RC/URC Dialogue Meeting
Bishop Paul Hendricks writes:
The second meeting in the current phase of United Reformed Church - Roman Catholic dialogue took place in early April, at the Highbury Centre in Islington. This brings together six representatives from each church, from England, Wales and Scotland, currently co-chaired by Rev Dr John Bradbury and Bishop Paul Hendricks.
Like many of our national ecumenical dialogues it follows a five-year programme, meeting overnight twice a year. In the first of the previous five-year phases, the emphasis was quite theological, looking at key documents from our two traditions and reflecting on our teachings on topics such as the universal call to holiness, revelation and authority, belonging to the Church, ethics and pastoral practice. The second phase was more experiential, exploring how we live our faith in our two denominations, including how we understand and value Scripture, the Eucharist, ministries, baptism, marriage and sacraments in general. This sharing of experience has been found to resonate with the principles of Receptive Ecumenism, as we compared the areas in which we struggle and in which we find encouragement.
In the current phase, the aim is to find ways of supporting local ecumenism and the next meeting will bring us together with members of a local ecumenical partnership. With this in mind, we have begun by exploring some of the tensions between our faith and contemporary culture. The first meeting last November, included a reflection on ‘Discipleship and Consumerism’. Is there an element of the ‘consumer’ in our attitude towards our religion?
In our recent meeting, we included a discussion on ‘Sainthood and Celebrity’. Saints are role models — but they’re disproportionately clergy or martyrs. Does the fact that we have an exalted view of saints, discourage people from believing that we too are called to be saints? Some saints had a meteoric rise in popularity after their death, having been relatively obscure during their lifetime. Does this suggest an element of celebrity? How do we make sure people understand the difference between praying to saints and praying to God? In popular culture and in churches that don’t have much emphasis on saints, there can still be places that are rather like shrines.
These encounters are very stimulating and beneficial for those who take part in them, but we are aware that they need to bear fruit in the world outside, so to speak. With this in mind, the membership of the group includes lay people as well as clergy, pastoral workers as well as theologians. Engaging with local ecumenism is part of this practical focus – and we are also conscious of the need to communicate effectively with what might be called the wider constituency within our own traditions, as well as with our those who make up the structures of our churches.