The Church of England and the United Reformed Church are to hold a historic service in Westminster Abbey, marking a significant step forward in the development of a shared relationship. Anyone can apply for a free ticket to attend.
The timing is significant; it will take place in 2012, the 350th anniversary year of the Act of Uniformity and the Great Ejection. It will also be the 40th anniversary of the United Reformed Church coming into being.
The service arises from a joint report – Healing of Memories – which has been before General Synod and the United Reformed Church Mission Council, and it will be a Service of Reconciliation, Healing of Memories and Mutual Commitment. There will be testimonies about martyrs of the past and stories of shared work in the present, leading to an act of commitment for the future.
The Revd Elizabeth Welch was URC co-convener of a study group that produced the report. She said: "I'm delighted that in a doubly significant anniversary year, when we remember both the separation of churches, and the coming back together of some (through the founding of the URC), we can meet for such a historic service. I hope this is but the beginning of a closer drawing together, as we seek to commit ourselves to further shared work."
It is hoped that people from across the URC – and in particular from around 25 local ecumenical partnerships involving the URC and the Church of England – will be present in Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 7 February 2012 beginning at 6.15pm.
The Revd David Tatem, URC secretary for ecumenical relations, said: “Right across the country in villages, towns and cities our two denominations work together in a whole variety of ways. At the heart of that cooperation is the friendship between us that both heals the past and enables the future. Friendship is the inspiration for this service and I believe that will lead us, along with our other ecumenical partners, into exploring new possibilities together.” The Act of Uniformity required all ministers and schoolmasters to give their "unfeigned assent and consent" to The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England by 24 August 1662. On theological grounds, almost two thousand Presbyterian, Congregational and Baptist ministers refused to comply. They left their livings and (apart from some who later conformed) joined those Congregationalists and Baptists already serving outside the Established Church. This significantly increased the ministerial strength of Dissent in what became known as the Great Ejectment or Ejection. Many of these men and their families suffered much hardship; the United Reformed Church, as well as present-day Baptists and Congregationalists, are their heirs.
More details at: http://www.urc.org.uk/what_we_do/ecumenical/WestminsterAbbeyService
The report “Healing of Memories” is here: http://www.urc.org.uk/what_we_do/ecumenical/docs/healing_the_past__building_the_future
Photo credit: Westminster Abbey by ChelmsfordBlue http://www.flickr.com/photos/chelmsfordblue/2259018726/sizes/z/in/photostream/Licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en