Unity in Guildford
A GROUP of Christians of all denominations were recovering in Guildford this week from seven days of hectic activity during which they organised a playscheme for children on holiday.
The play-scheme project, which has been running for two years, is one sign of the ecumenical spirit which has been flourishing in the area for several years. Among the parishes which have given it a warm welcome is that of St Pius Merrow.
The parish's involvement in inter-Church work began about 10 years ago when, rather haltingly, one of two Catholics (by special invitation and often by rather grudging permission) took part in the British Council of Churches' "People Next Door" discussion programme.
It was an early attempt to get different Christians to understand something about those neighbours who belonged to other Churches.
Now, however, people in Guildford are showing a deepen ing sense of unease with the ban on full intercommunion. Increasingly, people are beginning to question whether such a barrier is really relevant in a context where so much worship and work is done together.
The "People Next Door" programme set the ball rolling. It went very well in Merrow and led to other contacts, more house discussion groups, prayers during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and sharing in the Christian Aid collections.
But it was in the Methodist social responsibility committee that something bigger came about: a neighbourhood care scheme was mooted, and for a
year carefully researched by a committee of Methodists, Anglicans and Catholics. After a lot of joint hard work (and looking at schemes, notably Rickmanssvorth), "Care for Guildford" was launched with the backing of the Guildford Council of Churches.
It is now a 24-hour service manned by duty officers, covering transport, help in the home, visit ing — all on an emergency basis. There are more than 200 occasional volunteers and sometimes over 80 calls a week. This is entirely an inter-Church effort which was started in Merrow.
A joint house-to-house newsletter has also been produced, and the churches circulate cards every year containing details of Christmas and Easter Services. A "road warden" scheme to welcome newcomers is another of their schemes.
Fr Brian O'Sullivan the parish priest of St Pius Merrow, is the first Catholic chairman of the Guildford Council of Churches and the ministers' fraternal.
The council's latest initiative is to have arranged a festival of the Holy Spirit, which will take place in Guildford Cathedral on May 31. The festival, in an Anglican church under the auspices of an ecumenical committee with a Catholic chairman, is a telling sign of a fruitful partnership.
Bishop Cormac MurphyO'Connor of Arundel and Brig hton, in whose diocese St Pius Merrow comes, has listed ecumenism as one of the diocese's top priorities. Clearly the people of St Pius Merrow have taken his words seriously and are doing something about it.
, Monica Comferford