Ecumenical Lenten focus on water crisis in Africa
With an ecumenical prayer service on Ash Wednesday in the Ethiopian Orthodox St Mary’s Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) began its annual international Lenten campaign, ‘Seven Weeks for Water’.
This year during Lent it will raise awareness of water justice issues in Africa.
EWN is an ecumenical initiative of the World Council of Churches and is based at the WCC headquarters in Geneva.
“Water, the source of life and a gift from God, has become an issue of justice,” said Moderator of the WCC Dr Agnes Abuom at the service.
THE RE-EVANGELISATION OF EUROPE
Europe today faces many fundamental challenges. Quite apart from this year’s headline-making elections in Holland, France and Germany and a growing scepticism about the European Union across many member countries, not to mention the impending Brexit negotiations, there is considerable unease about the long-term viability of the euro as well as an ongoing migrant crisis. Beyond the EU, there is a huge disconnect between Russia and the western region. All of this, against the backdrop of a United States of America seeming to become quite unhinged politically, has made the time in which we live both increasingly uncertain if not actually more dangerous. Precisely where things will go from here no one can tell.
Of course, a time of such turbulence could simply pass, allowing a more general equilibrium to emerge, but that increasingly seems like a fading dream. Regarding Brexit, former Prime Minister Sir John Major last week told a Chatham House audience regarding the upcoming UK-EU ‘divorce’ talks: “I have watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic.” In turn, leading Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith said Sir John’s remarks had been “strangely bitter”. The exchange was not encouraging, and nor is the potential for the Brexit talks simply to implode at their start if the UK is presented with an EU claim for a €40-60 billion settlement, as has been mooted by Sir Ivan Rogers, who was the UK’s Permanent Representative at the EU from 2013 until last January.
Yet, there is more to life than political crises. The Church knows that and therefore should always be to the fore in calling people to look at themselves in a deeper way, beyond politics without abandoning political realities. The message of the Gospel always can shift the focus from the purely temporal to the eternal, thereby opening up refreshing perspectives and in turn encouraging peaceableness amid legitimate political diversity. In light of this, a new ecumenical initiative focusing on Christian witness and outreach in Europe is very welcome.
Last month a panel discussion at the launch of the book, Sharing Good News: Handbook on Evangelism in Europe, took place at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The future of Christianity in Europe and how evangelism can be relevant to the radically changing realities of European people today, are among the main issues addressed in the newly published volume.
“Now is the time to be intentional in Europe, to rediscover what it means to be a Christian in this region of the world today, addressing issues that will bring meaning into people’s lives again,” Dr Kenneth Ross of the University of Edinburgh said at the event.
Dr Xanthi Morfi, communication officer at the World Council of Churches, writes: “Sharing the Good News … testifies to the renewed interest in evangelism within the ecumenical movement. The book is received as an important and inclusive contemporary statement that offers its readers a most complete overview of current evangelism issues in Europe, in a systematic and ecumenical framework, directly responding to the need for new evangelistic paradigms relevant to the secular, multicultural and multireligious contexts of our times.”
No doubt, there are still many Christian believers in Europe today and church attendance, while small by comparison with the size of the overall population, is not insignificant. Nonetheless, the very fact that one can speak in the current circumstances of the re-evangelisation of Europe suggests that the Church in Europe already is a remnant people.
What is the calling of a Christian remnant? Naturally, it is multifaceted, but fundamentally it is a call to faithfulness. The Church must hold fast the historic faith, for it is the faith once delivered to the saints that contains the fullness of the Christian revelation and it is the fullness of Christ that will truly fulfil every person. Yet, holding fast this spiritual treasure does not signal a defensiveness or any confrontationalism but, rather, a reaching out in faith and pure love to friend and stranger. A challenge, indeed, but one which simply must be met.
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Letters to the Editor
C. of I. census
LOATH AS I am to disagree with my friend Robin Bantry White (Letters, 3rd March), I believe that the Church of Ireland census of November 2016 was methodologically flawed and can tell us very little.
Devoting resources to qualitative research, based on an analysis of preachers’ books and interviews with clergy and church leaders, would have given us significantly greater insights than piles of coloured cards.
The 2013 Census demonstrated that levels of church attendance were higher in rural communities than in their urban counterparts, with Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh achieving the highest percentage, but there was no systematic pursuit of the question of why this was the case; no questions of what it was that prompted attendance; no church-wide discussion as to how best urban churches might be supported in their efforts to engage with those not present on Sundays.
If there had been such research following the 2013 returns, it might have illustrated how a crude head- count approach in 2016 would serve little purpose.
I would, however, wholeheartedly agree with Archdeacon Bantry White in his maintenance of J.L.B. Deane’s contention that the figures from the civil census should be considered.
In Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, the civil census figures point to a Church of Ireland population in excess of 18,000, whilst parochial returns in the diocese show a figure of only 9,000.
Instead of accepting assertions that there are people who do not ‘count’ and often treating the Church as an organisation where only those who pay a subscription are considered members, we should regard the disparity in the numbers as presenting us with a large mission field with which to engage.
The doctoral research by Bishop Ferran Glenfield into nominalism in the Church of Ireland might give us significant insights into those who call themselves members of the Church of Ireland, yet never attend, and point us in a direction where we do not need to tick boxes to assess the health of the Church of Ireland. Ian Poulton (Canon) Mountrath Co. Laois
‘Memories’ of Christ Church, Lisburn
CHRIST CHURCH parish church in Lisburn was opened for worship on 20th November 1842, so this year we will be celebrating 175 years of service to the community.
We shall be incorporating ‘Memories’ as part of our celebrations and we would invite parishioners and former parishioners to tell us about their favourite memories of Christ Church.
Copies of early photographs of the church, the Nicholson
Memorial School and parish organisations would also be very much appreciated.
Anyone wishing to help is asked to contact the parish office with the information by 30th April next. (Parish office tel. 028 9267 3271; Parish office email: iris.murphy@ btconnect.com)
c/o Christ Church Parish Of ce Lisburn Co. Antrim
THE THINGS HE DID: THE STORY OF HOLY WEEK Author: Stephen Cotterell Publisher: SPCK
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