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This article was published in the January 1995 issue of The Journal.

Called To Be One

Churches Together in England are undertaking a major ecumenical exercise to discover the kind of unity God wills for the Church now. As part of this Called to be One process, Bodies in Association have been asked to share their experience of vvorking ecumenically. The Association of Interchurch Families is one such Body in Association. and a group at its 1994 Silver Jubilee Conference worked on a response to the questions put to them. We give an extract below from the response made by AIF.

As interchurch couples and families we share our whole lives with one another, as equal partners, across denominational boundaries; we are fortunate therefore by our very life situation to be called to be growing points for unity.

In spite of their commitment to pilgrimage together, the institutional churches are very slow to recognise that they are on a journey. It is easier for us as interchurch families to feel that we are on a journey; we invite them to travel with us. We have a sense of urgency, because we have a shorter lifespan in which to travel together, and to bring up our children.

Our experience leads us to believe that Christian unity is rather like a marriage we grow into it as we practise mutual recognition and trust, as we listen to one another and respect one another, as we strive to love one another, as we ask one another's forgiveness when we fail, and as we share our lives together.  In our marriages, we are different - male and female: we need this diversity; we benefit from it; it is enriching for us. We do not seek uniformity.

We know that we must be equal partners, making no assumptions about each other, but always ready to listen first and to find a way of working together.

We know that we are called into unity, and unity has therefore to be a priority for us. When we married we needed to make a leap of faith, trusting not only in our love for each other but in God's will to make us one two persons, but one flesh, one body. God can do this in us; and can do it for the churches too. This is the unity of persons in God for the sake of the world for which Jesus prayed: "May they be one in us ... so that the world may believe". (John 17:21)

This unity is the sharing in love which we learn from God. Falling in love helped us to begin; the churches need to act like lovers! In our marriage commitment we knew we had to be prepared to make sacrifices, to take risks in putting each other first. We had to grow into a level of communication, into intimacy. When we achieve this, we are energised to share that love with others.

Interchurch families are domestic churches; a domestic version of Local Ecumenical Partnerships, sharing our buildings, our resources, our lives, nurturing our children within the one faith we share and also within the two churches which nourish our one family. Interchurch families and interchurch children bring together two churches in love, and as such they can be a sign to the churches on the way to unity - to that unity in Christ which is rather like a marriage that unity which in its ultimate form has been pictured as the marriage supper of the Lamb.