A member of the United Reformed Church in Wales, South Yorkshire shares news of exciting developments of Churches working together within the Diocese of Hallam.
Relationships between Wales Kiveton Methodist Church and their Anglican sisters and brothers at Wales Parish Church have been good for many years. Methodists join the Anglicans for Ash Wednesday worship and the quarterly ‘Cluster Communion Service’ and now take their turn at hosting this, as the United Service for the parishes of Wales, Harthill and Thorpe Salvin.
In the Summer, church and chapel took turns at hosting a Songs of Praise, preceded by a barbecue. On Remembrance Sunday church and chapel members fill the parish church to capacity for the community’s Act of Remembrance. In the afternoon they gather again for Holy Communion with Prayers for Peace at the Methodist church. To coordinate and develop the opportunities for united worship a group was formed to bring together vicar and wardens, minister and stewards and the meetings not only covered business but fostered growing relationships of trust and friendship.
In 2017 the invitation to share in the Songs of Praise service was extended to the members of Blessed William Richardson Roman Catholic Church at Kiveton Park. Roman Catholics came in strong numbers and their attendance and participation in the service prompted the suggestion that they send representatives to the quarterly Anglican/Methodist ecumenical group. The energy, vision, openness and commitment embodied in the two Roman Catholics who joined the group have served as a catalyst for deepened friendship and ecumenical endeavour. Most notably, it was our Roman Catholic friends who in 2019 suggested an ecumenical Lent Course, commending the material for study and offering to launch the course and lead the first session. The remaining four sessions were hosted by the other four congregations (who, by now, also sent representatives to the Ecumenical Group). The response was amazing – both in terms of turnout (between 30-50 at each session) and openness to sharing and talking about faith, using the material in Life Attitudes (a five session course on the Beatitudes).
At the first session our Roman Catholic friends taught us the hymn, ‘Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest’ by Robert Dufford. The hymn was so well received that it was sung in each of the subsequent four sessions. Our Anglican and Roman Catholic friends also came to our 150th Church Anniversary service and sang it. When Blessed William Richardson took its turn to host the popular Songs of Praise service a representative of each congregation was asked to contribute something to the service that illustrated the chosen theme of listening to God. The testimonies that it prompted – from all three traditions – were inspiring. Delicious soup and cake were served before the worship and the church was set out in café style for both refreshments and worship. (Some Methodists and Anglicans had their first experience of “café church” thanks to our Roman Catholic friends!)
No persuasion was needed when it was suggested that a Lent Course be arranged for 2020. This year’s course is using the book, The Joy of the Gospel by Paula Gooder, based on Pope Francis’ reflections on mission and evangelism, published as Evangelii Gaudium. Widely recognised as offering wisdom and vision for all Christians in a culture that is often hostile to the church, Evangelii Gaudium offers a positive and realistic approach to sharing faith in the modern world. Each of the five churches will take their turn to host and lead the sessions.
Roman Catholics now share fully in our two Remembrance Sunday services. In Advent, hosted by Harthill Parish Church, we were treated to a beautiful devotional Advent Service, led by our Roman Catholic friends (who supported the service in large numbers). As attendances at the chapel’s Carol and Christingle services had been disappointing the decision was made at Church Meeting to combine the two, preceding the worship by the opportunity to make Christingles and share festive refreshments. We extended the invitation to our Roman Catholic friends to join us (as we were aware they don’t have a carol service) and inspired by their hospitality earlier in the year it was unanimously agreed, “Let’s do it like the Catholics did” (aka café style). Blessed William Richardson members came in strong numbers and the Catholic carol, ‘Come, come, come to the manger was included in the service’. For some of our visitors they had never experienced a Christingle service before.
Further joint initiatives include taking packets of wild flower seeds, accompanied by a leaflet from the five churches, to the primary schools in the three communities as a challenge to encourage bees and care for creation; and a trail of the five churches, pausing for prayer and refreshment in each.
Ecumenism is alive and flourishing and is bringing such joy to our five churches. And it is worth adding … there are actually four denominations involved as the minister at Wales Chapel, Revd Geoffrey Clarke, is a United Reformed Church minister!