Over 750 people, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, packed into St Petroc’s Church, Bodmin to celebrate the signing of a Declaration of Intent by church leaders who cover Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. There were balloons, fireworks and a jazz band with party poppers and St Petroc’s Primary School choir!
This special historical ecumenical service, organised by Churches Together in Cornwall, marked an important milestone in church unity as the leaders of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the SW Baptist Association and the Salvation Army committed themselves and their churches to:
Seek out every possible opportunity for joint initiatives at local and county level in mission to all the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
- Work together to equip both lay and ordained ministry whenever possible, and to share that ministry wherever appropriate.
- Continue the work of developing strategies to optimise the use of church buildings for the benefit of communities throughout the county.
The leaders and representatives of the other churches present (the Roman Catholic, both the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, and Religious Society of Friends) then signed a Letter of Companionship supporting the five churches who had made the Declaration.
In his sermon, Dr Daleep Mukarji, vice-president of the British Methodist Conference, congratulated everyone on this initiative of sharing and pointed out that the essential purpose of ecumenical initiatives must be mission. “It cannot be a dream,” he said. “Unity does not mean uniformity and we must not spend time on our systems, but rather on transforming lives and inspiring the local community.”
Dr Mukarji spoke of the hidden poverty and deprivation in Cornwall and the disparity between the very rich and the poor. “We are called to be witnesses to the love, inclusiveness and justice of Jesus,” he said. “Do not be ashamed of The Lord. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel. We must equip our members to be confident in their mission and to speak with passion about what Jesus has done for them in their lives.”
Referring to the Gospel reading [Matthew 5.13-16] he said “We are salt of the earth. We choose to be agents of change like salt. But if we lose our sense of purpose then our ‘salt’ will be trampled underfoot. By our words and deeds we can influence this world. We are challenged to be involved in the world and to work for unity … we are called together to build the Kingdom of God. Our message is that all our children of God. Unity is not just for the Church, it’s for the whole community.”
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Now the real work begins!