There was a warm welcome for Bishop Jack Nicholls, the former Bishop of Sheffield, and his wife on this return visit to Sheffield after his retirement. He and Bishop John worked well together in Sheffield in the ecumenical sphere both inter-church and inter-faith.
After the opening liturgy where we heard the words of St Paul (Philippians Chapter 2) “…be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind”, Bishop Jack spoke on his chosen theme “How Ecumenism has changed in my lifetime and how it is now”.
With humour and his gift of story telling, he stressed the importance of friendship between the different denominations as the starting point and suggested ways in which ecumenism was changing.
Stage one is to learn more about each other and understand each other better. Stage two is to act together in confronting social issues like racism, asylum seekers and the world wide effects of conflicts and natural disasters.
It was felt that much has been achieved, particularly since the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis seems to be shifting the focus from internal issues within or between the churches, in which the outside world is not interested, to reach out on world issues of poverty, corruption which are always on God’s agenda. Healing and Reconciliation are the key words and our place is near the centre of the action, like a field hospital after a battle. We should be ministers of mercy accompanying people in their suffering .
Afterwards there followed a lively discussion on various aspects of how different traditions can work together. The outcome was a real belief that we must allow the free working of the Holy Spirit within and beyond our own communities. The event proved a fitting stepping stone to 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism, ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’.