Now, I think of myself as an ecumenical person. As an Anglican working for the Methodist Church I'm a sort of embodiment of the covenant (though not always a very good one).
But as the lead media officer for the British Methodist Church, I'm well aware that the Church of England is not our only significant partnership. A significant amount of my work is with the Joint Public Issues Team - a team made up of Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Church colleagues working together on politics and social action. It's challenging, rewarding and exciting working with such a diverse team on the issues that really matter, and it's a real privilege to work with my Baptist and URC counterparts (Chris Hall and Gill Nichol).
Part of my job is to attend the Methodist Council three or four times a year so that I can help to communicate the decisions made by the Council to the wider Church. As a new Connexional year kicks off, our first Council of the year is something quite different to anything we've done before. This time, the Methodist Church and the URC have decided to hold a joint meeting of the URC Mission Council and the Methodist Council, so that we can better explore those areas in which our effectiveness in mission might be improved by working together.
URC Press & Media Offiicer Gill Nichol has written a fantastic overview of what this joint meeting (aka 'Better Together') is all about.
Yesterday our joint sessions kicked off with chance to explore a little of the histories and identities of the Methodist Church and the URC, expertly chaired by Revd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, in which church members shared their thoughts on key elements of their traditions and the identity of their denominations. This was followed by a challenging bible study led by Lawrence Moore, Moderator-Elect of the URC General Assembly, entitled 'Peter, Paul and the Gentiles: Radical Inclusion in the Early Church'. In the evening we were visited by Rt Revd Graham Cray (aka the 'Fresh Expressions' Bishop) who shared with us the latest on that growing ecumenical initiative.
We're now in day two of our 3-day meeting, talking about decision-making procedures in the Churches before we'll soon launch into a discussion about how we use our buildings. This morning our General Secretaries (Revd Dr Martyn Atkins for the Methodist Church and Revd Roberta Rominger for the URC) shared what the different Churches' priorities are and how we are planning to move forward with them in the coming years. We also had the opportunity to hear about the huge range of youth and children's work that's being done by teams from both organisations. There was a clear focus for both on the participation of children and young people in all areas of church life and the participants broke into groups to discuss the challenges and opportunities in greater depth.
So, now on to buildings...watch this space for more info....