With the words and song of the opening prayer at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly, churches from around the world planted the seeds of peace. The vision of peace is shared by the United Church of Christ –represented by two dozen attendees at this assembly– and hundreds of other churches of diverse faith traditions from around the globe gathered for the WCC's 10th assembly in Busan, South Korea.
Prayers went out to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific.
"Hearing churches from around the world gathered together singing a hymn titled 'Peace Must Be Dared' gives me hope for this assembly," said Mike Neuroth, an assembly participant and UCC advocate for international policy issues in Washington, D.C. "It's my hope that in the next week we will not only find the courage to share statements of conviction for peace, but commit ourselves to making peace a priority and a reality during the assembly."
The opening prayer kicked off the assembly in Busan on Wednesday, Oct. 30, by welcoming thousands of delegates and participants to South Korea, a nation known for its hospitality.
Worship for the opening prayer took place in an array of different global dialects – from Korean, English, Spanish, French, German – and even the sermon was given in Armenian by his Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
"We offer a special blessing upon the people of our host nation, Korea," Karekin II said. "As Armenians, we feel a kinship with them. Like us, the Korean people have known pain, domination and division in their long and rich history, but they have not allowed this to dim their creative spirit or their aspiration to freedom. The light of Christ shines brightly through their evangelical zeal, and we are proud to witness the growing strength of their wonderful Christian community."
A choir of Korean Christians sang prayerful songs and led the thousands of people gathered from seemingly every corner of the world, as interpretive dancers moved with the music of the hymns. There were prayers to end violence against women, an end to injustice, for the care of creation, and for tolerance and peace.
"The lament that started the morning worship, with people from all over the world, was a very honest and moving way to begin the assembly together," said Kelly Forbush, one of the UCC young adult participants from New Haven, Conn.
The opening prayer was the first of a litany of worship services during the 10th assembly. In the days that follow, there are daily morning and evening prayers, a day to worship with local Korean congregations, and the closing prayer on the final day, Nov. 8, which will send everyone home with a spirit of Christian unity.
The UCC is one of the 345 members of the WCC, with a team of almost two dozen representatives from across the life of the church at this gathering. The WCC assembly, which takes place once every seven years, runs from Oct. 30 through Nov. 8 in Busan. The assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC, and is a moment when member churches come together for prayer, celebration and to set the future agenda for the council. There are more than 4,000 delegates, visitors, event staff and media members from more than 100 countries in South Korea for the assembly.