Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I’ll say goodbye

An ecumenical worship service occurs every term on the campus at Adelaide College of Divinity. This term was the last service for the Catholic Theological College, who are being closed down at the end of 2013. (The Uniting College will remain, and as our recent press release notes, will actively continue to give visible expression to an education in ecumenism.) So there was a particular poignancy about the service today.

I was involved in the planning, along with the Principal of Catholic Theological College. A creative spark for us came from Joyce Rupp’s, Praying Our Goodbyes. It’s such a practical book, which offers multiple ways to process grief and say goodbye.

So as part of the service we asked a number of  folk to reflect on two questions

  • What blessing do you most want to carry with you as you move on?
  • What blessings are you most in need of?

Here’s what I said, with about 10 minutes prep time in between morning appointments, …

I came to this campus 3 and a half years ago. One of the selling points, one of the reasons I moved my family to another country, was the opportunity to teach and work ecumenically.

I’m a Baptist boy, so having Catholics above me, and Anglicans to my right, and Uniting colleagues to surround, would I thought be a very rich and a very growing experience.

So that’s the blessing I most want to carry with me as I move – ecumenical richness.

That moment when I give my Intro the Theology class a set reading. And then casually mention, oh the author of that reading is Denis Edwards. He’s a colleague on campus.

That moment when I pull Derrida’s Bible: (Reading a Page of Scripture with a Little Help from Derrida), brought on special on a trip to the United States, of my book shelf and realise I share the lunch room with the author.

That moment when I speak at the ACD art exhibition, when I worship in a chapel surrounded by art – Anglican, Catholic, Uniting -

The spirituality and art series run by Jo Laffin here on the weekends in my first year.

That’s the blessing, I’ll carry forward, the ecumenical richness. It’s one of the reasons I came, moved country.

What blessings are you most in need of as you continue your journey?

It’s expressed most eloquently in Te Putahi Matauranga Whakapono Katorika, the history of the Catholic Institute of Theology. As a way of helping me process what feels like the great ecumenical divorce that we’re growing through, I brought this book earlier this year. It describes a very similar journey, the NZ experience of the Catholic Institute of Theology, established some 23 years ago, emerging from the enthusiasm of Vatican 2, to embrace the world. Which closed in 2012, due to a range of reasons, including the actions and inactions of Catholic church hierarchies.

On page 114 there is like a short obituary notice – “What had started as a brave and visionary enterprise was hampered by a pre-occupation with the church’s own denominational interests which ran counter to the ecumenical spirit.”

That’s the blessing I’m most in need of. We live in times when it’s so easy to be pre-occupied with the church’s own denominational interests – Baptist and Uniting. Dare I even say Catholic. What I’m most in need of is a brave and visionary Spirit, of a God so much bigger than my own expression of church. That’s the blessing, that’s the God, I most need.

Posted by steve at 10:32 PM

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