Friday, 16 March 2018

Our local 'ecumenical' cathedral

Hauke in The Lady Chapel at St Albans Cathedral
St Albans is just 17 miles from Amersham and its Cathedral contains the shrine of Britain’s first Christ martyr.

Back in the early 90’s, when we lived in Hitchin, its Refectory was one of the very first places we took our new born son – I remember the sense of triumph we felt at managing to have an outing that included baby, buggy, changing bag and coffee!!

During my time in Hitchin I sometimes drove over to the Cathedral and served as duty chaplain for the day.  On one such visit I bumped into a Canadian Baptist Minister, we exchanged addresses and about five years later actually organised a Manse Exchange with each other.  All of that as a result of some ‘holy hanging around’ – as one of my colleagues cheekily describes chaplaincy!

Well, last week I was back at St Albans Cathedral (I used to call it St Albans Abbey but I see that isn’t what they call it now!) and it’s just thrilling to see the ‘ecumenical’ aspect of its ministry.

It has a number of ecumenical chaplains: Free Church, Roman Catholic and Lutheran and runs services in the Lady Chapel for all these traditions.

Last Wednesday I had been invited to take the Free Church service in the Lady Chapel.  Hauke, our Time for God volunteer came along and read the lesson – with many people engaging him in conversation afterwards.

I think St Albans is exemplary in its ecumenical hospitality and it was really very special to lead a Free Church service in this sacred space which started life in the Catholic tradition, moved on at The Reformation to the Anglican and is now a place where all are welcomed with the hospitality of Christ.

At the end of our time last week we ended the service by gathering around the shrine and used the ‘Alban Prayer’ – it goes like this:

We thank you for this place built to your glory and in memory of Alban, our first martyr. Following his example in the fellowship of the saints, may we worship and adore the true and living God, and be faithful witnesses to the Christ, who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

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