– both Kirsty and I were present at Westminster Abbey for A Service of Reconciliation, Healing of Memories and Mutual Commitment for the Church of England and the United Reformed Church. The service arose from a joint report – Healing the Past, Building the Future – which came from a joint study group on God’s Reign and Our Unity which met over the period from 2007 to 2010. The feeling of members of the group was that in spite of the differences between the two churches there were large and significant areas of agreement and convergence. It was also the feeling of the group that there should be an occasion for a formal statement of mutual recognition and commitment. 2012 being the 350th anniversary of the Great Ejectment and the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Reformed Church made a significant time for such a formal occasion.
So it was that at 6.15pm on Tuesday 7th February, about 800 members of the United Reformed Church and 500 members of the Anglican Church were gathered in Westminster Abbey. It was of course a grand occasion. The two Archbishops were there in their robes, the two Moderators of General Assembly were there in their robes as were the Dean and other Abbey staff. The choir sang, the organ played and representatives from both denominations contributed to the service with reminders of the pain of those involved 350 years ago, and an Act of Penitence for our ongoing mistrust and dimness of hope. We heard stories of new and creative initiatives of the two denominations working closely together and we recommitted ourselves to continuing to journey together.
As people left the Abbey at the end there were many comments about how good it had been to be there and how much it had been worth the journeys taken from all over the country.
The one question which was repeated then and will hopefully continue to be repeated – what will it mean in our local situations and for the two denominations as they look to journey together in all sorts of ways into the future.