A PROGRESS report on the Thamesmead Ecumenical Project, comprising an Ecumenical Centre and an inter-denominational "team ministry", including two Catholic priests, under a Presiding Minister, was given last week at a Press conference.
Thamesmead Is the Greater London Council scheme to house 60.000 people over the next 15 years near the Thames, in the Diocese of Southwark.
The Rev. Derek Baker, Presbyterian minister of St. Andrew's, Woolwich and executive officer of the Ecumenical Project, said its structure had been designed in such a way that the participating denominations "continue to contribute their own distinctive witness to Christ."
The Rev. Alan Bradbury, priest in charge of William Temple Anglican Church, who is chairman of the project's Interim Group Ministry, said the team ministry included members of all the participating denominations.
There would be neighbourhood ministers with pastoral responsibilities for specific areas, and specialist ministers working the whole town. The interim group ministry at present comprised two Anglicans, two Catholics, two Methodists, a Presbyterian and a Congregationalist.
Its function was to plan and pioneer the Thamesmead Christian Community (as the Ecumenical Project was to be renamed) as the town developed. There were plans for specialist ministers to join the group, in particular an industrial specialist (a Congrega tional minister) and an Anglican (head of the religious education department of the comprehensive school).
The Anglicans were to advertise for a pastoral/social worker. The special difficulties engendered by the borough boundaries of Greenwich and Bexley dividing parts of Thamesmead provided such a worker with many opportunities of co-operating with the statutory social workers.
An Area Council, composed of clergy and laity of all denominations, Which would operate at "grass roots." Together with the group ministry, it has recruited and trained a team of lay visitors who will visit all new residents within 15 days of arrival to give a welcome and to be of service. and to link up Christians with the Thamesmead Christian Community.
The Catholic representatives on the Project Committee are Mgr. Edward Mahony, secretary of the Southwark Diocesan Schools Commission, and Fr. F. O'Sullivan, parish priest of Abbey Wood and Thamesmead. A statement of their attitude says: "All we can do together we will do together.
"Joint liturgical services have already been organised, and will continue to be developed. We do not yet feel that it is an opportune time to join with others in Eucharistic
worship, since this we regard as a sign of unity achieved. Joint Bible discussion groups will be organised.
"It should not prove difficult to organise some joint form of pre-marriage talks. We are engaging in "spiritual" ecumenism. We are discussing between ourselves what we believe, and so discovering our common ground, together with our differences.
"We have a great deal in common, though we differ on some important points. It should not prove difficult for us to evolve forms of joint Christian Social Action, as and when the need arises.
"We anticipate that something like 3.000 practising Catholics will move into Thamesmead. This will put a great deal of pressure on to us for the provision of Catholic schools, together with places of worship.
"It is accepted that it will be very difficult for us to share a church with others on a Sunday. But we hope to integrate a Catholic church within the Ecumenical Centre. Permission has been given for the church to be located within the same complex of buildings."
The Project Committee has recommended that provision for the Ecumenical Centre should be limited to an estimated cost of £200,000. This would include a church to seat 150, a hall to seat 500. a restaurant and 12 study-bedrooms.