By Michael N. Jagessar
A couple of recent events – a gathering of Church leaders, a funeral service – and my preparation for the upcoming World Council of Churches Assembly have highlighted for me the urgent need for renewal of our ecumenical vocation.
Mission Shift(s) – in Reverse
On October 7th I represented the URC at the annual meeting of Black Majority and Pentecostal Church leaders with the Churches Together in England (CTE) presidents and other historic denomination leaders at Lambeth Palace. On this occasion, the Presiding Bishop of the New Testament Church of God was installed as the first Black Pentecostal President of CTE, joining the existing presidents.Bishop Eric Brown gave his commitment to work with his colleagues to “ensure that the spiritual welfare of the nation” remains a priority. Presentations from various Black Churches highlighted the Global Day of Prayer initiative, the need for collaboration in Education and Training, work on a Black Church Political Manifesto, and collaborating in Reverse Mission. This laudable initiative by CTE (Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs) highlighted the need for continuing conversations and collaboration. At the same time these meetings offer a significant opportunity to both recognise/affirm the shifting ecumenical landscape and for us to rethink our ecumenical calling – as business proper (not AOB)!
Martin Cressey (November 2, 1930 – September 28, 2013)
One man who rethought the ecumenical calling for his time was the late Martin Cressey. I attended Martin’s funeral service on October 10th which was held at St. Columba’s United Reformed Church (Cambridge). He was certainly one of the stalwarts of the URC (a former Moderator and Clerk of GA) and of ecumenism in the UK and beyond. Not surprisingly, people came from far and wide and from a variety of backgrounds to pay their respect and to give thanks for Martin’s contributions to the URC, theological education and ecumenism. A key figure in the crafting of the ecumenical document Baptism, Eucharist & Ministry (BEM) and in the WCC study on the Community of Women and Men, Martin stands out as one of the ecumenical giants of and beyond his time. The Revd Nigel Uden captures this in his reflections: “It is hard to sum up 166 years in a few words. That, though, is what my task feels like, for Martin seems to have fitted into his life about twice as much as anyone can manage….[and] we thank God for the grace by which, through Jesus Christ, Martin yet lives, and for the grace he helped us to know, so that we, too, might live.” May Martin’s ecumenical vocation and passion for the gospel continue to live on in new and exciting ways in the lives he has touched!
Madang -Towards 10th Assembly of the WCC (Busan)
And the ecumenical theme beckons me on. Along with Sarah Moore and David Tatem, I will be representing the United Reformed Church at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (October 30th to November 8) in Busan, the Republic of Korea. I am imagining Pentecost with over 3000 participants from 345 member churches across Asia, Pacific, Africa, Europe, Middle East, North America, the Caribbean and Latin America gathering around the theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. I am looking forward to the space for celebration, dialogue and reflection through common prayer, Bible studies, thematic plenaries, ecumenical conversations, business sessions, workshops, the madang exhibition and the weekend pilgrimage with the Korean churches. Madangis a Korean term that describes a courtyard in a traditional Korean home. The madang will serve as a space for encounter and sharing, celebration and fellowship, greeting a visitor and welcoming a stranger. Itoffers possibilities to prepare the entire assembly as a shared space for encounter and discussion of what it means to be the church together in the world today for justice and peace.
May the God of life, continue to lead us in unexpected and surprising ways for the sake of unity!