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April 2017, Richard Teal: Ecumenism working at its best

At the time of writing I have just finished sharing Holy Week with the Christian community of Kirkby Lonsdale. It was a huge honour and privilege to have been asked to spend each day of Holy Week with them culminating on the joyous day of Resurrection. A number of things really hit me:

• The fellowship of the clergy which in that place consisted of the ministers, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Methodist. Both genders and different traditions and theologies. They told me they created space each week to meet, eat and pray together. It showed! There was obviously a great colleagueship, friendship and loving spirit of togetherness among them.
• The services throughout the week were well attended from each tradition. The people obviously knew one another and were delighted to be together. It was what they did as we moved around the different church buildings. Good Friday was an open air walk of witness starting in the Market Square where there was an open air market and then walking through the main street to the grounds of the Parish Church where a huge congregation gathered to focus on the meaning of the Cross. Young and old, male and female, from the town gathered and there was no distinction between any of them.
• The Methodist Minister from September will be working half-time in the Methodist Circuit and half-time in the Rainbow Parish serving both Methodist and Anglican Churches on a totally equal basis.
• This was rural ecumenism working at its best. Natural, intentional, relational and real.

To me Kirkby Lonsdale offers the kind of vision which the rural church needs for the future, which is:
• Incarnational: reflecting the Christ who lived among us through its involvement in the local community and listening and responding to the needs, concerns and fears of people.
• Unifying: reflecting the Christ who broke down barriers that divide by being open to all and living that openness.
• Open-doored: making people feel that it is natural to come in and belong.
• A culture of nurture and growth: where churches provide opportunities for people to grow and develop in understanding and skill.
• A spiritually growing people: prayer and worship of God at the heart of all things.

Thank you to the Christian community of Kirkby Lonsdale for being the inspiration behind this letter. You offer a very strong affirmation of the role of the Church at the heart of everyday life and give a vision of what it can be for the future.

Richard Teal
Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District

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