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WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY 2018
A Reflection from Br Alois, Prior of the Taize Community, given at Basle, Taize European Meeting, New Year 2018
Many aspire for Christians to be united so as no longer to obscure this message of fraternity. When Christians are separated, the message of the Gospel loses its radiance. Our fraternal unity can be a sign of unity and peace between human beings.
That is why, whenever I have the opportunity, I keep asking: has not the time come for the separate churches to dare to come together under one roof without further delay, even before an agreement has been reached on all the theological questions?
How are we to gather under one roof? By doing together all that can be done together: the study of the Bible, social and pastoral work, catechesis. By doing nothing without considering the others. By making gestures together to stand united in the face of poverty and all other kinds of suffering, and to take care of the environment. By coming together more often in the presence of God, listening to his Word, in silence and praise.
In this spirit, which has been manifested here in Basel and the surrounding region for a long time, the Christians of the various Churches have come together, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, to prepare to receive us.
We thank them for inviting us. We thank everyone who has opened their doors to welcome us so warmly. Thank you also to the civil authorities who added their collaboration.
In order to make ever greater progress towards Christian unity, I would like to repeat a question that I asked in May in Wittenberg, Luther’s town, and which I also mentioned recently in Geneva, the city of Calvin.
A year ago, visiting Lutherans in Lund, Sweden, on the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Pope Francis expressed in a prayer words never before formulated by a pope. He said, “Holy Spirit, grant us to acknowledge joyfully the gifts that have come to the Church through the Reformation.”
Do not such words call for reflection and a response? Will we have the generosity to thank God, not first for the gifts he has given us, but for the gifts he has given to others, and that we can receive from them? To whatever confession we belong, will we be able to recognize the values that God has granted to others?
Reconciliation between churches is a journey towards a new reality whose contours are unexpected and still unknown. We should recall this word of the prophet Isaiah: “I will guide the blind on paths they had never followed.” The Holy Spirit will guide us on paths that we do not know beforehand.
Throughout 2018, we will ask the Holy Spirit to prepare us to become ever more, through our lives, witnesses of reconciliation and peace.
A BLOG- Walking the path to Christian Unity
An inter church view from… Richard & Helen Connell
As part of our Response to the CTE Reformation Conference, Richard and I were asked to represent the Association of Interchurch Families. Initially we were asked to be part of a panel speaking on reconciliation but Jenny Bond also asked us to run a workshop. The instructions indicated many people appreciate stories about personal experience.
So during the workshop we shared the following story. Our daughter Ruth was brought up within our two churches having been baptised in the RC church at the Easter Vigil with the full participation of Richard’s vicar. He agreed to receive her and register her baptism on Easter Sunday morning. In the RC baptism a candle is lit from the Paschal candle and passed to the father for safekeeping. Knowing that something similar is a part of the Anglican service we took her candle with us on Easter Sunday. As we walked up the steps towards the vicar, he leaned forward, ‘What do you want me to do with the candle?’ I whispered in reply, ‘We thought you might light it from your Paschal Candle?!’ He looked slightly embarrassed, ‘I’m afraid to say I hadn’t thought of that! What a good idea!’
As the panel had a specific focus on reconciliation, Richard opened our contribution by reading the following quote:
A desire to promote Christian unity has been a constant for Interchurch families throughout the past forty years. They have a particular incentive to take part in ecumenical work, and many have been found working for unity at local, national and international levels. Their experience of living in one another’s traditions and growing in mutual understanding and love is a particular contribution they can make to the ecumenical movement; they can be signs to the churches on their way towards unity. From ‘Forty Years of Interchurch Families’ by Ruth Reardon, ‘Issues and Reflections 8’, October 2008
I continued with stories about Ruth which had an emphasis on reconciliation. The first story happened when she was three years old and at Sunday mass with me. As we got nearer the time for the Eucharist she asked if she could receive communion. I knew that wouldn’t be possible so I whispered that she needed to be older. I hoped that would be the end of it, but I hoped in vain. The following Sunday she pulled my arm, ‘Can I receive this week? I’m older now.’ I decided to take a different approach and rather than answering her question I asked one of my own. ‘Why do you want to receive communion?’ She looked shocked, clearly expecting me to know the answer and then responded, ‘Because it’s Jesus, of course!’. I looked around the congregation and wondered how many had such a deep theological understanding of what was happening. In fact I would have struggled to put it so succinctly. I turned my attention to making it clear she was still unable to receive.
Thankfully, the following summer we went to an Interchurch Families International Conference in Rome. Members of the Waldensian church provided a programme for the children in four languages. At one of the services led by a Lutheran Minister he said ‘If you feel your child understands what is happening at the Eucharist and is ready to receive they are welcome to do so.’ Ruth asked if that meant her and when I nodded she smiled and stood reverently waiting until she received. I think she must have been happy after this experience because she didn’t mention communion again for a while.
However, when she was six years old the issue was raised again when the Anglican diocese took a decision to admit children to communion before confirmation. The vicar in our local parish had a daughter two years older than Ruth and decided to admit the children at seven years old. This created a problem for us as the Roman Catholic diocese permitted children to make their first communion in the school year in which they were eight. I spoke to Ruth about it and made it clear that she could do the preparation but if she wanted to make her first communion in the RC church she would be unable to be admitted in the Anglican church with her friends.
She was happy to go through the Anglican preparation which used a course adapted from the RC model and I took her every week. I thought she was happy with her decision as she never complained. The day of admission was set for Easter Sunday during morning service. Her friends were given certificates to show to other churches that in spite of not being confirmed they were able to receive. Whilst this ceremony was going on she turned to me, ‘Why won’t the Catholic church let me receive communion if I make it here first?’ I wondered how I could explain the Reformation to a seven year old. I settled on the following: ‘The Anglican church fell out with the Catholic church and they still feel hurt.’
‘How long ago was this?’
‘About 4 or 500 years ago.’
‘Isn’t it about time they forgave each other?’ I was left wondering why a seven year old could see something so clearly that church leaders couldn’t. As one person said to me, ‘Out of the mouth of babes……?’
At this point we were told that time was running out. Richard drew our piece together by indicating that these stories summed up our experience of reconciliation as an Interchurch Family and he finished our contribution with this piece,
We have some concerns about the work toward unity, even as we celebrate that work. We are concerned that our churches in most cases appear not yet ready to love each other first, and only then to work out how that love is to be expressed. Instead, we see churches insisting that every “i” be dotted, every “t” crossed before commitments to unity are made. We suspect that, were marriage to be approached in the same manner, we would have very few marriages, and the ‘domestic church’ would become merely a fine archaeological specimen. From ‘Revealing the Holy: Interchurch Families on the Path to Christian Unity’ by Ray & Fenella Temmerman, in INTAMS, Vol 6, #2, 2000
The other panellists made their contributions to the discussion followed by a plenary open to everyone. One group had wrestled with the difference between forgiveness, reconciliation and atonement. During the preparation for the panel the previous evening I talked about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe forgiveness is something you can do on your own without necessarily being reconciled especially if it involves abuse or the perpetrator is dead. I briefly shared this with everyone. I was reminded of a book I read two years ago by Desmond and Mpho Tutu, ‘The Book of Forgiving’ which I have on Kindle. I asked if I could read from chapter 7, Renewing or Releasing the Relationship. Desmond Tutu said the final part of forgiveness is the decision to renew the relationship or to let it go. There was a profound moment of silence and then Richard had the last word, ‘Unity is not an option rather it is an imperative.’
Richard Connell (Anglican) Reader Emeritus and Helen Connell (RC) MTh (Oxon)
Ecumenism is a moral imperative for all of us
Archbishop Paul Gallagher’s homily at the Inauguration of the new Director’s ministry
Eminences and Excellencies,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See and Italy,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am glad to be here this evening, glad to be in Rome and in this fine Oratory of St Francis Xavier. I am grateful for and honoured by the invitation of Archbishop Justin Welby to preach this evening, despite the presence of many more worthy candidates! I can assure you that I do not believe that I have drawn the shortest straw.
Since I first arrived in Rome in the autumn of 1971, the Anglican Centre has always figured to a greater or lesser extent in my times in Rome. Canon Harry Smythe was the Director in those distant days. At the English College we all loved him, but as poms could not resist in making a little fun of his anglicized Australian accent. The Centre is endowed with a fine library, many of whose volumes were bequeathed to it by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher. When I was researching a short paper on the doctrine of the Atonement in the thought of Archbishop William Temple, a hero of mine, I was delighted to discover that the books I wished to consult had been Dr Fisher’s. In these he had made many notes in the margins of the pages. Perhaps one day I will go back and read them again.
Forgive me if I now take you away from this place, and as if by magic transport you to a place I love, and will love forever. Let me help you on your journey. Africa is so close and yet so far; it is almost Italy’s backyard. Let us go back to 1985 when a Hollywood movie brings to the world memories of East Africa from the first half of the twentieth century. Sydney Pollack‘s Out of Africa starring a younger Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, helped by John Barry’s lavish soundtrack and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, portrayed a continent of incredible natural beauty and less attractive human folly. It showed us the Masai Mara and Serengeti with their abundant herds of game and predators, and Africa’s rich and fascinating cultures, traditions and peoples. Many fell in love immediately. So when we get to the end of the film and are with Karen Dinesen, Countess von Blixen, in what we imagine to be a very cold room in Northern Denmark, and see her pen and speak the words: “I had a farm in Africa”, we share her pain and her nostalgia for so many cherished and indelible memories. Rome and the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj should ward off such melancholy, but perhaps not always!
But, indeed we are far from Denmark this evening, apologies to any Danish friends present, but in my mind neither am I in Rome. The circumstances of this Inauguration Service lead me to imagine myself in the house in which I lived for five very happy, if occasionally eventful years. I am back in the Apostolic Nunciature in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. I place myself on the top floor terrace adjacent to my bedroom, seated at the writing table I placed there or perhaps I am having a drink with my friend Canon Donald Werner, who is here to fete Archbishop Bernard tonight. I look out and across the city of Bujumbura to the waters of Lake Tanganyika and to its far shore and the mountains of the Congo, and the city of Uvira. At night there are a couple of street lights visible there, which are in front of the Catholic Bishop’s house; he can drive to see me, crossing the border in forty minutes; it would take him four hours by plane to reach Kinshasa and my colleague accredited to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
My memory recalls a scene of great peace and serenity, almost paradise, but now as then closer scrutiny reveals a different reality, for in both Burundi and the RDC there are serious political problems, which are provoking great suffering. Such conflicts are challenging, but easily overlooked in frustration amidst the numerous other issues that confront the international community today.
Inevitably, we ask how the Christian should respond to such problems. What do we have to offer? What encouragement can we give to those all over the world who are facing situations that defy resolution, conventional wisdom and common sense. What do we say and do in these dangerous times?
We find ourselves in the sandals of Moses. God has chosen him. It is not he who has chosen God. He does not in least feel up to the task, and initially overlooks two fundamental things: first, when God determines something it is not easy to convince him otherwise. So, he means it when he says: “I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers…. And now the cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them, so come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.”
If Moses does not understandably yet comprehend the determination of the Lord, he also underestimates the impact of their encounter. And yet he is already and will become ever more the friend of God, the man with whom God speaks “face to face”, and Moses will come to understand the irrevocable character of a meeting with “I am who I am”. Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi knows a little about life-changing encounters with God!
Today, we are well aware of our limitations, imperfections and faults, and also of our sins both historic and actual. However, there is a danger that we allow ourselves to be caught in the head-lights of our own inadequacy, paralysed and incapable of action or reaction, and of indulging the thought that others are more fit for the task, perhaps even that we have had our day, and should leave things to others with new vision and ideas. But in so thinking are we not in danger of selling short, not ourselves, but Christ, and the inspirational power of his living Word and of his grace, and what of the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit and their power to renew and heal.
Glancing back to Africa, there as elsewhere it is true that our historical relations have too often been characterised by denominational rivalry, but not always. In East and Central Africa Anglicans and Catholics are proud of the witness and legacy of the Ugandan Martyrs, and in recent times we strive to work together whenever possible. I first met Archbishop Justin Welby in Bujumbura when he was working as a canon of Coventry Cathedral for peace and reconciliation in the continent’s French-speaking countries. Today, the Holy Father and the Archbishop both nourish the hope of being able to act together for the benefit of the people of South Sudan. In so doing we continue the principle of common ministry and witness embraced in Liverpool by Bishop David Shepherd and Archbishop Derek Worlock, which is summed up in the title of their book: “Better Together”.
Despite, our shortcomings and our historical baggage, we should be offering encouragement to each other, strengthening and confirming each other in all we would do for God’s Kingdom and the binding-up of the world’s wounds. Paul’s words are opportune here: “We appeal to you, my brothers (and sisters), to be considerate to those working amongst you and are above you in the Lord as teachers. Have the greatest respect and affection for them because of their work.” So, at all times and in all places we must build-up and strengthen, not weaken and knock down.
You do not need me to tell you, that our world faces today an unprecedented number of challenges on every front, no continent is excluded and safe havens are in short supply. Some may have tended to see ecumenical endeavour as a question of the Church, almost an internal Christian affair, in which our unity will be the motor for the growth or even survival of Christ’s Church. Given all we face today, given the urgency and precariousness of our situation, I would argue rather that ecumenical engagement is a moral imperative for all of us who are baptised in the name of the Blessed Trinity. We must proceed together as the one Body of Christ, not because it will nice or cosy to do so, but because we have to in response to the pressing needs of humanity.
Archbishop Bernard, you have a beautiful mission ahead of you, and even if, like Moses, you may have some doubts. I can assure that the Pharaoh round here is not very frightening. He is far from being one “who knows not Joseph”, for he and his revered predecessors have known and esteemed Justin, Rowan, George, Robert, Donald and Michael, whom the Directors of the Anglican Centre have worthily represented these 50 years or more. We will continue to work with you, as our predecessors worked with your predecessors, so that the Christian voice may yet bring the healing balm of our loving Father to our broken world.
“May the God of peace make you perfect and holy…. Safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.”
To Churches Together...our newsletter- DECEMBER 2017
A Joyful & Hopeful Advent!
So…If you are receiving this and don’t know why- please let me know. If you are receiving this and someone else is the contact person- please let me know. We can add extra names if other people want to receive this themselves- no problem.
Importantly, if you have received this twice- which may mean that addresses have short-circuited and someone may have missed- please let me know.
We have not tracked down e-mail details for all West Yorkshire CT’s, but I have changed addresses for those that have “bounced”… so if you have received this and think someone else in your local CT should have it (instead or as well) just let me know the correct address.
Nick Shields, Administrator WYCT
WEST YORKSHIRE CHURCHES TOGETHER is the county ecumenical body for West Yorkshire- the county and those parts which are covered by West Yorkshire Dioceses and Districts.
Administrator Nick Shields is happy to preach on Unity in your church or group if invited…
What goes on?
We would be very pleased to receive your news- and photos- to include here. WYEC used to publish a Unity Post newspaper around now, thanks to the late John Grady and the Catholic Diocese of Leeds, but sadly the Catholic Post is no more. At least, we now have the benefits of electronic circulation.
Some events here which may be of interest to your group: please feel free to copy or forward
“THAT ALL MAY BE FREE” The material for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 has been produced in the Caribbean.
The themes of the daily material raise some of the contemporary issues addressed by the churches of the Caribbean. Abuses of human rights are found across the region and we are challenged to consider our manner of welcoming of the stranger into our midst. Human trafficking and modern-day slavery continue to be huge issues. Addiction to pornography and drugs, continue to be serious challenges to all societies. The debt crisis has a negative impact upon the nations and upon individuals – the economies of the nations and people have become precarious. Family life continues to be challenged by the economic restrictions which lead to migration, domestic abuse and violence.
The Caribbean Churches work together to heal the wounds in the body of Christ. Reconciliation demands repentance, reparation and the healing of memories. The whole Church is called to be both a sign and an active agent of this reconciliation.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed from the 18th to the 25th January . However, some observe it from Sunday-Sunday or perhaps at Pentecost or some other time.
If you do not currently mark this important week, have you considered holding a United Service- perhaps on the central Sunday with just this one evening service in your area? The resource material also includes a short daily service- perhaps with a light or shared lunch?
Have you considered a Pulpit Exchange or even (it’s January!)
walking from one church or churches to another- or central church?
To access the “official” material….
Go to https://ctbi.org.uk then click the “Week of Prayer” box on that page: then click the red “download resources” button
Scroll down that page and you will find various downloads – you don’t have to buy printed versions (you can!) but can produce your own from the material that you can download: the main elements are the United Service and the shorter daily services- and all these in turn can be altered to suit.
There is even a Powerpoint version!
ON OUR WEBSITE…
Details about the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Walking the path to Christian Unity
An inter church view from… Richard & Helen Connell
A recent article from Richard & Helen
The Methodist District Winter Newsletter -click HERE-
The Leeds Anglican Diocese Newsletter-click HERE
UK ORTHODOX and PENTECOSTAL LEADERS
“in solidarity with The Persecuted Church”
Leaders of Britain’s Eastern and Oriental Orthodox and Pentecostal churches meeting at The Raynors, Harrow, Middlesex on Monday 27 November 2017 reaffirmed their commitment to stand in solidarity with Christians suffering persecution, including martyrdom, in our world.
Stories of atrocities and suffering met by love and non-retaliation, of tragedies met by deep spiritual resolve were shared concerning the Middle East, Asia, Africa and elsewhere. In response the leaders encouraged Christians everywhere to:
Prayer Generosity Advocacy
Keeping the matter of The Persecuted Church alive
Speaking after the meeting the three convenors, Bishop Angaelos, Pastor Agu Iruwku and The Rt Revd Maxim Nikolsky responded.
THEOS REPORT ON CHURCHES TOGETHER IN ENGLAND
CTE’s Board took the decision last year to fund research by Theos into the current state of ecumenism in England. We hope that the report will be widely read and discussed, and that it will help our member churches to consider how they wish to work together in mission over the next five to ten years.
The CTE link seems broken but to obtain a paper copy go to
And follow the instructions!
FRIENDS OF THE ANGLICAN CENTRE ROME
Enjoyed an autumn trip to Ampleforth Abbey and the new and impressive Stanbrook Abbey nearby (pictured)
Some ecumenical Taize Prayers in Yorkshire: probably wise to check before travelling…
2nd Sunday of month, 2:00 pm (preceded by lunch), St John’s Church, Golcar, HD7 4PX; Kathryn Sykes,
Occasional prayers on Sundays, 4:00 pm, Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Square, HU1 2JJ; Charlotte Peckett,
email@example.com 01482 224460.
Emmanuel Centre, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT Every 2nd Monday in university termtime; 5:30 pm; Sarah Derbyshire firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd Sunday of month, 8:00 pm; St Mark’s Church, Broomfield Road, S10 2SE; Mark Ansell email@example.com
Last Friday of month, 7:00 pm, St John’s Church, Wentworth Street, Wakefield WF1 2QU; Jane & Nick Shields firstname.lastname@example.org
LINKS OF INTEREST:
The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) Yorkshire brings a Christian voice and vision to public issues that affect the people of Yorkshire -environment, social justice, politics
It is the northern offshoot of national JPIT and is sponsored by the regional bodies of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches. You can find more on