On Sunday 21 January, Christians from around the city gathered to celebrate our shared ministry in the Week of Christian Unity.
Winchester Cathedral did its best to look majestic on a sodden evening, as the street lights picked out the relentless dripping of the rain. Any hint of smugness, that we had braved the elements to come and worship together, were soon dispelled by visiting speaker, Archbishop Angaelous from the Coptic Church.
The monotonous English weather didn’t seem so awful as we listened to tales of violence and murder of Coptic Christians across Egypt and the wider area, simply because of their faith. His words were echoed by Bishops Bertin Subi from Katanga and Désiré Mukanirwa from Goma, both of whom spoke eloquently about the troubles in their respective areas of the Congo.
Archbishop Angaelous told us that 130 Christians had been killed in Egypt in the last twelve months, yet, in spite of this, he is humbled to be part of what is still the biggest church in the Middle East
Copts remain a reconciling force and their Muslim neighbours urge them to stay because they see Christians as “instruments of peace”. Despite the murders and associated violence, there has not been a single case of retaliation from the Coptic community. Quoting 2 Corinthians 5, he reminded us that God “has committed us to the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
From a Winchester perspective, there were numerous different denominations represented in the cathedral and ministers from at least six taking part in the service. Here in our City, the evidence of genuine Christian love and respect was plain to see. Prayers were led by the some of the Churches Together Champions – see the highlights of 2017 for details of their work.
It was a powerful service with a challenging message for us as we consider relationships both within and without the church in this week of Christian Unity and throughout our divided communities in the months ahead.