As I was reading through my list of resolutions from General Convention this morning, I was struck by the number that call for a day or week of prayer for a particular cause. If we add to that the timely requests from the offices of The Episcopal Church and our Presiding Bishop, we might be able to fill a calendar with these prayers on every Sunday! Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said to “…pray without ceasing…” (I Thes. 5:17). I know that sometimes I find these requests a bother; we already have the liturgy planned around a particular theme and then a call to prayer comes and we need to figure out a seamless way to introduce a new topic into our well-orchestrated service. What’s a liturgist to do? For me, I know that I need to stop and think. These calls to prayer come because we live in a needy world. While we go about our relatively comfortable lives, others struggle with the tragedy of bullying, HIV/AIDS, armed violence, human trafficking, genocide, and the list could go on and on. This past Sunday we were asked by Bishop Katharine to pray specifically for the people and the church in South Sudan. Did your congregation join in prayer? Did you?
A166: Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 77th General Convention urge all parishes and dioceses of The Episcopal Church to participate in the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, observed annually beginning the first Sunday in March.
There are many fine resources for you and your congregation on the web. The link for the official site is
Here you will find endorsements by the many faith communities who will be joining in prayer together, a place for you to sign up to be part of this national effort, fact sheets, sermons, and a very helpful planning guide to make your participation more than a brief mention of this cause in your service. The guide also includes ideas for bringing this campaign into your family and your community. The theme for this year is “Can Love Conquer Stigma?” and its goals are:
- To promote a week of AIDS awareness activities through faith institutions to educate the people of the United States about HIV/AIDS
- To raise awareness of faith communities to support HIV testing, health education, prevention interventions and give unconditional love and support to all those who are affected by HIV/AIDS
- To bring national, regional and local attention to the critical role faith communities are playing in the AIDS epidemic in the United States
You may recall that one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals called for universal access to treatment by 2010, the halt of HIV/AIDS by 2015, and a reversal of the spread of this disease. We’re not there yet. The 2013 fact sheet on the MDG’s reports progress but not complete achievement of these goals:
- New HIV infections continue to decline in most regions.
- More people than ever are living with HIV due to fewer AIDS-related deaths and the continued large number of new infections with 2.5 million people newly infected each year.
- Comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission remains low among young people (condom use also remains low in this demographic).
- More orphaned children are now in school due to expanded efforts to mitigate the impact of AIDS.
- While the target was missed by 2011, access to treatment for people living with HIV increased in all regions.
- At the end of 2011, 8 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV. This total constitutes an increase of over 1.4 million people from December 2010.
- By the end of 2011, eleven countries had achieved universal access to antiretroviral therapy.
Here’s the link to the 2013 fact sheet:
I think it’s easier for us to focus on the issues and crises within our own communities and push global concerns far from our minds but the spread of this terrible disease is not merely an “over there” issue. Every year 56,000 new cases are diagnosed in our own country! Let’s join together to share in the work of educating ourselves and others and to pray with unity that God will bring success in our battle against HIV/AIDS and healing to those who suffer – the victims, their families and their friends.
God of all compassion, comfort your sons and daughters who live with HIV. Spread over us all your quilt of mercy, love and peace.
Open our eyes to your presence reflected in their faces. Open our ears to your truth echoing in their hearts.
Give us the strength to weep with the grieving, to walk with the lonely, to stand with the depressed.
May our love mirror your love for those who live in fear, who live under stress and who suffer rejection.
Mothering, fathering God, grant rest to those who have died and hope to all who live with HIV.
God of life, help us to find the cure now and help us to build a world in which no one dies alone and where everyone lives accepted wanted and loved. Amen.
Prayer from the Maryknoll Sisters of San Salvador (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/22/hivaids-prayers-poetry-meditations_n_1687215.html This link from the Huffington Post has prayers from numerous faith traditions for the healing of HIV/AIDS)
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Dioceesan Council