The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle and the overlapping Catholic dioceses of Maitland and Broken Bay will sign a covenant of co-operation in Newcastle on April 2.
They will agree to an annual ecumenical service of worship, an annual joint clergy day, annual exchange of pulpits and exploration of possibilities for sharing church plant.
Catholic and Anglican clergy would visit each other's churches to give Sunday sermons and take part in worship services and church halls and community centres could be shared. When land developments are opened, joint facilities could be built to conserve resources.
This is good to see. Especially the sharing of property, many buildings are such a waste in declining country towns. I do not know how common it is, apparently there is another example in Australia. I remember being a youth fellowship leader way back in the mid-60's and our Rector decided we should have an ecumenical youth tea. I had to meet with the young priest from across the road to make arrangements. We decided a speaker from Alcoholics Anonymous would be safe and we just shared one prayer "The Lord's Prayer" or "Our Father" I suppose someone said grace, I cannot remember. At the end we headed off for our own evening services. It was a big development in those days. I am a bit amazed at the exchange of pulpits. I do not think Sydney would be keen on that. I know the two Archbishops of Sydney are friends, united against the queers but I think I read that Jensen refused to attend a service in the Catholic Cathedral. I note the Bishop of South Sydney merely said: "We'll watch with some interest how it works out. This is quite unusual." Jensen has said nothing, he may be gallivanting overseas with his GAFCON mates.
I have stated before that I taught for about 25 years in Catholic schools and quite happily attended Mass. I do not think it matters whether the person besides me believes in transubstantiation or consubstantiation or if it is just a memorial. I am not sure where I stand on this line. I have obviously moved from my evangelical upbringing.
I agreed with my Lutheran fellow worker that I do like to receive communion in both bread and wine. Sometimes when we had a Mass just for the staff, the wine was offered and that was the only time she participated. I was amused that sometimes the only people taking the wine were the non-Catholic staff members.
Obviously there will not be shared Eucharist in Newcastle, more's the pity.
I learnt a lot from the many sermons and talks during all those years. I was often amazed at how different they were from some of the dry Bible studies in my Anglican parishes. However I think the differences may not be so great in the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.
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