Diocese of Portsmouth

    Christians pledge to work for greater unity

    2 June 2003

    CHRISTIANS from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have pledged to forge even closer links across their denominational boundaries.Around 1,400 worshippers at a United Service in Portsmouth's Roman Catholic cathedral yesterday (Sunday 1 June) promised to work more closely together as they took part in a formal act of commitment.The service - entitled 'Celebrate Together' - brought together Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and those of all other denominations from across the two counties. It was the first time that a service on this scale had happened in this area for 13 years.All the cathedral's 800 seats were taken, and many worshippers had to squeeze into alcoves, stand 10-deep at the back of the congregation or sit on the floor at the east end. The worship was led by a massed choir of more than 100 people from all denominations and a Salvation Army band.The event also showcased dozens of Christian projects that are already happening in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight across denominational boundaries - from joint websites to joint holiday clubs, from prison and university chaplaincies to Christian bookshops. Representatives of those ecumenical projects brought symbols of their work forward during the service and displayed aspects of their work afterwards.The Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Crispian Hollis, who is chairman of Churches Together in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, led the service. He said: "This is a significant milestone in the life of Churches Together in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight." The Rev Tom Stuckey, chairman of the Southampton Methodist District, preached on the parable of the prodigal son. He compared the reactions of the two brothers in the story to different types of churches - one remains faithful to the traditions and to the past, the other feels trapped by such traditions and has to find new ways of doing things. Yet both receive their father's love, grace and inheritance, in the same way as all of us receive God's love, grace and inheritance. For the full text of his sermon, click here.County ecumenical officer, Dr Paul Rolph, of Churches Together in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said: "It was a magnificent occasion, with fantastic music, a sense of genuine unity and a real desire for us all to continue to work together as Christians."It's heartening to see that so many people want to put our unity as Christians at the top of their agendas. That much was obvious from the huge range of cross-denominational projects we saw and heard about, as well as the massive turnout."The service ended with a blessing from each one of the Christian leaders present - including the Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson; the Anglican Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt; the Anglican Bishop of Basingstoke, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott; the Salvation Army's Divisional Commander Ian Barr; the general secretary of the Southern Baptist Association, the Rev Frank Boyd; the moderator of the Wessex synod of the URC, the Rev Adrian Bulley; the clerk of the Alton Preparative Meeting (Quakers), Geoffrey Pilliner; and Pastor David Price from the Pentecostal churches and International Gospel Outreach. Both before and after the service, worshippers were able to study details of around 20 joint projects, including:'The Well': a Christian bookshop and café in West Street, Fareham, launched and run by churches in Fareham working together;

    Denmead Activities and Bible School (DABS): a holiday club run each year in Denmead by churches of all denominations in the village working together;

    www.portsmouthchurches.co.uk: a website listing church services and events at churches of all denominations within the city of Portsmouth. It was launched last year;

    Churches Together in Wootton: a project to create a new health centre or community centre in Wootton, on the Isle of Wight, working in partnership with the parish council.

    There were also displays from those involved across denominational boundaries in industrial chaplaincy, promoting Fairtrade products, ecological awareness and university chaplaincy.