Ecumenical Officer of the Lancashire Methodist District, Rev Stuart Wild, offers his thoughts on the October 2021 Ecumenical Officers meeting
There was a muted buzz as we gathered at Swanwick for the Conference for all EOs. There was excitement at actually seeing people in the flesh and really being with them but an uncertainty about the rules of masks and social distancing.
The theme of the Conference was Nourishing the roots – a chance to refresh our ecumenical vision or to put it another way Ecumenism-then, now and in the future. In a way each of the three days focused on a time frame (past, present and future) but one could not but be aware of the interrelationship between them all – a sort of time continuum.
A series of different speakers outlined the past hundred years plus of ecumenism beginning with the World Missionary Conference of 1910 in Edinburgh which has been described as the formal beginning of the Ecumenical movement. For Protestant and Anglican Churches it was thought to be of paramount importance and the foundation of a truly worldwide Christian Church. We proceeded via amongst other places Lund (churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately.) through the second Vatican Council culminating in the amazing image of Pope Paul VI putting an episcopal ring on the finger of Dr Michael Ramsay; pausing to remember the Swanwick Declaration and recalling that we are not strangers but pilgrims right up to the present day. It was exhausting but fascinating.
The scene was set on Tuesday with prayers on the theme Lost in Wonder led by Rev Michaela Youngson. I was slightly nervous of the session on synodality led by Father Jan Nowotnik, although I had read Let us Dream by Pope Francis. However it became much clearer when we were reminded of the root of the meaning of synodality (walking together). It is important that the church should not try to lead but rather should let God be the protagonist.
Rev Callan Slipper helped us to look to the future as he led us in an exploration of Christ with particular focus on his prayer ‘‘Father, may they all be one as you and I are one.’ Which is at the heart of ecumenism and which will shape and empower our mission. The conference closed with a love feast focussing us all on what unites us – worship and mission and sending us out nourished by the Spirit to refresh the ecumenical vision in our own contexts.
Stuart Wild is Superintendent Minister of the South Fylde Methodist Circuit and Ecumenical Officer of the Lancashire Methodist District
Photo credit: Chris Dobson