This week, Josh from Holy Trinity Boar Lane has kindly written a blog for us about the upcoming Week of Prayer for Church Unity…
This week, we mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In this week, we celebrate that whilst the different denominations of the Church disagree on many things, ultimately, there is more that unites us than divides us. We commit to praying together that we men and women throughout the Church might come together to serve God’s kingdom, and recognise that there is only one Church; the Church of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:4).
This year, I have been particularly struck by how important it is to lay aside our differences, for the sake of God’s kingdom. Before I had even arrived in Leeds, I was met with an email from the city centre Methodist minister, David Goodall, who wanted to welcome me to the city and wondered if he could show me the best coffee spots in the city centre. It was a difficult offer to turn down!
I am an ordained Anglican priest, leading Holy Trinity Boar Lane, a new community of city centre workers in the heart of the city of Leeds. Holy Trinity Boar Lane exists to equip to follow Jesus faithfully in their places of work, praying that God would transform workplaces throughout the city centre. David is an ordained Methodist minister, working with Leeds Sanctuary and aiming to create an intentional discipleship community in the city centre, based around Leeds Dock. Clearly, we have much in common in our joint vision to see God transform the city of Leeds.
Sadly though, it is often those with similar values or overlapping vision that end up in the most bitter ministerial turf wars. Sometimes, the presence of others feels threatening and working together can feel like a competition. We may be left wondering: What if they poach people who really should come to my Church? How can we possibly work together when we believe different things? Or, what if I invite people to their services and they turn out to be terrible?! I confess, to my shame, that I have asked these questions to myself on my occasions in the past (but not of David, or Leeds Sanctuary!)
This is not just a vice of ordained ministers either; many of us will know people who believe different things, or who come from different traditions and feel threatened and insecure about confronting our differences. We are all the poorer when we turn down the hand of friendship because of our own insecurities and fears.
David’s extension of friendship (including buying me many excellent cups of coffee) and his desire to partner together to serve God’s kingdom has been such a blessing to me over these past months. Rather than wondering how we might compete for the same space and serve the same people, we have been able to dream together about what God might do in our city, we have been able to encourage and challenge one another in sharing many of the same challenges, and we have been able to work together to serve the one Church.
In this week of prayer for Christian unity we have the opportunity to ask ourselves: Who might we have overlooked because of their differences? Where might we find sources of encouragement, friendship and partnership in those from different backgrounds? And how might we have a vision for the Church that is bigger than our denominations and traditions?