Prophetic Ecumenism

Same service. First day of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Many clergy and laity from Church of Ireland, Presybterian and Methodist churches present. I am sitting in a place of honour beside Bishop John, Bishop of Dromore. As you would expect, the normal rules for ‘eucharistic hospitality’ apply and those of us who are ‘non-Catholics’ [as it were] are not invited to share in the bread and wine of the sacrament.

How do you deal with that situation – that the moment at which unity is most needed is the moment at which it cannot be offered? How do you prevent words like ‘unwelcome’ and ‘excluded’ from floating around in people’s minds. The answer is that you do as Dom Mark-Ephrem did. At the Fraction – the breaking of the bread – he refers to the bread broken, the body of Christ broken on the Cross, the broken and divided body of his church. And he prays for the day when it shall not be so.

And somehow, somehow, instead of this being an ‘us and them’, it becomes a moment at which we all together become part of a shared brokenness. I learnt a lot.

Apart from the Service to mark the closure of Scottish Churches House, I have no other engagement in my diary relating to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Think about that.

I’ll try to do my own bit of prophetic ecumenism tomorrow.


  1. Generous comments. I have been a Roman Catholic from birth (in Ireland but now living in Scotland) and have become, like very many, massively disillusioned with that church. I have recently started attending St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Dundee and find the welcome to share the eucharist incredibly comforting. Catholicism can truly be “universal”.

    1. Frank – Glad you’ve found a welcome and some inclusive catholicism at St Paul’s. I’m sure others will forgive two Irish people a short diversion into the thickets of Irish history – you may have been aware of the fuss which surrounded former President Mary McAleese’s desire to receive the sacrament in Christ Church Cathedral at the consecration of a bishop. I suspect it wasn’t just a desire to ‘be a President for all the people’ She probably had in her mind somewhere the story of the funeral of the first President of Ireland – Douglas Hyde – a member of the Church of Ireland – when government ministers sat outside St Patrick’s Cathedral in their official cars. The inter-communion issue is a genuine difficulty. To be generous again … we tend to regard eucharistic sharing as part of the journey – something which is imperfect yet witnesses to a vision/aspiration of better. The [Roman] Catholic Church tends to the view that it is an end point – a signal of arrival. It’s a choice. It just happens to be one which we don’t share. And finally I remember spending a day with the Columbanus Community of Reconciliation in Belfast – they were an ecumenical residential religious community. They chose not to practice inter-communion – as a witness to the brokenness of the church and a sign that ‘we should not take to ourselves freedoms which cannot be shared by others’

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