Shortly after I was ordained deacon I was sent to a parish to fulfil my diaconal placement. It was there that I got at real taste of ordained ministry: baptisms, wedding preparation and the wedding ceremonies, funerals ‘’all at the crem’’ and visiting the parish primary schools were just some of the things I had to do.
One day whilst I was visiting the primary school I walked into a lesson were the teacher was trying to explain some of the differences between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. After she had finished the children were asked to go and do some work on their own. As I went round the class I was amused to read in one boys’ book
THE DIFFENCE BETWEEN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IS THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND HAS DOUBLE GLAZING!!! If only it were that simple!!!
However the more I have reflected on what that boy wrote and combined with my study of theology I realised that actually he was right. Yes you could say that he was simply pointing out a physical difference between the church buildings but under the surface there is something far deeper.
WE ARE NOT THE SAME… and those who try and peddle a form of ecumenism or Christianity that claims we are all the same are lying.
We do ourselves a disservice in the work for unity if we try and paper of the cracks and pretend there are no problems. Looking at our differences and acknowledging there are differences is the way forward.
Someone, rather tongue in cheek (I hope) compared the work of Christian Unity to mixing a good gin and tonic! First there is the choosing of the gin: Bombay Hendricks,, Gordon’s – being a Roman Catholic I would naturally go for Monsignor Gilbey’s!!! Then there is the tonic (Schweppes, diet or full fat) the ice and the lime or if you really must, lemon. All these ingredients are needed for the perfect G and T and if one of them is missing then the drink suffers. The ingredients are all different – on their own they produce nothing, but bring them together in a unity – and the results are wonderful.
Our Holy Father Benedict XVI has been described by some as a true ecumenist in the sense he is calling all God’s scattered children home, but not trying to make them the same – unity is not uniformity. The Pope has reached out to bring back into full Communion the Society of St Pius the X. We continue to pray and work towards reunion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Last year as we know he has offered a way to members of the Anglican Church who seek reunion with the See of Peter, whilst retaining their Anglican Patrimony – unity is not uniformity.
On a more local level here at St Marie’s we welcome the Ukrainian Community twice a month for the celebration of their Divine Liturgy. The style of worship, the language and ceremonials are probably alien to most Romans Catholics let alone anyone else. Yet it is no less Catholic simply because it’s different. We do not have to be the same if we have unity of faith. As this Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christendom draws to a close we must set ourselves to seek out and preserve all that is good in our own traditions whilst working with every fibre of our being for that unity which Christ himself prayed on the night of his passion.