As the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity draws to a close I am reminded of the events I used to attend as a child, when Christians from the town would regularly meet together and whether you were a Baptist, Methodist, Anglican or Salvation Army was irrelevant. We would be encouraged to attend ecumenical events, to hear speakers in different churches, to know our fellows Christians in the town and celebrate events both in peoples faith journeys and in other churches calendars. Visitors were expected and welcomed unquestioningly.
Fast forward to the 21st century and each churches now has their own mission programme, looking to spread the gospel and, if they are honest, grow. Churches have to balance their books. New faces mean possible new 'regular givers', which will help plug the gaps in the colander of the church budget. We no longer look to 'big events' put on by other churches, as a way of helping ourselves and friends to grow in faith. Instead we either look to events within our own church, or we go outside our town to the big anonymous Christian festivals. I have to confess I love these events, with access to teaching on a daily basis and worshipping with thousands of others. However, I mourn the local unity that appears to have been sacrificed, as all our energy is swallowed up by the outreach initiatives of our individual churches. For a quick spiritual fix we travel beyond our town to the 'big name' worship events. I suspect that we rarely look at what is happening across our town, fearful of our fellow churches that have become the opposition, leaving me with the question can unity and mission co-exist in the 21st century? Someone prove me wrong. Please!