Thursday, 18 January 2018

Better Together

After Christmas and Epiphany, just as we start allowing ourselves to get a touch excited about longer days, we bump into the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  It started today, 18th January and runs through until the 25th of this month.

To celebrate this Week of Prayer we’re holding a united service between the three town centre churches of Amersham on the Hill this coming Sunday at St John’s Methodist Church.

I was interested to learn that Amersham Free Church, set up as intentionally ecumenical with the Baptist and Congregational Unions as its original parent bodies, came into being in 1907 closely followed by The Week of Prayer that was first held in January 1908.

I’ve always valued, and usually enjoyed, ecumenical involvement.

One of my first experiences came during my ordination training.  I was invited to be the Evensong preacher at a rather grand parish church.  The Rector and I met up thirty minutes before the service to walk me through the logistics.  I admit I was nervous as taking part in processions isn’t something we Baptists do very often.  ‘You sit there’ – he said, pointing to a chair one side of the altar.

Well, I processed in behind the choir, but when I got to the chancel the chair, previously pointed out to me, had been removed!  What was I to do and where was I to sit?

To my embarrassment my next move wasn’t the smartest in my life.  In full view of giggling choir boys, I tried moving a seat the other side of the altar to the place originally pointed out to me.

I got halfway across, from one side of the altar to the other, when I realised I could go no further because this rather grand looking chair (more like a throne really) was actually chained and could go no further.  By now I was resembling Frank Spencer in ‘Some Mothers do have’em’!  So, I retreated back to the chair’s original position and there with my head down until called upon to preach.

The Rector was very understanding afterwards – apologized that someone had removed the original chair and commented, with a glint in his eye, that the one I actually sat on was usually reserved for the bishop!

Since then my ecumenical encounters have been rather tame by comparison.

There are, I believe, lots of advantages in serving alongside other Christians and some of our best work is done when we do it together. 

On Tuesday at AFC we had a great talk about Bible Society which is supported, just like Christian Aid, by all the mainline churches in Britain. And locally we have a great project called ‘Open the Book’ which works in schools taking assemblies in a fun way – and is ‘staffed’ by volunteers from a variety of Amersham churches.

So, I’m looking forward to Sunday because I believe in ecumenism – but I will be careful as to which chair I sit in!

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