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This article was published in the Summer 2002 issue of The Journal.

Fr John Convetry SJ

and the early days of the Association of Interchurch Families

The substance of a talk to the British AIF given at Heythrop College on 2nd March 2002 by Ruth Reardon (Roman Catholic), who with her husband Martin (Anglican) and Fr John Coventry S1, was anwng the founder-members of the Association

'A man of action among thinkers'
In his homily at Pr John Coventry's funeral mass in April 1998, Pr Robert Murray called him 'a man qlactiol1 among thinkers'. A powerful thinker, he was both analytical and visionary. I would claim that his field of action was preeminently his work with interchurch families.

He was certainly a brilliant teacher; his students, both clerical and lay, at Heythrop and elsewhere remain deeply in his debt. He gave a great deal of himself to administrative work, both as Jesuit Provincial (1958-64) and as Master of St Edmund's College of the University of Cambridge (1976-85). But he himself described interchurch families, a few months before he died, as 'my life's devotion'. As Fr Murray said at his funeral mass: 'If you want to see his memorial, look around'  indicating the number of interchurch families present. 'rVe were there to express our gratitude and our love, because he had laboured so devotedly for our welfare.

I want to say something about John Coventry as he was in 1968, at the time of the first interchurch families' conference, not long after he had begun to tum his powerful mind to the pastoral needs of such families. All that he gave us was there, in embryo, at the beginning, and I would suggest that the subsequent development of the Association of Interchurch Families has been a long working-out of the insights already present in the first few years of our fellowship.

Early influences on John Coventry
John Coventry was born in 1915 and went to the Jesuit school at Stonyhurst. Among my sources for this talk I have a brief autobiographical paper that he wrote in 1991, looking back on his links with interchurch families. 'I had a very unecumenical upbringing in a Catholic family and boarding school', he said. He vividly remembered the response to his mother's request at a possible lodging house as to the whereabouts of the nearest Catholic church: 'We don't like Roman Catholics here!' He told how 'at seventeen I mounted a soap-box on Saturday evenings at Ilford Broadway to convince the crowd who gathered of the Pope's infallibility. Whatever may be the case with the latter, I certainly knew all the answers!

At the age of 17 John Coventry entered the Jesuit noviciate, and he was 35 when he finished his formation. It included four years at Oxford reading classical 'Greats', with a first in 1942  an indication of his intellectual stature. He was ordained priest in 1947 at the age of 32, half-way through his four years of theological study at Heythrop (old Heythrop in Oxfordshire). It was in those post-war years that something very important happened to him, a new influence that came from continental theology, from which England had been cut off during the war.

At his funeral we heard how a certain Pere Alexandre Durand, a professor from Lyon, had influenced him. Durand's teaching on faith, seen primarily not as intellectual assent to theological propositions but as a personal act and way of life was a lasting inspiration to John Coventry. (Not 'belief that' but 'faith-in' a personal response.) It was like a breath of fresh air after the scholastic theology of the Latin manuals. When some of liS were at the World Council of Churches Assembly at Harare in 1998. one of those who visited our interchurch families' stand was an elderly Jesuit working in Zimbabwe. He claimed responsibility for the meeting of the two men. He himself had been sent to study at Lyon after the war, and diseovered that Pere Durand, one of his teachers, loved reading Thomas Hardy and had a great desire to visit Hardy country. So he arranged a visit to England for him, and introduced him to the Jesuit provincial, who invited him to go to Heythrop to give some lectures to the theology students. John Coventry was one of them. Pere Durand did not get far with his lecture series at Heythrop, I was told. He gave a couple of lectures but was not allowed to give a third, and was denounced to Rome by one of the Heythrop professors. But he had time to enthuse John Coventry.

Three books
There are stories of how, \vhile still a student, John wrote his first three books during the rather dull lectures that could not engage his attention. The first three subjects he chose to write about were significant for what he gave to interchurch families later. There was a book on the mass, first published in 1950, called The Breaking of Bread an unusual title to be given to a Catholie publication in those days. The eucharist was a central focus for John throughout his life, and he was able because of his own deep love for the mass to understand the great need of interchurch families for eucharistic sharing long before this became more widely appreciated. He had also researched the history of the eueharist, and knew what he talking about when it came to eucharistic doctrine. More than thirty years later he wrote a brief Centrepiece for AIF on Eucharistic Belief (reprinted in Interchurch Families 5,2 Summer 1997) to show how far he thought couples were misunderstanding one another or the doctrine of their own church, rather than disagreeing. The way he dealt with questions of Presence and Sacrifice, out of a deep understanding of the history and theology of the eucharist, has been a great help to interchurch families.

A second book was entitled .Morals and Independence: all Introduction to Ethics, published in 1949 with an introduction by Professor Donald MacKinnon. John was already preoccupied with Christian behaviour, the relationship between human happiness, moral judgement, authority, freedom and responsibility. Professor MacKinnon said he quarrelled with the author on many points but, he wrote: 'As T read his book. again and again I was conscious how effectively and subtly the argument opened up the great questions . ... The reader isn't given the impression of a spurious simplicity, as if moral philosophy were something he could take easily in pills'. He hoped readers would be many in number, as curious and argumentative as John Coventry would like them to be. Later John was to apply a mind that had reflected deeply on the 'great questions' of morality and ethics to the situation of interchurch families in all its eomplexity. He delighted to find some of us both' eurioLls and argumentative' . Since Fr John died, AIF has ret1ectcd on questions of authority and responsibility as we participated in the' Authority and Governance' study (Interchurch Families, 8,2 Summer 2000, pp.14-l 5; 9,2 Summer 200 I, pp.12-15). I hope we have done this in a way faithful to his teaching. I quote from a text in the last book he published, in 1995:
'A mature person has a greater responsibility than that of keeping rules laid down by authority: he or she has the responsibility of making decisions.' (Our God Reigns, p.84)

The third book written in his student years was the most outstanding; it was entitled Faith Seeks Understanding. Dedicated to Pere Alexandre Durand, it expounded a theology of faith that the professor from Lyon had opened up for him, faith which sprang from experience of life in Christ. The book received an imprimatur and was published. but almost immediately withdrawn from cireulation. It was a ditIicult time for Catholic theologians. In 1950 Pope Pius XII published the encyclical Humani Generis. with its warnings about the errors detected in some current theological trends. The Jesuits may have feared that John Coventry, with his forceful clarity of mind and expression, would beeome an embarrassment. He was an obvious candidate for academic study abroad leading to a doctorate and a post as lecturer at Heythrop, but instead was sent to teach boys at Beaumont College, a Jesuit school near Windsor. Alexandre Durand could never understand why he was not sent to study dogmatic theology at a continental university. Jt must all have been a very great disappointment to John, but he threw himself into teaching at Beaumont without bitterness or resentment. With hindsight we can recognise that it was a great blessing for us that circumstances Jed him to develop his talent for putting profound theological thinking into terms meaningful for lay people.

Thirty years later he wrote: "J am not an academic theologian in any serious sense: I have livcd with them and know the difference. But I have done my best to keep up with what scholars are saying in New Testament studies, systematic theology and philosophy of religion, as well as with the immense struggle towards unity among the English churches. And so T may perhaps without too much conceit offer a message to the scholars too [who] seem to overlook the fact that after Easter Jesus' disciples experienced most vividly the living presence and continuing action of their Risen Lord among them, and that this was the matrix of all their theologies. There is good reason to hope that we may still be able to do that today, and relate all our thinking to our awareness of the Lord's gift of his Spirit to us all i.e. to our experience (Reconciling, 1985, Preface). Incidentally, he wrote three books on faith (The Theology of Faith, 1968; Christian Truth, 1975; and Faith in Jesus Christ, 1980) on the same lines as the one suppressed around 1950. They were perfectly acceptable in a post-Vatican II church.

The development of an ecumenist
Something important happened to John Coventry while he was teaching boys at Beaumont in the early 'fifties. In his 199 J autobiographical paper he wrote: 'Some 24 years after Ilford Broadway, and about four after my ordination, my ecumenical education began. I agreed with the Roman Catholic chaplain of the University of London that I should keep an eye on the Catholic Society of the Royal Holloway College. a college for women at Englefield Green, up the hill from Beaumont College where I was teaching. My ecumenical education began at the hands of the then nourishing Student Christian Movement, who invited me to talk with them.' He was deeply impressed by some of the students he met. 'I began to understand' , he wrote 'that ecumenism is people, people who love the Lord, not ideas or even beliefs, and have tried to translate this faith into practice ever since' . This was the very first beginning of his ecumenical vocation - a real experience of meeting Christians who loved the Lord outside the Roman Catholic Church. His embryonic ecumenism was very mixed lip with apologetics in those pre-Vatican II days, however, and continued to be for a long time. Indeed, he wrote (199I): 'My first idea of an ecumenical panel was to stand up and continue the same apologetic line of the superiority of the "one true Church" (a phrase dropped by Vatican II).

John Coventry was Provincial of the Jesuits from 1958- 1964. In 1964 he was sent to teach at Heythrop, although lacking the usual academic qualifications for such a post. A year or so later the Catholic bishops asked him to be Secretary of the new Ecumenical Commission for England and Wales (ECEW) that they were setting up in the wake of the Council. His ecumenical conversion was extremely rapid. The present Archbishop of Canterbury said in a sermon he preached in Luxembourg around the time that John died: 'Ecumenical vision must be anchored in a confident, open Christian faith' , and I thought how much that applied to John. He had a very confident faith. It was a very personal faith, rooted in prayer and his own relationship with God in Christ. It was also the faith of the Church, based on the experiencc of the first disciples and re-echoed down through the centuries. John had a deep love for the Catholic Church, which had brought him to faith in Christ. At the same time his was also a very open faith open to integrating new Christian experience. So ecumenism could take root very quickly.

He was Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission for only three years, from 1967-1970. He had many responsibilities at Heythrop. at a period when it was becoming a constituent college of the liniversity of London and moving there. At the same time he put enormous energy into ecumenical work, driving at speed around the country to ecumenical meetings in a small car he was allowed to use for the purpose, and setting up structures, national and diocesan, to promote ecumenism in the Roman Catholic Church. In those few years he became the face of the Roman Catholic Church for many other Christians, and they liked it. Kenneth Sansbury, an Anglican bishop then General Secretary of the British Council of Churches, paid tribute to him in 1970. First, for his personal faith: 'One cannot be in his presence for long without being aware that here is someone whose life is hid with Christ in God. It is when one sees the presence of the Christ one so feebly tries to serve in a person belonging to another Communion that one knows the meaning of Christian unity at its deepest level.' Second, for his complete loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church: 'With patience, courtesy and charity he makes the Roman Catholic position clear - and the rest of us respect him for so doing. Those who suspect that ecumenism means relativism can rest assured that Fr John has never been guilty of that error.' Third, for his passionate desire for the healing of Christian divisions, and his commitment to the 'long, difficult road' ahead: 'It involves taking other Christian Communions with full seriousness, being sensitive at the points where deep-held convictions can be delightful sense of humour'. hurt. It means being entirely loyal to his own Church, yet when a decree or a presentation is patient of a wider or a narrower interpretation, opting for the wider and more generous'. Added to this was 'Fr John's humanity, his friendliness, his ability to get alongside other people, his (One in Christ, 1970,4, p,494)

It was perhaps John Coventry's 'wider and more generous interpretation' and his readiness to act on it that so much alarmed the English bishops and led to his replacement as Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission in 1970 by a diocesan priest - over whom they could exercise greater control. It was another very great disappointment for John Coventry, although he never complained, and remained a loyal and hard-working member of the Ecumenical Commission for many years. Later he recalled (in the 1991 paper): 'I soon lost episcopal favour and ceased to be Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission after only three years, but Ruth and I remained on it for many years (she was then Editor of One in Christ) as "expert members". So at AIF meetings we passed resolutions asking the Commission to do this and that; then Ruth and I changed hats and fielded the resolutions at Commission meetings'.

Mixed marriages and the eucharist
There are two things I want to recall from those few years when he was ECEW Secretary. At Ecumenical Commission meetings he and I began to raise the question of mixed marriages, and especially that of the promise to baptise and bring up all the children as Roman Catholics. This was an absolute promise that Roman Catholic canon law required of both partners in those days, if the marriage was to be recognised by the Catholie Church. The question had been a majority of the Council fathers wanted change. but how precisely this was to happen was left to the Pope. In 1966 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued an debated at the Second Vatican Council, and it was clear that Instruction, Matrinwnii Sacramentum; this said that difficult cases in which the other paltner was not willing to make the promise were to be referred to Rome. Gradually the way in which Rome was resolving these cases began to become known: from reported replies a pattern became clear. Even where it seemed virtually certain that children would be brought up in the church of the other partner, a dispensation for the marriage was always given provided the Catholic paltner sincerely promised to do all he or she could for the Catholic upbringing of the children. No promise was required from the other partner. What concerned us was that all the reported cases were coming from continental countries; none from England. It appeared to us that our Bishops did not want to refer such cases to Rome. When we raised the question in the Ecumenical Commission the Bishop who chaired it told us that it was impossible that Rome would allow children of a mixed man-iage to be brought up in the church of the other partner. Yet we were collecting all this incontrovertible evidence of what was actually happening in other countries whose bishops sent requests for dispensations to Rome. (In 1970 of course the papal motu proprio made this approach into law for the whole Roman Catholic Church.) We had some very difficult moments in ECEW meetings. I do not know how far it was John Coventry's willingness to question the English refusal to accept - even to consider Rome's gentler approach on mixed marriages that caused his dismissal as Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission, but it must have contributed.

The other point I want to pick out from those three years is something that happened when John Coventry, as Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission for England and Wales, was appointed as a Roman Catholic observer at the Lambeth Conference of the Bishops of the Anglican Communion in 1968. He said his daily mass as usual each morning before he set out. He was also present at the eucharistic celebrations of the Lambeth Conference. (This was something very new for Catholics in those days.) One day, he said, he had a sudden conviction that what the bishops were doing at the eucharist was the same thing that he had been doing before he set out. It was another moment of ecumenical conversion. There are other Christians besides Roman Catholics who love the Lord. And now: a conviction that there are other churches besides the Roman Catholic Church that celebrate the eucharist. He began to think out what this meant in terms of Catholic theology and the self-understanding of the Roman Catholic Church. It didn't mean that all the big ecumenical questions were resolved. But it meant that he saw them in a new light.

Spode 1968
That was the same year in which we had our first Spode meeting, from which we date the beginning of the Association of Interchurch Families.  The small meeting of couples held in our house in Sheffield in the spring of 1968 had decided on a national conference and left Martin and me to organise it.  We felt we needed the presence of a Catholic priest.  Who could we ask to come? The answer was obvious. And from that first Spode meeting in 1968 until his death in 1998 John Coventry missed only one annual conference. To interchurch families he became 'our' Fr John.

W hat was it that held him for those thirty years? What bound him to us with such strong cords of pastoral love and understanding? 1 think it was his conviction that Christian experience is central in Christian faith. Faith is not about propositions, but about persons responding to God in Christ. Ecumenism is not primarily about doctrinal agreements, but about people coming together in  Christ.  Here at Spode were people who were expeliencing the effects of Chnstian. divisions in their lives in an unparalleled way, but m spIte 01 , that or perhaps because of it - they also had an experience of unitv that was way beyond the grasp of most Christians. This w'as especially true of Roman Catholics to Wh01ò the whole concept of Christian unity was so new at that tóme. . As a thinker, he was able to translate this expenence II1to theological terminology that would build on and contribute . . to the Catholic tradition and to Catholte ecumemsm. As a pastor, he was able to grasp the deep needô of interchurch couples and find ways to meet them baslca!ly wlthm the existing structures and canons but always gOll1g beyond them i;}such a way as, eventually, to change them. 'A man of action among thinkers.'

In his three years as Secretary of the Ecumenical Commission, he had become passionately concerned for Christian unitv. ]n interchurch families he saw grass-roots ecumenism in'volving Roman Catholics in a way that went far beyond the llsuatCatholic involvement in those days, and raised the kind of questions that he knew would eventually need to be faced by the churches. So he t?rew in his lot with us. Later he wrote (1991): 'r cannot begm to say how much I have learned from AIF meetings, national and regional, over the years. It is the concre"e relationsips, hopes, pains, partial achievements, tragic and comic and tragi-comic situations, which constitute the growth of the actual on-the-around Christians into unity. In early AIF meetings ther;was so much aggro against Catholics. I was there to be shot at, publiely and in more personal conversations, and to try to explain if not defend the often indefensible. I was there to write, to put into words and heard and published, the varied experience of C?Upleõ. was . there as a one-person referral point for advJCe, for gomg round a "white list" of priests all over England who would handle people sympathetically. I was a "poison pen" redrafting behind the scenes letters for couples to send to bishops, in order to keep up the pressure on them .... To be fair. the intricacies of two-church life are as subtle and varied as all personal relations, and Catholic pariöh clergy understandably took time to used to the truly mterchurch couple and to distinguish them from te numb÷rs of "merely mixed" marriages they met With. the chmate changed in time and is still changing. And AlF did a lot to chane:e it.' As a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, said when he chaired the first John Coventry Memorial Lecture, John was innovative, risk-taking, and had a high doctrine of AIF.

Already there was a lot of variety in the experiences of couples present at Spode 1968. One Catholic wifc was not married in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church she had married in an Anglican chureh without a dispensation because she and her Anglican partner refused to make the promise, and she had not received communiøn since the wedding. We knew that she would have received a dispens;tion if her bishop had sent the case to Rome with a positive request. An Anglican husband who had been married that summer in Italy had actually been gIven permission to share communion at the weddinù in his wife's church. Earlier in the year Martin and I had wntten an article in the Catholic ecumenical review One in Christ suggesting the possibility of the joint upbring ing of children . in both the churches of their parents - a startlmgly new proposal at that time. There were severa] engaged couples. There were three children under three, and a teenager who looked after them. There were two couples whose children had urown up. I have often recalled John Coventry's big smil on the first evening when he said: They're so pleased to meet; we must do this again.' From that moment he realised the value of the pastoral care that couples could give to couplcs.

Children and worship
The two big questions that came up at Spode 68 were the upbringing of the children and unity in worship fo: úouples and families. Fr John saw that it was good for families to worship together and to bring up their children together, but that in an ecumenical perspective this couldn't go on being a one-sided process, the Catholic partner couldn't continue for ever claiming exclusive rights in the marriage. But how could this be reconciled with the conviction of the Roman Catholic Church that it was 'church' in a way that other churches and ecclesial communities weren't? That was certainly a conviction that Fr John firmly held. This the rea] nub of the problem, for a Catholic. How to equality in marriage with the doctrinal position of the Roman Catholic Church.

John Coventrv came to a very practical resolution in terms of the confer;nce worship at Spode 68. We had said beforehand that it would be possible for conference members to attend Catholic mass and Anglican Holy Communion on the Sunday. Detailed plans were left until we met. W hat Fr John proposed was that since Saturday evening mass had corne in on the continent and fulfille their Sunday obligation for Catholics there (although thIS hadn't reached England yet) he should celebrate Sunday mass on Saturday evening. Then there should be an Anglican celebration on Sunday morning, and all conference members should attend both. It was a revolutionary proposal that set a pattern for future meetings. Catholics found themselves expected to attend . . the church worship of their partners as well as their own; It was surprising and liberating to find this attitude in a Catholic priest, and to find that he was also prepared to be . present. Fr John was sure that the WorShIP of other churc?es was authentic worship and Catholic spouses should take It seriously. It is diffieult to convey today how new that attitude was in 1968. Catholics were free to attend early mass on Sunday in the Dominican priory church, but tere was no expectation that they should do so. They were tree to make their own decisions.

Fr John's attitude was equally liberating for the other Christians in the group. Memory is not always reliable, but I think that it was from the very first Spode that Fr John used the formula that became known to many of us in later years. '} am not in the happy position ëf my colleague in being able to invite you all to eommUnIon, the rules of my churh do not allow it', he would begin. (In 1968 Martin had asked and received permission from the local Anglican bishop to admit members of the Free Churches to communion: after 1972 it was not necessary to ask annually for permissin for the occasion, because the general rules of the Church of England had changed.) 'However' ,Fr John would continue, 'I have been taught not to refuse anyone unless they are a notoriolls publie sinner'. He made it clear that if in the context of marriage to a Catholic other Christians felt it right to come forward for communion, he would welcome them. They were free to come.

Freedom
This was the amazing gift he gave us: freedom to make our own decisions. He had worked out a way by which we could have that freedom to decide for ourselves - a way that was fully within the Catholic tradition. On later occasions he repeated his formula in the presence of Catholic bishops at Spode, and they made no objeetion. But it was not just that he had a way of dealing with canon law and churcll documents that always produced 'a wider and more oenerous interpretation', to quote Bishop Sansbury. It was that his theology was deeply rooted in Catholic tradition, he knew that he stood within the tradition, he had this 'confident open faith' that allowed him to act on what he believed, however much he was slapped down for it. And he was; this was a recurrent pattern in his life. But he was never embittered. He never lost his intense love for, and his deep loyalty to, the Roman Catholic Church.

He trusted us to make our own responsible decisions in our particular situations; he trusted the work of the Spirit in us. Of course there was development over the years, but this came out of his oriainal insights. The question of reeiprocity was noan easy one for Romaì C:atholics, sincí . although admission to communion was offiCIally allowed 111 the Roman Catholic Church in certain circumstances, Catholic in similar circumstances were only permitted to receive communion where the orders of the celebrant were valid. We learned from Fr John a way of thinking about validity. Put in its simplest terms, it means that the Catholic Church recognises something - orders. sacraments, eucharist, marriage etc as authentic, something it can guarantee as a channel of grace. It cannot h?wever . guarantee a negative. Clearly the Holy Spmt has uîed thï ministries of other churches, although the Roman Cathohc Church does not reeognise them as valid. This understanding was helpful to Catholics in making decisions that vitally affected their married lives. Fr John always telt that reciprocity was important. For him. Christian experience was central in Christian faith - but ðñrticular . experienee always had to be tested agamst traditlon. and approached with rigorous theological methodology.

After he died, a memorial service was held at St Edmund's College Cambridge. where he had been Master 1976-1985. The hi1y was given by the (now retired) bishop who had been appointed in 1970 as chair of the Roman Catholie Ecumenical Commission after the bishops deCided John Coventrv should no longer be Secretary. He recalled how he himsòlf had been somewhat afraid of John, who with his immense intelligence, seemed to be following a line of his own. But. he said in 1998, he now knew 'it was the line of the church'. He wrote later that he grew to love and respect John, but that 'I never probed deep enough into his deep soul to find WHY he was happy with the freedom of the AIF'.

Freedom. I think it was his immense confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit that led John Coventó beyond accepted formulations and behaviour. I would lIke to quote from a letter written bv one of his students to The Tablet after his death. "In one conversation I had with him, I posed the question of what he would do if it were phôsically impossible to attend mass, but possible to receIVe the saerament at an Anglican eucharist. His answer rather took me aback. "'I have been in the position". he said, "of being able to attend mass, and have nevertheless received the sacrament at an Anglican eucharist". I asked him how he could square this with the fact that the Church did not accept the validity of Anglican orders, and his reply was, "So, you doubt the power of the Holy Spirit, do you?".'

The belief that the Holy Spirit has worked through the ministries and structures of other churches is not, of course, by itself a sufficient reason for intercommunion. This depends on relationships between churches. Fr John could see that it would be a very long time before the Roman Catholic Church would be able to enter into relationships with Reformation churches and ecclesial communities that would allow generalised intercommunion. In the meantime, the needs of interchurch families for reciprocal eucharistic sharing were urgent. He set forward a possible pastoral approach in an article in One in Christ in 1971. It was written to help other priests to work out a pastoral policy in a situation where unofficial intercommunion involving Catholics was happening. It concluded: 'The couples or the groups could be asked to realise that official approval of eucharistic sharing in their case is not yet to be expected; it would be tantamount to general ising their personal Christian relationship and declaring that it existed between their churches, when it does not. At the same time they could be urged, in forming their own decisions, to consider very carefully how they can best make their personally discovered and created Christian communion one that is fruitful for bringing their respective churches closer, and so ensure that it is not taken right out of and isolated from their loyalty to their own churches, and thus rendered barren.' He was asking for freedom - but freedom with responsibility, the responsibility of keeping close to the church communities to which individuals belonged. He wanted both to help couples and families on their way to God together, but also to make their experience fruitful for the whole Church and for Christian unity. I think we can say that the record of interchurch families in working with Councils of Churches and Churches Together at all levels has been a good one.

The Church and Christian unity
Fr John held strongly to the Catholic conviction that the church is a visible community, and that to be a Christian you must belong to the community. He would have nothing to do with the idea that a child could be baptised or brought up as 'just a Christian'. Thus (working with a Vatican II ecclesiology) he came up with his remarkable formula: interchurch parents were asking for 'baptism into the Church of Christ as it exists in the two ehurches of the parents'. This didn't mean that you were obliged to think of the two church communities as equal in a theological sense. The Catholic was free to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was 'more church' than that of his partner. But it meant that in the marriage there was a psychological equality, an equality of responsibility. This is an insight that is very important for the participation of Catho! ics in the ecumenical movement, applied to the 'little church' of the family.

Fr John loved to help at the baptisms of our children, and to watch them as they grew up. It was he who won the book token offered for the best title for 'The A4 Piece of Paper' that our teenagers began to produce in the early 1990's, coming up with The Interdependent. The title fitted in with his early insights about the help we all need from one another. Nothing ever phased him. There is the story of the child of four or five who had been clamouring for months to take her first communion, not wishing to be left behind her elder brother. She escaped from her parents and was first in the queue. Afterwards the parents asked if he knew she hadn't received her first communion. Fr John replied with a smile: 'Well, she has now!' I think he would be proud of our young people. The shared celebration of confirmation and the joint service of affirmation that took place last year would delight him. They show that some of our young people are carrying on the tradition of commitment to the Church of Christ as it exists in the two churches in which they have been brought up. I hope that our church communities will be able to listen to interchurch families as we talk of our experience of 'double belonging'. Fr John did so much to make that experience possible, and to give us a language in which to express it.