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Belonging: Globally and Locally

On the August Bank Holiday, I got up early to catch a flight. I had been invited to represent the Church of England at a theological conference in Germany that brought together people from the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht.

There were also representatives from three other churches with which both Anglicans and Old Catholics are in communion: the Church of Sweden (which is Lutheran), the Mar Thoma Church (based in India), and the Philippine Independent Church.

That may sound rather obscure, but it was a real joy to worship, pray, talk and study with Christians from other churches and other countries. We felt the reality of our communion with one another in the warmth of relationships that crossed all kinds of barriers, including language.

The conference was conducted in English – for which I was extremely grateful – but we moved between different languages in our services, and you could hear a variety too in the dining room and the bar. A memorable rendition of ‘Abide with Me’ at evening prayer had us singing verses by turns in English, Dutch and German.

To be an Anglican is to belong to a local church that fits into a much bigger whole. Globally, that extends to the worldwide Anglican Communion and beyond it to other church bodies with which we have formal relations. Closer to home, each church community is part of Ashford Town Parish, which is part of the Diocese of Canterbury.

How the local church fits into the bigger whole hinges for Anglicans on the ministry of bishops. It’s our bishops who connect us together within the diocese, and it’s our bishops who then help to link us to other churches nationally and internationally. Our ‘local’ church is, at one level, not the place we go on a Sunday or even our parish, but the body of Christians that gathers around our bishop. It’s the diocese.

Bishop Rose is coming to our parish for the deanery roadshow on Wednesday evening – 7pm at St Mary’s Ashford Town Centre. Do please consider whether you might be able to come along and be part of this. As Anglicans, the diocese is our church too!

The Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen

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