Image via WikipediaRegular readers will be delighted to hear ecumenism is very much alive in the County of Borsetshire. Usually we hear little of the churches in Borsetshire, primarily because its best known village, Ambridge, seems to have never accommodated anything other than a parish church.
At the meeting of new ecumenical officers last week, participants examined a case study of Borsetshire and found there was much going on in the surrounding villages and towns. It appears a County Ecumenical Development Officer post is about to be advertised and I'm sure many of us will be viewing it with a mixture of interest and scepticism.
The new ecumenical officers' training course has undergone a number of staff changes in recent years and consequently, this year a number of new elements were introduced, of which the Borsetshire case study was one. Overall, there were a number of unexpected emerging themes.
One development was a deepening appreciation of the role of prayer and spirituality in ecumenical work. The staff have always underlined the need to deploy listening skills and this year, the group explored the importance of presence and using all senses to understand the stories of ecumenical work but also the underlying or hidden narrative, which sometimes needs to be reflected back to local people.
Closely connected was the important insight that the role of the ecumenical officer is more than being a resource for technical know-how. It is a ministry and can draw on conventional forms of ministry. Some Ecumenical Officers might draw on pastoral work, for example, or development work.
Here are some of the issues identified by participants on the course:
- How do we get the right balance between bottom up work with Churches Together groups, for example, and top down constitutions? Why do we need constitutions?
- To what extent are emerging churches off the ecumenical radar?
- How inclusive are we? Are we prepared to take risks in relationship forming?
- The Global perspective, ecumenism is not restricted to Britain alone.
- Belonging to an institution and forming relationships beyond it can be a difficult balancing act. How far can we go? Does ecumenism embrace groups such as Mormons?
- What do we do when the institutions cause problems, eg over the ordination of women or sexuality?