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No Cross, No Resurrection

The Revd Roger Nunn, Field Officer (South) of Churches Together in England, was present at the AIF Swan wick in August 1992. Here we give the text of the address which he gave during the Saturday evening celebration of the Eucharist according to the Baptist tradition, presided over by the Revd Ruth Matthews. 

Let me share a personal story. My week began at Minehead, where I was conducting services at the Baptist church and staying with friends nearby. Having a few days holiday owing to me, I decided to walk home, or as much of the way as I could. So on Monday morning I set out along Exmoor from west to east, stopping overnight at Exford, staying with a Baptist minister friend at Watchet on the second night, and on the third day walking over the Quantocks to Bridgwater from where I caught a train home. The only problem was that it rained most of the way! The kind people in the small hotel at Exford put all my clothes in the spindrier, and the friends at Watchet gave me another dry and welcoming night. 

However, I look back on this brief August pilgrimage with considerable pleasure and satisfaction, my sense of achievement all the greater because of the modest amount of hardship endured. Meeting with other walkers, enjoying the natural world, will stay in my memory for a long time. And since I talk a lot about pilgrimage in the course of my work, but hardly ever go on one, there was plenty of food for thought. 

Above all, it reinforced something that I have believed in theory all along -a simple enough truth which goes to the heart of some of your experience in interchurch families. It could be summarised thus:

No pain, no joy;
no hardship, no achievement; 
no suffering, no growth; 
no cross, no resurrection. 

I have listened to some of your stories during the time that I have been able to be here at Swanwick, and what I hear is a mixture of pain and joy: the pain of what you still cannot do together, and the joy of anticipating the one church in your own family life and of developing rich religious experiences for yourselves and your children. 

I believe that your "cross" experience will lead to "resurrection". One day we shall be able to eat and drink together at the table of the Lord, to share each other's ministries, and experience fully the one baptism. As recently as the 1970s it wasn't officially possible for Free Church people to receive communion at Anglican tables. Rules can be changed. 

We in Churches Together in England are trying to sort out what kind of "unity" we are really looking for. Is the phrase "conciliar fellowship" useful to us? The New Testament word koinonia (communion, fellowship) is becoming more prominent. Churches Together in England is launching a fiveyear exploration process and I hope you will be involved. This may help us towards some kind of "resurrection" of the ecumenical hope. 

So I would say, be patient, but not too patient; keep pressing and one day the walls which divide us will surely come down. The Christian story says, no resurrection without a cross, no grace on the cheap, no true joy unless you take suffering seriously. It also says, no cross without resurrection. It's a painful business, but one day the church will live in the freedom of the resurrection. And then AIF can have its last meeting, because we will all be one church. I am working to put your organisation out of business, and I hope this is your dream too. Meanwhile, "I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the splendour, as yet unrevealed, which is in store for us." [Romans 8:18] 



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