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30 Years of Seminars 

for

Interchurch Couples and Families

23rd to 25th April 1999 at Neresheim Abbey, Germany


Perhaps there is no other place in Germany at which weekend seminars of this kind have taken place for so long and so regularly as at the Benedictine Monastery at Neresheim. This year a small Jubilee was celebrated. Among those there were some old hands. One couple had made contact with the outside world at the international conference of interchurch families in Geneva the previous year. This meant that Père René Beaupère OP, founder and leader of the Centre Saint-Irenée in Lyon and also Canon Martin Reardon, his wife Ruth and Claire Malone-Lee from AIF in London were able to come to take part. More than thirty participants were there to take stock of their journey so far and their route for the future.

In earlier years there has been discussion of the problems and the opportunities which interchurch marriages present, but today faith itself is under the spotlight. The obvious outcome was for reflections and personal testimonies to circle around the chosen theme: “the search for paths of faith for us and for our children”.

Over the years the most important and most difficult question has been: how do / should our Eucharistic celebration take place? Families wanted to meet together for a shared celebration of the Eucharist once a year. An account of the intense debate that was held within the group and with the church leaders to try to reach a responsible answer would go on for a long time.  Often the prayer went up: “Lord, show us and our church leaders the way to sharing in the Eucharist!”. After several experimental models we were led to a form in which the equal significance of Word and Sacrament reach expression: the Lutheran pastor preached, the Roman Catholic priest presided at the Eucharist. During the distribution of Holy Communion the Lutheran pastor administered the Chalice.

Since it was becoming more difficult latterly to find enough to take part in these seminars, a decision was taken to end the weekend seminars in their present form and to try from the following year to organize marriage preparation seminars for interchurch couples. Some interchurch couples who were already married could then be there to make an important contribution from their own experience.

The number of marriages across the Reformation divide is growing. It is a cause for alarm that many of these families are leaving the churches because the task presented by finding a sense of direction and of belonging within the churches is too demanding for them. The formation of Christian family life in these circumstances presents additional challenges. This is
why the churches ought to respond more strongly and appropriately in meeting the needs of these couples and families. Our experience has been that those couples and families who have faced up to the challenge themselves have often become ecumenical pioneers and have built bridges between their communities. In the process their own faith has deepened. Here we truly can speak of interchurch* families.

Pater Beda Müller OSB, Neresheim, and Pastor Peter Hompa, Leonberg-Gebersheim.

* The German “konfessionsverschiedene”, ie “of separate churches”, has become “konfessions-verbindende”, ie “bringing the churches together”.