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SHARED HOME, SHARED CHURCH

This article was published in the Summer 1993 issue of The Journal.

St Andrew's Church, Cippenham, was built to be shared between Anglicans and Roman Catholics before the days of Local Ecumenical Projects and Local Covenants. Members of the two congregations were asked to share their experience at the Churches Together in Berkshire annual forum last May. This is the contribution made by Paul and Beverley Hollins (Roman Catholic, Anglican couple) to the presentation.

We deliberately moved to Cippenham , rather than to any other part of Slough, in order to join St Andrew's. as we had previously visited the church and received a very warm welcome. We were a little surprised not to find it brimming with other interchurch couples, especially as friends at the Association of Interchurch Families were quite green at our good fortune.

Sharing a building
Perhaps the nicest aspect of sharing a building is being able to say that we belong to one church.  That's a technical point, you may argue, but when you are divided in the eucharist, little things mean a lot. Being kept apart at communion can feel like an alienation of marriage vows - sharing the sacred body and precious blood with everyone but your partner.

Being a member of St Andrew's by no means heals these wounds. We are still separated at communion, and sometimes feel that our pain is lost at 'joint eucharists' where receiving from two different places has become a fact of life.

However, it is a joy to be in a place where there is regular shared worship, where two communities do try to consider each others' needs.

Double commitment
As an interchurch couple, each committed to the other's tradition, we have a lot to gain from being in a church that does so much sharing under one roof.  We hope that we can bring something to St Andrew's too.  We bring a vision of committed ecumenism. While for many people, meeting on two or three evenings a month is progress, we have to live ecumenism out day by day. We are facing the challenge of sharing our different church upbringings, practices and occasionally beliefs. We can share what we have learned, and are glad to be amongst a community that is more likely to understand than most.

A covenant for unity
We joined St Andrew's knowing that it has been a trendsetter. Our vision for it continues to set trends - two communities that have been sharing, co-habiting even, coming to an ever greater commitment to each other, living out ecumenism and taking it into daily life.

After a long courtship, the communities became officially betrothed when our covenant was signed in February 1992. Our prayer is that we shall be around to see the wedding day.