Yesterday I was very ecumenical. In the morning we participated in a pulpit swap with the other churches in the town centre. Rather than moving pulpits to different churches we felt it would be easier to move the ministers (!) so I went to our local Salvation Army Citadel and one of their Majors came to our church.
I think it’s times like that when ministerial insecurities come out. When we are at the ‘other’ church we jokingly reassure them that normal service will be resumed next week. And at the same time we are hoping that the person speaking in our church is good, but not that good. I wonder whether we ought to covenant together simply to bring an average sermon… not so bad that it will give us a bad reputation, not so good that it will make life difficult for the incumbent on their return!
In the afternoon we attempted to be more ecumenical: we showed BBC’s Song of Praise at our church in the afternoon. This was recorded in Colchester in October 2011 at St Botolph’s church, and we enjoyed watching to see if we could spot people we knew as well as enjoying the hymns. It was strange seeing Colchester on the telly like that. Sadly, because of the early start (there was snooker on later so it started at 4:25PM) we did not have too many people, but we all enjoyed refreshments afterwards.
In the evening the Churches Together in Central Colchester United Service was at our church and it was lovely to worship Jesus together with many friends from churches across the town centre. We even polished off the refreshments left over after Snogs of Praise (sic) following the service.
As I said, a very ecumenical day. I am convinced that while we are called to work towards and express our unity with other believers, Jesus does not want uniformity. There is a place for churches and Christians with different preferences, spirituality, experience, emphases and even theology, so long as we can all unite as followers of Jesus Christ: crucified and resurrected. That’s what really matters!
And here’s the joke I opened the evening sermon with:
A group of ministers and priests from different the nominations were attending an Ecumenical Conference at a Christian conference centre. During some free time several of them set off to explore the area, and presently they came upon an old bridge in the grounds that crossed a quiet pond.
Unfortunately, they didn’t notice a sign declaring the bridge to be unsafe. They walked onto the bridge and leaned on the rail to look into the pond.
The groundskeeper saw them and came running over to them, shouting and waving his arms. “Hey! You there! Get off that bridge!” he protested.
“It’s all right,” declared one of the ministers, “we are allowed to be here. We’re priests and ministers from the Ecumenical Conference.”
“I’m not worried about THAT,” replied the groundsman. “But if you don’t get off that bridge, you will no longer be ecumenical, you’ll all be BAPTISTS!”