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Interchurch Families International News April 2005


Dear friends,


Thank you to all those who have sent me their news. Here is a summary of some of the many activities of interchurch families around the world. Some of the attachments to this bulletin are in translation – if you would like to see the original version, please ask. You are also encouraged to ask for further details of conferences and documents.


Worldwide

A response to the Lineamenta in preparation for the Synod of RC Bishops on the Eucharist to be held in October 2005 was drafted by Ruth and Martin Reardon and endorsed by the international network of interchurch families formed after the Rome Gathering. You can find the text with the latest number of Issues-Reflections-News (IRN) on the international website. A few individual country groups and associations also prepared contributions which were submitted on a national basis.

Following the Rome Gathering in 2003, the Rome document has been widely distributed by several country groups. The English version has been printed as a booklet under the title ‘Interchurch Families and Christian Unity’. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) was not able to respond to this document at the time of the Gathering, as we had hoped, but since then Martin Reardon was in contact with the PCPCU and the international network about a possible follow-up visit to the short one made by a delegation during the conference. Following Martin’s death, Ruth Reardon has co-ordinated this effort in Martin’s place, and it is hoped that an informal meeting at the offices of the PCPCU will take place later this year.

Ray Temmerman continues to update the international website, and to supervise the interchurch families weblist, where conversations of many kinds occur between members from several countries. New couples join this conversation from time to time, and anybody is welcome to contribute to this e-community. Ruth compiles the e-journal "Issues, Reflections, News" and posts this regularly on the website.


Europe

Following the meeting between a small group of interchurch families and the Secretaries of the Conference of European Churches (CEC: Protestant) and Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE: Catholic), conversations have continued. A Joint Committee meeting of these two bodies was held in Chartres, France, in February 2005, and a news release issued. Prior to this meeting the Joint Committee asked for further information from several groups and associations of interchurch families, and more material was sent, including surveys carried out in different countries. You will see that interchurch families were among the subjects discussed, and their contribution to ecumenical life is being considered by the Committee.

We continue to follow the planning process of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly, to be held in Romania in September 2007, and hope to bring together European interchurch family representatives at this Assembly, as at previous Assemblies. This will probably not be a full international gathering of interchurch families, which would be far too complex to organise, but we could perhaps run workshops and mount an exhibition stand to publicise our work. It is very exciting that reports of our Rome Gathering and the Rome document are being circulated widely, and they seem to be bearing much fruit!


Australia

Planning for the international conference of interchurch families Sharing our Dream Downunder, to be held in Newcastle, NSW, 18-22 August 2005, continues, and the publicity is widespread. It is still not too late to book! There will be representatives from Canada and the UK, and there have been enquiries from several other countries which are being followed up. There is an exciting list of speakers, and we hope and pray that the occasion will give a real impetus to interchurch families and ecumenical work in general in Australia.

David and Fionnuala Armstrong from AIF UK, who emigrated to Sydney last year, have been energetically raising funds for the conference, and have organised a church family breakfast to publicise it.


Austria

The ARGE Ökumene conference was held last October in St Arbogast, and the Austrian association is preparing the next meeting in Vienna, 21 – 23 October 2005. The theme is ‘Why marriage? Where is marriage going? Looking for signs among the Christian traditions.’ There will be contributions from Romanian-Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran theologians, the first time they have had an Orthodox report. Wolfgang says the autumn is the ideal time to visit Vienna, and any friends who can come will be made very welcome.

Meanwhile, the Innsbrück group is making a visit to the Waldensian parishes in Italy in June, and the Vienna group continues a tradition of celebrating a Lima-Liturgy once or twice a year, with priests and pastors from various traditions. Klemens Betz reports that he has recovered from his bad fall last year.


Canada

Nick Jesson from Saskatoon sent a report to the weblist recently on developments concerning the input of local interchurch couples into marriage preparation courses in their RC diocese. Perhaps the most encouraging news is the description of the Saskatoon Diocesan Directives for Sacramental Sharing which have recently been distributed, with pastoral notes and workshops held in parishes to discuss them. The openness of this process and the encouragement of people in the parishes to share their views is very welcome. The participation and hard work of interchurch families in the Saskatoon area, and particularly the work of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in the church life in that region must certainly have contributed to this situation.


France

The Foyers Mixtes bulletin no 146 was largely devoted to Martin Reardon, and his work on behalf of interchurch families and church unity. It reproduced a letter and an article written by Martin and Ruth dating back to the 1960s, followed by Martin’s sermon at the World Council of Churches at the First World Gathering of interchurch families in Geneva in 1998, and his sermon at the Second World Gathering in Rome in 2003. There was also a warm appreciation by Père René Beaupère, who had worked closely with Martin and Ruth for many years.

The Association Française des Foyers Mixtes Interconfessionnels Chrétiens (AFFMIC), founded last year, sent representatives to meet Mgr Saint Macary, archbishop of Rennes and President of the French Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity. Mgr Saint Macary agreed to publicise the existence of the AFFMIC among diocesan ecumenical representatives.

AFFMIC has prepared its own contribution to the French bishops in response to the Lineamenta. It is in the middle of preparing publicity material to further the aims of the association and to attract more members. This work is done in full collaboration with the Centre St Irénée in Lyon.

The next meeting of French foyers mixtes will be 13-14 May 2006 in Lyon. Further information about all French activities will be found on the website www.foyersmixtes.org.


Germany

The German Netzwerk Ökumene held its annual conference in February in Schorndorf near Stuttgart. You can read a report in Schorndorf200502. Rudolf and Rosmarie Lauber celebrate their 75th and 70th birthdays with a party on July 16th, and the Finches will be joining them from England and celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary at the same time.


Kenya

We have had several enquiries for the Australian conference from different countries in Africa, and I was pleased to be able to pass on one seeking particular help to David and Joyce Makumi, who are still very active on behalf of interchurch families in Nairobi. They write about their current work:

‘We will this May be involved in a deanery marriage preparation seminar, for couples preparing to get married in a number of parishes in our neighbouring deanery. We are now almost used to landing invitations everywhere else except our home parish. What echoes in our hearts is the saying that "a prophet is not without honour, except in his own town, among his own people."

‘When we met with the other facilitators during a preparatory meeting, Father Marko, the priest who is coordinating the activity, was quite eager to let them know we are an inter-church couple. This gave us a chance to share our short experience as a mixed marriage couple [it will be 3 years on 6th April]. We always get surprised at the way God works, choosing to use us even though there are many "model" Catholic couples in the parishes which will be represented.

‘One of the things we are looking forward to is helping those who might be in an inter-church situation during this seminar, which takes place every Sunday afternoon for 8 weeks. Fr. Marko is particularly keen to "utilize" us for this category of couples.

‘We are expecting to have an exciting time working with marriage preparation couples from different parts of Nairobi Archdiocese and perhaps make those who are on the way to converting for convenience other than conviction think twice.

‘Lots of mixed marriage couples we meet tend to be in the process of converting one another. It would appear from casual observation [there are no studies done] that those who are keen to have their spouses convert are men who have modest education, living in the rural areas and low income earners. This is of course a generalization; there might be other variables and the reverse may not necessarily be true.

‘As always we continue to thank God for each family represented in the list, for all inter-church families worldwide. We are tremendously blessed by the discussions.’


Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association annual conference will be taking place at Derrynoid as usual from 7 – 8 May 2005. The speaker is The Most Reverend Dom Eoin de Bhaldraithe, Abbot of Bolton Abbey, Moone, co Kildare, who will speak on ‘Sectarianism and Mixed Marriages.’ The Hollins family will attend from England.

NIMMA plays a significant community role in Northern Ireland and is having more enquiries about housing. It is not easy for those who need state-provided housing to avoid the tensions in some areas, and for those in mixed marriages this can be extremely difficult and even dangerous. NIMMA is now linked up with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who have a new ‘Shared Housing’ programme.


Switzerland

The Swiss Association des Foyers Interconfessionnels (Suisse) founded at the end of 2003 following the Rome conference is working hard to build its profile, and having considerable success. Read about it in AFI-CH0305. It continues to work closely with the Centre St Irénée in Lyon and the Foyers Mixtes bulletins contain news of Swiss activities as usual. In September 2004 the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches published a document entitled ‘The Lord’s Supper: a Protestant View’, which contained considerations and recommendations concerning eucharistic sharing between Protestants and Catholics, and this appeared in the FM bulletin no 146.

Also in this bulletin, Jean-Baptiste Lipp writes of other significant contacts the AFI-CH has had. They have given an interview on local radio, mounted an exhibition stand, sent words of encouragement to clergy, and have discovered that three-quarters of mixed marriages in Switzerland are from the German-speaking community, and so are keen to spread into that community. Their first General Assembly was held in Fribourg in November 2004, and was attended by families and clergy familiar with the interchurch families movement and some new to it. The Association, like any new body, is aware of the tensions between sending out publicity and being able to handle resulting enquiries and expectations, but Jean-Baptiste encourages them to remember the parable of the mustardseed. The next Swiss meeting will be 24-25 September 2005. All friends will be welcome.

United Kingdom

Members and friends of AIF UK were much saddened by the death of our co-founder, mentor and friend, Martin Reardon in January. His funeral (where we were much moved to be joined by Père Beaupère and Brigitte Vielle from France, and Jean-Baptiste Lipp and Gisèle Francey from Switzerland) and the memorial meeting in London in March were both occasions of celebration and appreciation for all his work among us and for church unity. A fund has been set up in his memory and the AIF Advisory Council is discussing how best to use it. We are encouraged that Ruth is continuing his work faithfully, and she will be attending the Australian conference, as they had planned to do together.

The final total of sponsorship money raised by Claire and Michael Malone-Lee through their pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome was more than £6000, which will also be allocated for a specific project by AIF. This was a fantastic endeavour, and AIF is very grateful to Claire and Michael!

AIF has re-organised its way of working to include an elected Executive Committee who meet regularly to make major and urgent decisions, and an Advisory Council which brings together a bigger group of people to discuss large and small matters and to be kept informed of the directions in which the Association is going. This seems to be working well. The London office continues to be a centre for much administrative and publicity work, and Executive Secretary’s Keith’s paid hours have been increased again.

The Swanwick conference this year will be held from 27-29 August, and all friends are welcome. See the website www.interchurchfamilies.co.uk for details.


United States

Our good wishes and prayers are with Michael Slater as he prepares for his ordination as priest within the American Episcopal Church on Saturday 16th July. He and Barb maintain a large database of contacts with whom they exchange ecumenical and interchurch family news, and they are regularly asked for advice by clergy and families.

Fr Ernie Falardeau continues to serve the St Jean Baptiste Church on the corner of Lexington Ave and 76th St in New York. He writes: ‘I am the local superior of our community and the parochial vicar. I continue to be very interested and active ecumenically. Ann Riggs, Director of the National Council of Churches of Christ/Faith and Order has asked me to serve on the Commission and I have attended meetings (twice a year) since March 2004. I don’t have a lot of time for writing but I do keep my hand at it, as time allows. One of my activities has been to visit with the pastors in our area. Fr Robert Stephanopoulos is rector of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral on east 74th Street near First Avenue, and we have had a chance to meet. I regularly have lunch with the pastor of Epiphany Episcopal Church (York Avenue and 74th Street). I have also met several times with the pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, the Rev Fred Anderson. We have had inter-religious services at one of the local synagogues and services for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at one of our neighboring churches. I attended the National Workshop on Christian Unity again this year. I also hope to attend the North American Academy of Ecumenists gathering (in New York) in the fall.’


Fr George Kilcourse has sent the following message:

‘Back in October, I proposed a special-interest session on Interchurch Families at the June 2005 Catholic Theological Society of America Convention. It was chosen from among numerous submissions, so I am very encouraged. The convention theme is ‘Resurrection of the Body’. Our topic: ‘Interchurch Families: Resurrecting the Body Ecumenical’. Perhaps best of all, the two presenters are Catholic theologians married to Christians of another denomination/tradition. And we will have two respondents, Sr Joan McGuire (Ecumenical Office Director, Chicago); and Jesuit Tom Rausch, from Loyola Marymount (Los Angeles). I’ll moderate the session.’

I have included the latest version of our international contact details. I hope you will all continue to keep in touch with news of your families and groups. Please pray for interchurch families around the world, as we share our joys and difficulties with each other and with our churches, working all the time for the unity which Christ prayed for among his followers.

Melanie Finch
International Links Coordinator
AIF UK
April 2005.