The next ‘In Joyful Hope: A New Step in Eucharistic Fellowship’ is set for Saturday 17 November during the 6 pm vigil mass at St Agnes’ Church in Andersonstown, Belfast.
As far as I know, this is the first time that In Joyful Hope has been incorporated into a regular mass or worship service. So far, the other events have been special ‘one-off’ services, usually held on evenings during the week.
In Joyful Hope invites people of faith from all traditions to share in Eucharist or communion in an intentional (but of course limited) way.
Churches from different denominations have taken turns hosting the events, which feature fully shared worship up until the point when Eucharist or communion is distributed.
When this point of the service is reached, all present observe the current ‘disciplines’ of their own churches in regards to whether it is appropriate to receive. As Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery, one of the founders of the In Joyful Hope Initiative, has said:
[The] 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 welcome the incorporation of In Joyful Hope into a regular mass, as this may raise greater awareness of the initiative (at least among Catholics in Andersonstown!).
And I think it sends a message that ecumenical fellowship should be something that happens naturally – in Christians’ ‘every day’ worship – rather than something that must always be organised specially.
Having In Joyful Hope during a regular vigil mass also reminds me of some of the recommendations made by Siobhan Garrigan in her book, The Real Peace Process: Worship, Politics and the End of Sectarianism. Although I’ve already reviewed the book on this blog, I reproduce four of her recommendations here, which for me resonate with this event (especially numbers 1 and 2):
- Every Christian, when planning, leading or participating in worship, should try to imagine what it would be like if a person from a different tradition to their own were present. She says, ‘What this visualization does is to lessen the chance of you saying or doing something sectarian in that service or else having a mechanism to challenge yourself when you do’ (p. 195).
- Every Christian ‘must ask ourselves how our worship should be performed to foster faithful living of faith tradition in our time’ (p. 198). She is convinced that ‘growing out of sectarianism might mean growing deeper in love with our own confessional tradition’ (p. 198). She says this to emphasise the point that is not just in joint worship or in ‘mixed marriages’ that Christians can move beyond sectarianism.
- Christians can ‘create, foster and participate in new encounters with other Christians across the denominational divide’ (p. 201). Here, she discusses the witness of the Clonard Monastery-Fitzroy Presbyterian fellowship. She also says that the Unity Pilgrims, another Clonard initiative, has also been exemplary in crossing boundaries, and that similar groups could be tried in other parts of the island.
- Christians should participate in ecumenical bible study, but ‘not as “study” in the sense of debate or discussion or education, but rather as prayer’ (p. 211).