CTE Principal Officer for Ecumenical Development and Relations and Licenced Lay Minister in the Oxford Diocese of the Church of England, Doral Hayes, reflects on five years as part of the English and Welsh Anglican and Roman Catholic Committee (EWARC).
Often referred to in ecumenical circles as EWARC and not to be confused with the small, teddy bear-like creatures from Star Wars, the English and Welsh Anglican Roman Catholic Committee is one of the oldest ecumenical dialogues in England. As was made clear back in 2018, at the initial meeting of this quinquennium (or five-year period), EWARC is not a decision-making body or a space where ecumenical or ecclesial agreements are made. Instead, it is an ecumenical dialogue where we gather, build relationships and listen and learn from each other.
When I was invited to be part of this committee by the Archbishop of Canterbury five years ago, I had no idea what would be involved. As a keen ecumenist, I accepted the invitation, but I was quite nervous as I went along to the first meeting which was intimidatingly held at Lambeth Palace and included a reception to celebrate its fiftieth meeting.
Over the next five years, we met as a group of about sixteen. We were a mix of men, women, bishops, archbishops, priests, academics, and lay people. We gathered twice a year for a twenty-four-hour meeting in different parts of England and Wales and together we discussed a range of issues affecting both of our churches. These included joint church schools, interchurch families, climate change, receptive ecumenism, ecumenical chaplaincy, safeguarding, issues of human sexuality and interreligious dialogue and we were joined with special guests bringing expertise in their field. Like so many aspects of ecumenical work, it has been a huge privilege to serve as a member of this committee.
This quinquennium also included the Covid years so some of our meetings had to take place online, including one with me joining online while recovering from Covid. But mainly we met in person and these people who were at first intimidating strangers became my friends and dear colleagues.
So, what did we achieve in these five years?
There was a meeting with members of the Association of Interchurch Families (AIF) where EWARC joined in a conversation to develop a greater understanding of the pastoral needs of interchurch couples within the Anglican/Roman Catholic context and this has led to the development of additional web-based resources by AIF to specifically support clergy in their pastoral care.
Otherwise, the tangible outcomes are hard to see, there are no papers or working agreements as an outcome of our work, but does that mean that ecumenical steps forward were not made?
What was achieved over the last five years was a deepening of relationships that allowed us all to understand more of each other, their church traditions, worship practices and lived experience of ministry. As we shared both the struggles and strengths of our own tradition, we grew closer to “the other”, and in doing so those involved in the ecumenical dialogue were changed.
After five years I am changed through my ecumenical friendships. Through our laughter, disagreements, and personal reflections I was able to receive from others who are different from me, and I now bring this new and deeper understanding into my work at CTE, within my own Anglican parish and diocese and within my personal spiritual journey. I am deeply grateful to all those who have journeyed with me these last five years.
Dialogue brings us together and it also moves us closer to the God who calls us to “be one”. Whatever our differences, and no matter how historical or deeply rooted they might be, we must keep talking and more importantly we must keep listening to each other.
Photo: © Andrew Cole