Rothwell’s ecumenical welcome

Members of the Northamptonshire town's Methodist church invited neighbours from two recently closed churches to worship and work alongside them.

The United Reformed Church Moderator for the East Midlands Synod, Rev Geoffrey Clarke, takes up the story…

The sadness of the closure of Rothwell United Reformed Church in October 2022 has become an opportunity for ecumenical hospitality at the instigation of the minister and Church Council at Rothwell Methodist Church. The local Salvation Army has also closed recently and some of the former members of both churches have found a new home with the Methodist church. This has prompted the Church Council to offer a Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome to both partner denominations – incorporating the worship and both traditions and the opportunity to share in mission and decision-making.

This welcome was cemented at a Communion service on Sunday 17 March. I presided at communion using a liturgy from “Worship: from The United Reformed Church”. The service was led by the Methodist minister, Rev Andrew Farrington. Major Mark Rose, the Salvation Army Divisional Commander, led prayers and gave the blessing and Allison Shefford, County Ecumenical Development Officer for Churches Together in Shire & Soke read a lesson. Within the service, a Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome and Commitment was signed by all of us. (On the above photo from L to R: Rev Andrew Farrington, Superintendent Minister, East Mercia, Allison Shefford CT Shire and Soke County Ecumenical Officer, Anne Ellson Church Steward, Rothwell Methodist Church, Rev Geoffrey Clarke, URC Moderator, East Midlands, and Major Mark Rose, Salvation Army Divisional Commander.)

photo of rothwell ecumenical welcome document

It really was a joy to return to Rothwell and celebrate this act of ecumenical hospitality extended by our Methodist friends and to hear from former members of Rothwell URC the extent to which they have been made welcome and are now active participants in worship and in mission initiatives at Rothwell Methodist Church. It was particularly exciting to hear of a welcome space initiative – in which one of the URC members is a volunteer – that attracts parents and school children several times a week.

Shire & Soke Country Ecumenical Development Officer, Allison Shefford adds…

It was a sincere, authentic, and warm service, where all these denominations took part in welcoming the new people, and everyone that attended really enjoyed it, celebrating the differences yet also the unity. I have to say that Major Rose, Rev Geoffrey, and Rev Andrew were a marvellous example of ecumenism working well, it was a privilege to be part of such a beautiful service with the lovely people of Rothwell Methodist. It is possible to have harmony and beauty in ecumenism and this is the proof.

More information about how to make a formal declaration of ecumenical welcome and commitment.

Read more about Churches Together in Shire & Soke (Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Rutland).

Photo credit: Geoffrey Clarke