Ecumenical relationships bearing fruit

A changing approach to ecumenical relationships in the Diocese of Bristol is generating new levels of energy and signs of fresh growth are appearing.

It’s all too easy to see the word ecumenical and heave a great sigh. In theory we know it should be good, but isn’t it just too difficult, too bureaucratic? The preserve of a select few “Ecumaniacs”?

There was a time when new towns like Milton Keynes and Swindon were being built that the future seemed to be ecumenical. New churches were built and staffed in partnership, LEPs became the flagships for a glorious new future. Shortly the Anglicans and Methodists were to be reunited and within a generation many hoped that the Christian Churches would reveal a much greater sense of unity.

Those days have come and gone, the unity talks collapsed and many Methodists were left feeling like they had been deserted at the altar. In place of optimism people began to wonder what was the point of these LEPs?

More recently however talks between Methodists and Anglicans have resumed and a special covenant signed as a precursor to exploring new ways of working towards unity. Increasingly people are favouring more informal working relationships; allowing new growth to develop organically. Where official recognition is needed work is being done to make the creation of constitutions and the like far simpler.

What of the Diocese of Bristol? Well, signs of fresh growth are appearing.

In Swindon, Churches Together (SCT) is working towards a creative town wide engagement with the Passion narrative during Holy Week 2011. Working with schools, colleges and artists, the vision is to place the Easter story in the street.

Talking of the street, Swindon Street Pastors recently received a letter of commendation from the police for the work that they are doing in making the streets a safer place to be.

This year “mystery worshippers” from SCT have been helping churches reflect on how they welcome others.

Churches Together in Greater Bristol, after many years of silence, is organising a major celebration of the work of churches across the city on 5th March 2011.

Across the Diocese, different denominations are coming together to plan special programmes to celebrate the transforming power of the Word during 2011 as part of Biblefresh, the initative around the 400th Anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. The climax of the celebrations will be a Festival based around Bristol Cathedral planned for the afternoon and evening of Sunday 22nd May 2011.

Perhaps even more encouraging is the many different conversations that are going on in churches across the Diocese as people from different denominations find new and diverse ways of working together, celebrating each other’s gifts without feeling that somehow we should all try to be the same.

This month, a series of articles on the Diocesan website give some insights into the workings of the Methodist Church and some of the other ecumenical work going on around the Diocese.

In September, David Hart, the new Methodist Circuit Superintendent for Bristol & South Gloucestershire, will be the guest blogger on the Bishops’ Blog.
Find out how he is getting on here >>

Related articles:
David Hart: new Methodist Circuit Superintendent >>
There’s Method in their madness >>
Methodist Ecumenical Officer sits down >>
Ecumenical accord strengthens community in Wichelstowe >>