I grew up on a small Island off the south of England called Guernsey. We were sent there when my dad was promoted by the Bank from mere Auditor to Bank Manager. It was a fab place to grow up and I still consider it to be home.
Guernsey is split into 10 Parishes, but within the 22 square miles of beautiful rock, sea, sand and fields, every religion and church is represented. So I am always astonished by the lack of Ecumenism within Scotland and England. On my Island most of the churches and faiths worked very hard to work together – it is tricky if you don’t in such a small space.
As an incomer (once again) to Scotland and now working in ministry, I have an insight into what it is like to both be the parish church and not. With the Church of England (CofE) we have automatic ownership of the parish and all souls therein. With the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) we do not. That is the right of the Church of Scotland. This is very simple. It never ceases to amaze me the shock that clergy coming up from ‘down south’ encounter when they realise (usually belatedly) that they are no longer King /Queen of all they survey.
For me, training as a Priest within the SEC, whilst having the heart of a conservative Church of England Evangelistic lass, has been challenging. I have always approached working within a parish, any parish, with openness and humility. We are here to worship and serve the same God. We just do it differently on a Sunday morning. That is okay. That is positive and good and effectively serves the wide variety of people who witness to having Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Yesterday, we had a joint ecumenical Easter service at one of our local Sheltered Housing homes. With Rev Elsie, her assistant Janet and various volunteers from both the Church of Scotland (CofS) of Seaton, St Mary’s, and St Ninians, the SEC of Seaton, we gave the folks a good snapshot of the last week of Jesus life. There was singing, laughter, meditations, prayers and of course tea, cakes, easter cards and creme eggs. It was good.
What Elsie and I have got working in Seaton is, well, working. We work together in the Primary School, at the University and at the Homes. We work well because we actually like each other and have found common ground of friendship and trust. I am very fortunate. I have worked in some parishes where this has not been the case and it is so sad. We can do so much together and are stronger than if we are apart.
The main point for me is what kind of message is our effective working together giving to the local community both churched and unchurched? I pray that it is a positive one and that our joint working relationship in Seaton will help to continue to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. That may be a grand sweeping statement, but it is, in fact, what we are charged to do as Christians.
Of course, the fact that chocolate, cake and laughter are involved in the process never hurts. Just a shame they forgot the Champagne.