This was the title for the Churches Together in England (CTE) Forum which I attended in the last week in October at Swanwick in Derbyshire. The Forum meets every three years and is a gathering of people representing the 34 member churches and 27 bodies in association – organizations like the Bible Society, Church Action on Poverty, Focolare Movement, Operation Noah which draw Christians of all churches together around common causes, projects and interests.
It is an opportunity to worship together, to share experience and information often in small groups and over meal tables.
This year the focus was on the gifts which we bring from our own denominations to the ecumenical world but then moving on to sharing our thoughts about which of the gifts others have we might like also to have in our traditions. Always in these sort of discussions my thoughts turn to the ministry of Elders and lay people and how in the best examples of our denomination we use and affirm those gifts. The importance we give to taking counsel together especially in the church meeting is also high on my list. We shared these thoughts in small groups bringing together people from diverse backgrounds – in my group there were Methodists, Anglicans, a member of the Orthodox church and a member of a network church – what a wonderful diversity and what a lot we have to learn.
The worship was woven throughout the 48 hours and those responsible had put a huge
amount of work into crafting worship in which everyone could share whilst at the same time using the gifts from different traditions. One of the sadnesses of such an ecumenical gathering can be the way in which some worship can exclude some of our brothers and sisters. This thankfully did not happen in this gathering.
On the final morning we heard from David Cornick the General Secretary – his was a report on the three years since the last Forum but it was also a reminder about possible answers to the question, What does love require of us? The ecumenical landscape is changing all the time and we all have much to learn from each other. David also reminded us that we should keep a sense of proportion – the church is God’s and each bit of it is only ‘a tiny fragment of Christ’s place, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and that Christ in his holiness, otherness, poverty and, yes, majesty, infuses the whole of that church in all its bewildering diversity.’ Each part of the church has gifts to give to each one of us but to receive them requires humility on our part – is that what love requires of us?