CHIANG MAI: Given the context of COVID-19 pandemic’s constraints that continue to hamper in-person gatherings for worship and prayer services in most countries, the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) facilitated a virtual Asia Sunday worship service on 16 May with the participation of people across Asia and beyond. Remembering the promise given to all God’s people in Exodus 15:26, the Asia Sunday–2021 virtual service focused on theme, “I am the Lord Who Heals You and Restores Your Health”.
A specially prepared liturgy was used for the online worship service, which was led by 30 ecclesiastical and ecumenical leaders from 27 countries and regions in Asia where the CCA’s member churches, councils, and partner organisations are based. The worship service was viewed by the faithful, who participated in it through the virtual platforms and social media pages of CCA and related networks from around the world.
Hundreds of faithful participating in the online service prayed in unison: “God, stretch out Your healing hand and hold back this virus. Strengthen and comfort those who are infected and ease their pain of body and mind. Send Your Holy Spirit to restore us all, and lead us into repentance and faith in the Gospel. Have mercy on us, God, and on the sick throughout the world.”
“Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love. Heal those who are sick with the virus…heal our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another. Heal our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders. Jesus Christ, Healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow,” thus they beseeched the Almighty with fervent faith during the special Asia Sunday–2021 prayers.
Asia Sunday is observed each year on the Sunday before Pentecost, and it coincides with the anniversary of CCA’s founding in 1957.
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, the General Secretary of the CCA said at the beginning, “We are coming together once again to beseech God’s divine intervention as COVID-19 continues to aggravate the vulnerabilities of humanity.”
“We observe crucial conditions that we are undergoing, and we are reminded to reflect on the fragility of human life. Our world continues to need prayers and healing from the spread of the coronavirus,” added the CCA General Secretary.
The homily during the service was delivered by Bishop Dr Daniel Thiagarajah from Sri Lanka.
Bishop Thiagarajah noted in his sermon, “We are being called to new possibilities for the church’s ministry in Asia; we can be fruitful in tough times when we face our fears knowing that Christ is with us and that Christ will make his comforting and forgiving presence known to his people in Asia in new ways.”
Bishop Thiagarajah continued, “The gift of Christ’s abiding love calls us to ‘listen carefully’ to God’s statutes, and to open our hearts and minds. Jesus’ promise is that whatever fears you have that are barriers to receiving the fruitfulness of God’s love will be taken away, and your life will be opened to new possibilities so you and the church can bear much fruit. Then as you face the frightening reality of COVID-19 in your nations and in the Church, you will hear Jesus’ words of resurrection life spoken to you: ‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples’ (Jn. 15:8).”
The worship service started with a liturgical prayer by Archbishop Willem T.P. Simarmata, the Moderator of the CCA, and concluded with the benediction which was pronounced by His Beatitude Dr Theodosius Mar Thoma Metropolitan from the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church of India.
The facilitators representing the member churches and councils of the CCA at the Asia Sunday–2021 online worship service were: Archbishop Willem T.P. Simarmata, Moderator of the CCA, from the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan in Indonesia; Rev. Dr Chang Sang, World Council of Churches President from South Korea; His Beatitude Dr Theodosius Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Metropolitan of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India; Bishop Melzar Labuntong, United Church of Christ in the Philippines; Bishop Dr Daniel Thiagarajah, Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India in Sri Lanka; Bishop I Nyoma Agustinus, Protestant Christian Church in Bali; Rev. Fakaofo Kaio, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand; Rt. Rev. Dushanth Rodrigo, Church of Ceylon in Sri Lanka; Very Rev. Philip Thomas Cor Episcopa, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Malaysia; Rev. Terence Corkin, Uniting Church in Australia; Rev. Stephen Hsin Te Hsu, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan; Rev. Dr Khamdeng Kounthapanya, General Secretary of the Lao Evangelical Church; Rev. Aiman Singh Gurung, President of the National Council of Churches in Nepal; Rev. Po Kam Cheong, Hong Kong Council of the Churches of Christ in China; Rev. Rungtiwa Mamo, Church of Christ in Thailand; Rev. U-Peng Lee, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan; Sotheavy Srey, Alliance for Conflict Transformation in Cambodia; Nargus Azhar, Church of Pakistan; Gregg Nicholson, Asian Evangelical Alliance; Babet Julie Aurelie, Anglican Church in Mauritius; Tandin Wangyal, National Council of Churches in Bhutan; Yusmiati Vistamika Wangka, Centre for Migrant Domestic Workers in Hong Kong; Jun Sumimoto, National Christian Council in Japan; Julmia Lamhot da Silva, Protestant Church in Timor Leste; Ani Christy Manvelian, Armenian Orthodox Church in Iran; and Kappia Morales, Philippines Independent Church.
Asia Sunday services were offered at the congregational levels in different Asian countries on 16 May: in Pakistan, Asia Sunday service was conducted by the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan at the Foreman Christian College Chapel in Lahore, in South Korea at the Hanshin Presbyterian Church (PROK), organised by the National Council of Churches in Korea, and in Indonesia by the Gereja Kristen Injili di Tanah Papua (West Papua).
The full video of the special online prayer service can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvB-djGWjuk&t=31s
Download the special Asia Sunday–2021 liturgy here: https://www.cca.org.hk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Asia-Sunday%E2%80%932021-%E2%80%94-Worship-Resources-PDF.pdf