URC Daily Devotion 6 November 2023

I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;  for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.  All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.  And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 


Kingsley and I got engaged as students on 5th October 1972.  Our college had a Christian Union with all (Catholic, Anglican and Free Church) chaplains sharing worship and working together.  Hopes of Christian Unity were running high during this exciting era.  Chaplains of both our denominations thought that by the time we started a family the whole church in Britain would be united so we would not have to choose a denomination for our children.  Sadly this dream was not to be; our children went to Methodist Sunday School, Anglican Brownies, then Catholic Guides. 

During this final college year “that they may be one, as we are one” seemed to be happening.  The Christian Union held a successful mission led by the Rev’d David Watson, the charismatic leader of St Michael le Belfrey, York.   He frequently mentioned his book “Jesus, then and now” expressing his amusement and concern that it was often referred to as “Jesus, now and then”.  

Since then, the move towards covenanted Churches Together slowed but has not altogether stopped, though some of the long standing covenants are in abeyance.   What was the cause of this decline?  Maybe it was the ‘Jesus now and then’ syndrome, expressed as “the Church will be there when I need it”.
Jesus’ prayer was not for the world but “for those you gave me”.   At a conference at the time we were training for ministry, a Swedish delegate asked our denominational allegiance.  At the answer “one URC one RC” he was horrified thinking our respective denominational leaders would never accept us.   (They already knew!)   

We may have lost the impetus of ecumenical convergence of the 1970’s, but we have a legacy of being churches together, covenanted or not, that many in Europe still do not.   We may not have achieved a world wide single denomination, or even a British one but, maybe unknowingly, the dream underpins much of the work of Local Ecumenical Partnerships; “that they may be one”. 


Lord, dreams recur:  
may your vision of our ecumenicity
fill our dreams for the future 
of this your church worldwide, 
that we may all be one. 

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