Review of The Gathering 2012

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SOURCE: Pobl Dewi Newsletter - St Davids Diocesean (by Jenny Kimber)

Torrential rain didn’t daunt the 300 delegates who travelled to Aberystwyth from all parts of Wales to attend The Gathering on 13th October, reports Jenny Kimber

THE five covenanted churches in Wales have agreed a three-year-long consultation to identify a pathway to partnership in a united Church.
The Church in Wales, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Reformed, and Covenanted Baptist Churches were all represented at The Gathering, described by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, as “the most important ecumenical event in Wales for a very long time”.

The aim was to build on the 1975 Covenant, later named ENFYS, in which the five denominations agreed “to work and pray in common obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that, by the Holy Spirit, we may be brought into one visible Church to serve together in mission to the glory of God the Father.”

The Gathering was led by Revd Gethin Abraham-Williams, who chairs the Commission of the Covenanted Churches in Wales, of which Bishop Wyn is a member. Also present was Revd Martin Conway, who was present when the 1975 Covenant was signed. Bishop Wyn described the event as “a significant step on the pathway to Christian unity in Wales”. Gethin praised the progress that the churches have made in respond- ing to changes since 1975 and he set into context a new set of studies initiated by a Commission working party. These include a new form of Holy Communion Service for use by the covenanted churches, and a discussion document which we are encouraged to regard as ‘an artist’s impression . . . of what the Covenanting Household of Faith here in Wales might look like, rather than the actual plans’.

“The implications of the reports in terms of ecclesiology and ministry are significant,” Bishop Wyn told Pobl Dewi. “They are an exciting and innovative way of focussing the churches on their prime task of being churches of mission to the people of Wales.”

Once the consultation period is over, it is hoped that the recommendations in the discussion documents, suitably polished and refined, may become firm proposals for the future.

A drama, presented by Theatr Troed y Rhiw, made us squirm as we heard how, in the past, each denomination has ‘fought its corner’. An interview session followed, aptly called ‘rearranging the deck chairs’. Three church members from the younger generation highlighted the need for us to respond to the challenge of a declining church, whose divisions are a scandal to those on the inside and an irrelevance to those on the outside.

One of the day’s highlights was the address by Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, whose message was one of optimism, emphasising that ‘we know that what unites us is also what gives us hope. Today, tomorrow, forever.’

The day ended with a service of Holy Communion, using the new liturgy. To see the five representatives saying together the words of consecration was immensely moving. To quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “The world is too strong for a divided church”. Can The Gathering galvanise us into taking the all-important steps towards ‘The Church Uniting in Wales’? Why not?

Full details of the Commission’s recommendations and the new order for Holy Communion can be found here:


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