Wednesday, 13 February 2008

An ecumenical spirit of perseverance

Rev Dr Walter Altmann from Brazil, the moderator of the WCC central committee, gave an interesting address encouraging member churches and individuals to persevere in ecumenical endeavours and not lose heart, even if the road seems long.
Altmann ended by saying, "The ecumenical movement most needs those who are able to persevere. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us that gift of perseverance, and the willingness to move ahead". You can read the full text of his address here.
I enjoyed listening to Altmann's address because I had been so involved in thinking about my own dying denomination over the weekend. The idea of perseverance - for unity, for the gospel - made me think about how very counter-cultural this long term, slow paradigm could be today. We are so used to instant and immediate news, results, change etc. Instant unity in some kind of easily-available effervescent soluble tablet just isn't the way forwards. Yet when change happens so fast how can we nevertheless link the long term slow perseverance with a responsiveness that is both caring and prophetic?
As usual I don't have any answers to my own questions. But I do have an image from my adopted church culture. Marie Durand with a group of other women was held prisoner in the Tour de Constance in Aigues Mortes for 38 years during the wars of religion. It is said that over the years she and the others engraved into the rock of the wall "résister" - still quite visible if you visit today. Keep going, persevere, don't give up hope or faith. It's a powerful story for French Protestants even today, about how even a tiny minority can keep faith. Seems a good thought to end the day on.