I have a confession to make.
(Members of the ICRC should divert their eyes… now)
I am not very good at ecumenism. I ‘believe in it’, of course; and will do what I need to to support it where I can. But I do it out of a sense of what is right and theologically necessary, but rarely out of joy or delight.
I’d have said, in fact, that I’d had almost no ecumenical involvement all year. Apart from the services that we have hosted, I have missed all the joint services in all three of my areas. Ecumenical service in Dunoon? Sorry, I’m in Rothesay. Tea and cakes in Tighnabruaich? Sorry, I’m in Dunoon.
Then tonight, I found myself reading a new blog (i.e.– new to me). It’s written by a baptist minister in Washington DC. She writes beautifully. And I found myself thinking ‘this isn’t the baptist church I know…’
And I realised that blogs offer a new sort of ecumenism.
In the past year, I have regularly read the blogs of:
- a Roman Catholic nun in Middle America
- a Universalist Unitarian in Massachusetts
- a Presbyterian (PCUSA) in rural New England
- a Methodist in Maryland
- any number of Church of England priests and theologians
- a Church of Scotland minister in Argyll
I’ve also been involved in a private blog for ‘young’ women clergy, which has put me in commenting conversation with dozens of women from all over everywhere, and has led me into a covenant group with:
- a Lutheran in Minesotta
- a Methodist in Baltimore
- a United Church of Christ minister in California
- a Presbyterian in Washington.
Add to that an unexpected (if occasional) friendship with a world travelling Old Catholic in DC, and I realize that I have had more engagement with Christians from other denominations this year than ever before.And it has taught me a lot.
As I read the blogs and share in conversation, denomination only ‘matters’ when we stumble across terms that are unfamiliar. We may be surprised by what others assume is normal, and we may think each other’s ways equally odd, but usually, the differences lead to laughter and new insights and ideas.
It has been hugely liberating to have a covenant group made up of people who know nothing about my own church structures, and are unlikely to meet anyone I work with, but who share common goals and perspectives and concerns.
Ecumenical blogging has taught me what I would have said I knew all along. We are all in this together. We may worship differently, get hung up on different bits of doctrine, and be shocked by each other’s sanctuary shoes — but that just adds to the fun.
So maybe there is joy in ecumenism after all. And not a coffee morning in sight…