Getting Out Of The Boat
5.30am, Galilee. Across the calm sea from our promenade view, we watched the grey-blue mist ignite in to a kaleidoscope of red, orange and yellow shades fused together by the rising sun until all the sky and sea were ablaze with its hue.
Scenes like this conjure up vividly the Bible telling of Jesus and the disciples teaching, sailing and living together. Of all the account of Peter walking on the water in response to Christ’s invitation to join him came to mind that morning and long afterwards. (Matt 14: 25-31).
During our time in Israel & Palestine with the British Tantur Trust in April, we met Jews, Christians and Muslims who were seeking a peaceful resolution to the tensions that existed between nations and religious communities there. They had ‘got out of their boat’, i.e. their own communities, to engage with the other in order to seek this goal. To do so means to be open to being vulnerable, open to personal sacrifice and open to working as equal partners for the shared vision.
Like Galilee on a clear day there are many, many boats sailing in the Christian sea. Unlike the Galilean one, here in UK, Christianity is shrinking.  Recent research, from the Centre for Church Growth, Crammer Hall St John’s College, Durham, show that in the north east, where I live, 126 new churches have emerged since 1980. Out of these only 18 churches were founded by main the historic denominations with the majority coming from smaller denominations or denominations which have arisen in the UK since 1980 or independent churches. Most significant, 47 congregations come from mainly black and minority ethnic communities.
These findings suggest that the shape and feel of the Kingdom we are called to build is changing too. The challenge is not so much concerned with sustaining the different boats we occupy but rather more about building the boat – the kingdom here on earth.
The CTE consultation A new Framework For Local Ecumenism, is then well timed, It seeks to discern how systems and structures can be simplified for churches involved in existing LEPs and looking forward to creating a new framework that will enable churches of different ecclesiogoies to be partners. In doing so, we may find ourselves imitating those in Isereal/Palistine by accepting the need for an appraoch which requires us to also to ‘get out of our boats’ in order sustain an engaging and relational christian presence amongst the communities we live in.
 http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/5-june/news/uk/uk-anglicans-are-in-serious-decline-say-researchers & http://faithsurvey.co.uk/uk-christianity.html
Sheelagh Aston (Revd)
Priest in Charge, Oxclose LEP Church
& Ecumenical Adviser Durham Diocese
Oxclose LEP Church Facebook Page
Jenny Bond's Reflection about Tantur pilgrimage
A New Framework for Local Ecumenism