BY F. C. PRICE
CHR1ST1AN unity must come from the informed laity and not be imposed from above. To achieve this there must be more frequent contact at all levels between members of the denominations. These were some of the conclusions reached at a conference attended by delegates from seven churches in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, last Saturday.
Organised by the Council for Christian Witness—a local body on which all the churches in the town are represented— it was designed to promote greater knowledge and understanding of the beliefs and attitudes of each denomination.
In his opening address Canon W. Garlick, chairman of Stockport Council. of Churches, said real unity consisted "not in papering over the cracks" but "in filling in the crevices" that separated the churches. Some of these "were deeper than we thought" hut others "were not so deep".
The conference then broke up into discussion groups. each consisting of Ii 1, delegates from the Methodist. Anglican. Catholic, Baptist. and Congregationalist Churches. the Salvationists and the Society of Friends. In these the delegates explained the attitude of their own church to such matters as prayer, worship, the family. the community. church music, church membership and unity.
In reporting back to the general meeting afterwards, delegate after delegate made it clear that this exchange of information had been "of immense value" and had "helped to dispel many misconceptions".
One study group concluded that while there was "a need for greater knowledge of the other denominations". Christians "still require the inward strength of their own particular church".
Although everyone thought "final union desirable". it was felt that "peisonality differences make it difficult to fix on one form of worship acceptable to everybody". It was urged that Christians "should present a united front on moral problems" and that they must "meet together as a body to discuss these".
Divergencies on prayer
The discussions on prayer and worship provided the widest divergencies, although one speaker pointed out that the service of the Society of Friends and the Roman Missal had one thing in common. They both "allowed anybody. anywhere at anytime to worship together",
There was a call for the modernisation of the liturgical language in all the churches, and for increased congregation participation in the services. Church music, it was agreed, must create "an elevating experience" and "enhance the act of worship". While contemporary music should not be excluded. some delegates felt uneasy about Beat music".
Summing up, Canon Garlick said that the delegates "must now be concerned with enthusing the other members of their own churches". This would be difficult when "so many were on the periphery" ind showed "little active interest in their own denominations".
"We have a crusade before us to revivify English society. We must combat materialism. The Christian Church must be alive to the challenge of today, and must, therefore, speak with a united voice," he said.