I’ve blogged previously about the initiative instigated by an ecumenical group of clergy in the Belfast area, ‘In Joyful Hope: A New Step in Eucharistic Fellowship.’ Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery is one of the clergy involved, and he has written a reflection on the initiative in the latest issue of Redemptio, the newsletter of Clonard’s Reconciliation Mission (June 2011).
I picked up a copy of Redemptio on Ecumenical Day at the Clonard Novena. Throughout the year, I’ve posted several blog posts about the ‘In Joyful Hope’ initiative.
Reynolds’ reflection includes an account of how the initiative began, explaining that he was invited by four Protestant ministers – Rev. Jim Campbell, emeritus minister of Cooke Centenary Presbyterian Church; Canon Ken Smyth, rector of St Mark’s Church of Ireland in Newtownards; Rev. David Cooper, retired Methodist chaplain of Oxford University and Rev. Dennis Cooke, retired principal of Edgehill Methodist College – to join with them in forming a ‘Eucharistic Fellowship.’
Reynolds describes it this way:
From the beginning there was a tangible joy among us and a genuine trust in one another. In our first meeting we rehearsed the truth of our real but incomplete communion. They all wanted Catholic Eucharistic discipline respected in whatever celebrations we were able to develop together. The restrictive Catholic discipline would apply to them when present at the celebration of Mass and it would apply to me when present at Methodist, Presbyterian or Church of Ireland Holy Communion. Their key thought was that the joy of being present at the Eucharistic worship of another Christian tradition is greater than the pain experienced by not being able to share fully in the celebration. I was already aware of this through being present at Sunday worship as a Catholic Unity Pilgrim.
Reynolds’ account of the process mentions how important it was for the organisers to share with each other what the Eucharist means to them personally. I think the importance of this can’t be underestimated – despite their inability to actual lyeat the bread and drink the wine together, they can still learn much about the Eucharist from each other. Reynolds writes:
In our second meeting each one explained what sharing in the Eucharist meant to him in his personal life of faith. That exchange heightened our awareness of the amazing Eucharistic grace given to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the bonds he creates among us through co-inherence in him.
Finally, Reynolds asks: What has “In Joyful Hope” accomplished so far?
We have taken a truly new step in Eucharistic Fellowship. We have surrendered ourselves anew to the Lord’s will revealed in his prayer “Father, may they all be one” (John 17.21). We have been edified, inspired and encouraged by one another’s faith in the sacrament of Holy Communion/Eucharist.
Critics may say we have changed nothing. The Catholic Eucharistic Discipline remains in place and we are faithful to it in each celebration. But the liberating truth is that we have moved away from polemical attitudes and drawn closer to one another through the shared celebrations in the Eucharist. Through “In Joyful Hope” we have promoted deep mutual respect and undermined divisions. In view of our history that’s a significant and worthwhile achievement.
The initiative will continue in the autumn on Thursday 29 September at St Dorothea’s Church of Ireland in Gilnhirk, Belfast. I would like to see the initiative adopted more widely in other parts of Ireland, especially leading up to the Catholic Church’s 2012 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
You can read my blog on the Clonard Novena’s Ecumenical Day here.
You can also read previous blogs about In Joyful Hope: