With One Voice
Recently, at the AGM of Churches Together in Winchester, Revd Canon Dr Howard Mellor was appointed as Chair. We asked him to introduce himself.
My first appointment was in Deptford and Greenwich in the early seventies. I learned so much here, in an area still bearing the scars of bomb damage, with plots surrounded by rusty corrugated steel fencing.
I was invited each week to a minister’s prayer group, focussed around Holy Communion, at the Church of the Ascension where the vicar was Revd Paul Oestreicher. Afterwards, we all went to his place for breakfast. It was in these heady days that I first realised the importance and power of working together as one. This has been proved in all my appointments, leading to joint bible studies in Croydon called ‘Life in the Spirit’, a big community mission. It influenced all the work we undertook at and from Cliff College.
And so, to Winchester where, working together, we were able to present the Winchester Passion. Then to Hong Kong where the churches organised an international Justice Conference.
Faith we hold in common
These are the headline things but they were only possible because of the relationships, shared times of fellowship and prayer, opportunities to acknowledge difference and yet to celebrate the faith we held in common.
This ought not to be surprising because Jesus called us to be one ‘that everyone may know you are my disciples’ (John 13:35). The importance of working together ecumenically is underlined by Paul in Romans 15:5-6: ‘May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Shared ministry and mission
The biblical record is quite clear that speaking is not only audible but also leads to action. So when Paul speaks on ‘one voice’, he also implies that we engage as one and act as one. I’m a Methodist and recall that, when John Wesley met with his preachers in 1744, someone asked him a question. ‘What may we reasonably believe to be God’s design, in raising up the Preachers, called Methodist?’ The answer is illuminating: ‘To reform the nation, more particularly the Church, to spread scriptural holiness over the land.’
I have the hope and vision that, together with other churches in the city, we might have Wesley’s vision as part of what we do in shared ministry and mission:
- speaking prophetically to issues in our nation
- serving pastorally our community
- sharing in engaging ways our faith in the transforming power of Jesus
There are already many ways in which we see these things being done as we work together. I’m convinced that working together, ‘with one voice’, there is increased scope to engage in mission and ministry in the public arena, increased power in our shared message and a deeper engagement in the city. It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve in this way and I look forward to what lies ahead.