Dwelling together in unity

Published on: 1 January 2019

Anna Heydon shares her experience of churches working together across denominations in and with the local community of Great Yarmouth.

The other month, as I stood beside Christians from 12 local churches worshipping God and thanking him for his work, I was reminded of the picture in Revelation of the unity of believers in heaven: the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” standing before the throne of God and giving glory to him.

This time of ecumenical worship was a precious and uplifting experience. But how do we ensure that our Christian unity is expressed in the worship of our lives as well as the worship of our lips?

I’m blessed to be able to work with Christians from different congregations and denominations as they come together to express their love of God in acts of practical compassion in the community.

There’s the Great Yarmouth Food Bank which was instigated by several local churches for those experiencing food poverty. Then there’s the letter which was sent to Damian Green in 2016, spearheaded by leaders of local community ministries, which called for revisions to Universal Credit so that the pain caused during its pilot period in Great Yarmouth would not be replicated around the country.

We have NHS prayer meetings with Christians from different churches who care about the NHS coming together to pray. Churches also came together to start up The Living Room winter night shelter and are currently looking to work together to support the CAP Debt Centre. The list could go on.

When Christians come together in unity, not only are we obeying the commands of Jesus, and practically enabling each other to do more than we could do alone, but we also see the power of the Holy Spirit at work.

When Peter and Cornelius followed God’s command to come together in a radical, countercultural partnership (Acts 10), the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentile Christians for the first time. When the churches in the borough of Great Yarmouth have come together we have seen the Holy Spirit provide for people’s needs, turn hearts to him, raise up volunteers and leaders who never thought they could lead or volunteer and stir a desire to continue working together even when it’s challenging.

Unity isn’t always easy. I have experienced the struggles as well as triumphs of Christians attempting to work together in partnership. We live in a broken world, and the devil longs to pull us apart from each other as well as from God. But the redeeming work of Jesus is reconciliation with himself and each other.

Perhaps it was because Jesus knew it would be tough that his prayer in John 17 included the unity of believers. He knew that we need each other in order to fulfil the great commission, but he knew we could never work in unity without his power!

If this prayer for unity was of sufficient importance for the final prayer of Jesus before death, I’m going to keep praying it: for Great Yarmouth, Norfolk and our world.

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Articles in this issue...

The Anglican Centre in Rome: promoting Christian Unity in a divided world

Peter Doll and Alaric Lewis explain the purpose of the Anglican Centre in Rome, a place of worship, hospitality and learning.


Together: United

The impact of ecumenical youth ministry and some of its expressions in Norfolk.


Walsingham’s new ecumenical covenant

On the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham last September, the Priest Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, Fr Kevin Smith, and the Rector of the Roman Catholic National Shrine, Mgr John Armitage, signed an Ecumenical Covenant during Sung Vespers in the Anglican Shrine Church. Fr Kevin tells us more.


Norwich Centre for Christian Learning: Learning ecumenically

Gudrun Warren struggles with the term “ecumenism”, but has to in her job at the Norwich Centre for Christian Learning. The NCCL was set up in 2010 as an ecumenical educational project offering high quality learning opportunities in Christian theology.


Deaf Church – working together to worship together

Norwich Deaf Church is a joint initiative between Methodist Minister the Revd Anne Richardson and Anglican Priest the Revd Dominic Hubbock to enable and encourage the Christian Deaf Community to meet, worship and spend time together. Tim Rogers met with them to find out how they are working together in reaching out to Deaf people.


One church

Biddy Collyer makes a tour of the Diocese of Norwich, seeking out examples of ecumenism in action.


That we may be one

One of the prayers the I find myself using in the intercessions offered at Evensong in the Cathedral when praying for Christian Unity is this:


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