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On 15 and 16 March English and Welsh ARC met at the Anglican monastic Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield which is also home to a theological college training ordinands for the diaconate and priesthood. If there was a thread that ran through our deliberations it might be ‘making connections’.
We valued immensely the kind hospitality of the Community and the opportunity to join them for their worship. Father George Guiver gave us a tour of the Church re-ordered with sufficient flexibility to meet the needs of 21st Century worship. We were also given insight into the life and work of Walter Frere, a Mirfield Father, a keen ecumenist and liturgist. We learnt of his commitment to the Liturgical Movement, and particularly of his involvement in the revision of the 1928 of the Book of Common Prayer as well as his work in developing the liturgical life of the community. We reflected on how the Church might be re-introduced to the deep wellsprings of spirituality which the Religious Life has enshrined: a key question for both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church and a further point of connection.
The International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM)
We welcomed Bishop David Hamid, Anglican Co-Chair of IARCCUM who shared with us the current work of the Commission in seeking to develop practical ways to promote the ecumenical agreements between our two Churches through the work of ARCIC. This included forging better relationships between ARCIC and the regional ARCs and establishing fresh dialogues where none exist - a point of view we shared wholeheartedly. IARCCUM also plan to gather together and re-present some of the earlier ARCIC work to help it to be better owned and received – another example of making better connections. We explored whether we are equipping ordinands in both our Churches to understand the significance and achievement of over 40 years of ecumenical dialogue so they can further this work.
A consistent thread in our work over these two days was how both our Churches might think and work together on the New Evangelisation to make better connections in 21st Century society. We were inspired to hear how much time the Synod of Roman Catholic Bishops had given to this, and Archbishop Bernard Longley, speaking from first-hand experience of participating in the Synod, introduced the 58 Propositions. Whilst we noted how language is sometimes used differently in each of our Churches, we recognised the degree of common ground in the challenges we face.
There was lively discussion which identified several questions for further thought such as:
• Is our society as secularized as we sometimes think?
• Fresh Expressions of Church are changing the landscape in the Church of England? Are there new ecclesiological expressions in the Roman Catholic Church?
• What was the role of the new ecclesial movements and the consecrated religious life in Evangelisation?
• Are there opportunities for believers and non-believers to dialogue together about key concerns?
• Is the church as an Institution sending out “bad vibes” and, if so, how might this be addressed?
• In Evangelisation how can we honestly recognise the pressure and busyness of people’s lives?
The New Evangelisation will be the main theme for the joint meeting of Church of England and Roman Catholic Bishops in Lambeth in November 2013. Members of English and Welsh ARC have been invited to a small part of this meeting. We anticipate that this will give a fresh urgency to exploring what we should do together and what place the Bishops might wish English and Welsh ARC to have in further developments.
English and Welsh ARC projects
As well as Evangelisation we also discussed some of our other our ongoing projects:
Joint Witness in Public Life
The Chairs shared initial plans for a Joint Witness event with parliamentarians including an ecumenical study day to resource and support MPs and Peers in their work. We discussed whether an annual gathering with opportunities to relate theological thinking to matters in public life would be welcomed. It is encouraging that there is considerable interest in these initiatives ecumenically from staff with portfolios relating to public affairs.
We discussed a proposed pamphlet on Praying for Unity for distribution in our Churches. We expect to launch this at the joint Bishops’ meeting in November. Work is progressing on a series of other pamphlets including one which seeks to address some of the common areas of misunderstanding between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, possibly for production in digital format on YouTube.
We revisited the question we have often asked: Can there ever be real shared witness without shared prayer? This will be a particular theme at our next meeting.
We also had conversations about the pattern of our meetings, how best to use our time together, how to make better connections with other ARCs and how to make the most creative use of digital technology to promote ecumenical engagement more effectively.
This was the meeting at which we said goodbye to Colin Podmore, Director of the Central Secretariat and Clark to General Synod, wishing him well for his future role. He has contributed immeasurably to ecumenical work and to English and Welsh ARC, over 25 years. He will be much missed.