The ecumenical activity, service, witness, friendship and contact are the core of the Diocese’s overall work in rediscovering Christian Unity and building communion.
In the local setting, through informal and official contacts, meetings, small communities, groups, programmes and events, Catholics and their fellow Christians see the connections between faith and life. They see how God works in the lives of others and how much better they may produce the fruits of their Christian spirituality. Thus people can be helped to live out their Christian responsibilities in the world, by offering community support and leadership, by deepening the spiritual life, and by proclaiming their faith together in Jesus Christ in worship, prayer, increased understanding and service put into practice.
Ecumenism, as the journey to Christian Unity, starts with a realisation that very real differences separate the Body of Christ. People are encouraged to enter into ecumenical dialogue with a knowledge and strength of belief in their own faith tradition. Our distinctive vocations may show themselves for the present in our sinful earthbound divisions, but in the end our experience of separation becomes something that unites us, impelling us towards reconciliation, because of the Christ from whom we all come and to whom we return.
Practical programmes of mission and social action, as well as groups for prayer, study and faith-sharing provide a wonderful climate for the ecumenical exchange of gifts rooted in our common baptism. And our common faith in Jesus creates new relationships. Sharing one's personal walk with God, as well as the heritage of one’s particular religious tradition, can bring about a deeper sense of the communion that is shared in baptism. The presence and participation of other Christians in the spiritual, pastoral and evangelistic groups and meetings in our parishes can not only enrich the whole but also serve the unity which must come about because Jesus prayed for it. (St John’s Gospel, chapter 17)
If a parish wishes to invite members of other local churches to take part in a group or small community, to benefit from ecumenical exchange, it is important to realise that this faith sharing – mutual exchange of faith, spirituality and discipleship - may already be the lived experience of some members from other Christian communities. Some Christian traditions are familiar with such faith sharing, but they may call it Scripture Study or Bible study. For them Bible study may also be a time to share faith through God’s Word. We must be prepared to learn much from this experience bestowed by the Spirit on Christians in other churches, who have been holding it in trust as a gift for us too.
By contrast, some Christians may be more familiar with study or discussion groups, so it must be made clear that faith sharing in small communities in our parishes is different and must go deeper for a genuine ecumenical exchange of gifts. Faith sharing in this context involves praying and reflecting on a Scripture passage and then sharing with each other on specific thoughts, questions and insights that arise. It is an opportunity to break open God’s Word in a supportive community that assists us in living out our call to be disciples together.