Mgr Keith at St Mary Magdelen, Brighton
On Thursday evening a small group from Eastbourne went over to St Mary Magdelen in Brighton. Our Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton had been invited to speak on the future of Ecumenism as part of the church’s 150th Anniversary.
Having recovered from a long, stuffy train ride from London with the help of Mary’s wonderful hospitality, we made our way to the church, where we had a generous welcome by Fr Ray Blake. I still had much going through my head about the dynamic of the Holy Spirit and Christ carrying the wounds of the world, so I guess what I noticed about Mgr Keith’s talk was influence by that.
The talk itself was begun and ended with thoughts of Jesus’ prayer for the Unity of his disciples and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The discussion about the history of ecumenism described the moves backwards and forwards, mentioning the ongoing ARCIC process. In one sense it felt rather depressing. Christ had prayed for unity and commanded us to love one another and we couldn’t do it. In another sense there were real signs of hope. One was mention of Blessed John Henry Newman. There is a famous quote of his that says “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me, which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.” Many years later are we, in the Ordinariate, part of the fruit of his service? Also, will we live to see the fruit of our service or will that be seen many years from now?
At the end of the talk, Fr Ray Blake it was a very exciting talk and indeed he was right. I think for me it was also bitter sweet. In it was clearly the movement of the Holy Spirit, written across the pages of the history of Ecumenism. But so are the wounds of our disobedience and sinfulness. Yet the powerful dynamic of God’s love is not stopped by our failures. He still brings fruit to bear in very unexpected ways.
Writing this a couple of days later, what has stayed with me from Thursday evening is awareness of God’s continual movement of love out towards his creation and coupled with this, the awareness that God brings about fruit of this in his own time and in his own way. Of course this is the same God who is the ‘Lamb that was slain’, our Saviour who carries the wounds of his crucfiction at our hands. And what grows in me, from Mgr Keith’s words, is the awareness that I can participate in the dynamic of the Holy Spirit or I can participate in the sin and disobedience that fosters disunity. I write this on the eve of Pentecost and having had that reality set out before me on Thursday night I have a choice. Being caught up within God’s overflowing love and being willing to work for unity seems like the far better option.