Christian women of Vanuatu have brought us the theme of: “Build on a Strong Foundation”. We are introduced first of all to the people of the Republic of Vanuatu and we learn of this small country, made up of eighty islands in the South Pacific Ocean, whose culture is largely Melanesian and Polynesian. The islands have black and white sandy beaches, coral reefs and colourful fish, lovely birds, nuts, fruits and forests, and each of the islands has had their own tribal chiefs, their own languages and their own gods - now 83% of the population is Christian, and French and English are the official languages, reflecting their colonial past, with Bislama the most widely spoken local language.
A short service has been prepared for use in Swanage today, based on the resources given to us by the women of the Republic of Vanuatu: