Thursday, November 26, 2009

Blurred vision

Sally came to see me at lunchtime today, to talk again about her ambitious project to stage a public nativity story telling in the centre next Advent. I encourage her as much as I can because she is able to inspire and motive people across the denominations to work together. A big success in getting people to work together on something that matters could be a huge fresh boost to getting churches working together, not only in the centre, but across the city. Sally would like St John's to be the venue, but as we're so busy in December, this is not very practicable, unless the whole thing takes place under covered staging in the churchyard, with supporting facilities also outside. She's thinking on an ambitious scale, but I have yet to convince her of the need to draw up a specific proposal for a venue that could be discussed. And that has to come first. It's a long long trip from vision to reality.

Our City Centre Churches Together meeting was held at St John's this evening. Its name has now changed to 'CYTUN - City and Bay'. Most of the meeting was taken up with making arrangements for a farewell supper with Bay Chaplain Monica Mills, and discussing the programme for the Unity Week ecumenical meal and act of worship at the end of January. We learned that Ebeneser Church is to leave the City center in the coming year, proposing to re-establish itself in a building located somewhere more accessible and easy for parking. Their building is to be sold to a developer, I'm not sure what for. Such a pity, when the Street Carers' so desperately need a central place to shelter day and eveninng activities with the homeless. This loss of this building is an enormous set back to Christian enterprise in the city centre. The deal was done without reference to ecumenical partners, no concern for the impact on others. It reveals the absence of any truly relevant progress in relationships between churches.

The meeting avoided discussing reasons behind the failure of support for several recently planned ecumenical group activities. Everyone involved seems to be so busy. and makes excuses or just forgets. Several members came to the meeting and left during the first hour. Ecumenism has dwinded to nothing more than the annual act of fellowship. We don't study, nor do we do anything else together. Fellowship between Cardiff's eight Welsh speaking churches is much stronger and more active. They have a common cause. Attempts to give Engish or bi-lingual ecumenism a common cause on which to act comes to nothing. Without a vision, people perish, but blurred vision can lead to inertia and loss of confidence.

Modern ecumenism became a popular and public element of church life in my student years - and there were many achievements. It's not enough that we are on friendly speaking terms, and no longer locked in conflict over doctrine or discipline. We have not succeeded in establishing a common way to engage ecumenically in public life, except for the odd protest, usually when it's too late to matter. It's a cause of disappointment and regret to me as my official public ministry comes to an end, something to say 'Sorry' to God for. Now I can only hope things will improve when I have left the scene.

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