We put up this sign a while ago. It tells all those who drive by that Ancaster Village Church gathers at 5pm on Sunday evenings in St John’s Parish Hall. But for me it represents so much more. I see it as a reflection of something far greater which is on the move these days. In simple terms our church rents this space from St John’s Anglican Church. But for both of our churches this is more than just an exchange of money for the use of space. We see this as hope and mission.
This afternoon I spent an hour in prayer with the priests of St John’s Anglican. Praying for this great city with them is positively inspiring. The comedy of me, a sacramentally deprived rebellious Protestant, being welcomed into relationship with them is why, in the words of the Roman Catholic JMR Tillard, I believe, despite everything.
There is something in the ecumenical air these days. I’m hearing more and more stories which confirm this. We — as in the Church — are finding partnership, relationship, common purpose, worship, and mission around the highest common denominator. This is different than my understanding of some past ecumenical dialogues where the commonality was found in the lowest common denominators. Where the conversation was once founded on the understanding that we couldn’t agree on the big things, so instead we’d look for unity in the small things, we are now realizing that it’s in the biggest thing (person) where our unity is found. We’re standing around the Table of Bread and Wine with a look in our eyes that says, “this is all we’ve got. Him.” In some cases we’re still not comfortable enough to break the bread with each other, but we’re looking at all of those things that exist around that Table of Bread and Wine with a different, more gracious, understanding of each other.
My hunch is that the fall of Christendom has graciously led us to this place. For that reason, among many others, I welcome our place as the church in exile — the church on the fringe of culture. Exile helps us remember who we are. And as we’re remembering who we are, we’re looking around and realizing that we have so many sisters and brothers who might dress a little differently but are on the same team.
A few weeks ago I was honoured to lead communion/Eucharist for a group of ministers and church leaders who reflected at least a dozen different denominations and traditions. It was Ephesians 4 in real life. It was beautiful. We came to the Table together, prayed for each other, and were sent out in mission together.
In three weeks I will once again administer the elements alongside my Anglican friends in their gathering to which they invite our church. We find commonality at the Table. It’s incredible. All of our respective bells and whistles, although they matter and are (mostly) beautifully unique and distinctive, are simply reflections of the one who brings us together and unites us.
There are few things these days which excite me more.
We’ve got a ways to go. Lord knows there are those within my own tribe who think we ought to tighten up the ecumenical guidelines lest we get too comfortable with those guys. But whatever. Redemption is here. Redemption is coming. And I’m convinced that one of the greatest ways this world will experience hope is through the church, in and with all her different flavours, coming together as one.
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.