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:
We pray, O God, for the Church in the world of today: that it may be true to its gospel and responsive to the needs of humankind; that it may conserve what is good in the past and reach out boldly to the future; that it may care for the individual and help to change society; and that it may have a growing unity without sacrificing all variety of response to your grace.
That prayer encapsulates so much of what is important about the way we behave as Christians; it reminds us that as a Church we exist primarily for others and not for ourselves. It reminds us also that in exercising our faith there is a balance to be struck between old and new, and between our ministry to the individual and our engagement with the wider world. However, the phrase that I particularly like is the one that prays for growing unity without sacrificing all variety of response.
We human beings are all made in the image of God and yet we are all different from each other in so many ways. We, of course, have many physical differences, but even more significant is the range of our personality types, which lead to the huge variety of the likes and dislikes we express and the things we choose to pursue in life.
It’s not surprising then that when it comes to our worship of God and the ways in which we relate to him, there will be many differences. Whatever our own preferences are though, we should never be in the business of thinking that our way is the right way and that others have got it wrong.
Jesus prayed that his followers would all be one as he and his Father are one. However, being at one with each other doesn’t mean all being the same. At the heart of his great prayer for unity in St John’s Gospel chapter 17 is his desire that his followers should be united by love, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (v 22–23).
Our life together as Christians must flow from Christ’s life and love. If we let his love flow into our lives we will have respect for each other’s differences, we will have a desire for our brothers and sisters to flourish, and we will be open to learning from each other and appreciating the variety of gifts God has showered upon us.
It is Christ’s love that binds us together; by responding to that love, by loving one another, we will fulfil his desire that we also show his love to the world around us.
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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.More
The impact of ecumenical youth ministry and some of its expressions in Norfolk.More
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.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.More
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.More
Biddy Collyer makes a tour of the Diocese of Norwich, seeking out examples of ecumenism in action.More
Dwelling together in unity
Anna Heydon shares her experience of churches working together across denominations in and with the local community of Great Yarmouth.More