Sunday, 29 November 2015

Ecumenical Treat of a Week

On Monday night, Steve and I were invited by Angus, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and his wife Marian, to a dinner at the Caledonian Club. There were just eight guests, including the former Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Bishop of Chester, and a representative of the Bishop of London. 

It was a wonderful evening. The meal, which started with haggis and neaps, was followed by a discussion on Mission and Evangelism. It was fascinating to share experiences. The differences were not denominational, but geographical – urban and rural.

On Tuesday we were off to Westminster Abbey, for the inauguration of the 10th General Synod of the Church of England.  As Ecumenical Guests we processed in (which I have to confess was an amazing experience) and I sat almost opposite the Queen (and Gareth Powell!).  You can just see the back of my head!
The address was given by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household. His theme was ‘Rebuild my House’, from Haggai 1.1-8.  He had some wonderful things to say about going back to the basics of the gospel, as well as a call for unity.
‘Unity is not a simple matter. One has to start with the big Churches, those that are well structured, putting together that which unites them, which is vastly more important than what divides them; not imposing uniformity but aiming at what pope Francis calls “reconciled diversities”. Nothing is more important than to fulfil Christ’s heart desire for unity expressed in today’s gospel. In many parts of the world people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostals, but because they are Christians. In their eyes we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.’
It was a moving and thought provoking sermon, and it even inspired me to preach on Haggai!
Then it was a quick change and into the Assembly Hall at Church House for the Opening Ceremony.  In her speech, unity was again the theme, and the Queen even mentioned the covenant with the Methodist Church.
Peter with colleagues from Chester: David Goodwin, Neil Stacey, David & Anne Speed, and Christine Dutton
Back in Cheshire, on Thursday it was off to Chester Cathedral for a special Choral Evensong to install Revd Peter Barber, Chair of the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District as an Honorary Ecumenical Canon (and yes, I did manage to find time to sew his special badge on!)
Just to add to all this ecumenical activity, on Wednesday and Friday I was back at Englesea Brook Chapel of Primitive Methodism, where we had the first in our series of Advent lunchtime ‘Soup and Study’. We are looking at Pioneers of our Faith, and this week it was John the Baptist and John Wesley (next week will be John Nelson, the Yorkshire evangelist).  There were 15 of us, and yes – they included Methodists and Anglicans!

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