Later today I am honoured to be taking part in the funeral service for street pastor, Eddy Weston, who was tragically killed when walking across a car park in Ormskirk two weeks ago. I got to know Eddy as a kind and sensitive man through his voluntary work at Martin Mere. We shall all miss him.
Eddy, a member of St Anne’s Church, was very much committed to the ecumenical project, to the churches of different denominations moving towards a true unity in Christ. So it is fitting that his wife Pat has asked for an ecumenical service in which the leaders of the different Ormskirk churches will be taking part. I will be taking the prayers. Do join with me in spirit.
It struck me that in my 20 years here I have only taken part in the services of the other Ormskirk churches a very few times; it hardly ever happens. So how is the movement towards Christian unity developing here is Ormskirk? Has it got stuck? Something to reflect on as Francis 1 awaits his papal enthronement.
While the ecumenical movement can be dated from the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference and then from the foundation of the World Council of Churches in 1948, it really only got going here in England in the 1960’s/1970’s. This usually took the form of special one-off services, as the Christians from the different churches started to worship together, somewhat hesitantly at first. Ormskirk was no exception. Exciting times.
However, by the time I arrived here in Aughton these joint services were finally running out of steam. Whenever we had such a service, only the members of the host church would turn up. All the other saints stayed at home.
Nevertheless we stayed with the Good Friday united act of witness in Ormskirk centre, certainly for us the main service on that sacred day.
However, the movement was now morphing into something more radical as the churches and not just individual Christians started serving in partnership. This was not just for the sake of working together but simply to get something done.
So Ormskirk Churches Together has given birth to the highly successful street pastors, now to the West Lancashire debt advice (official opening on Saturday 27 April) and to the projected food bank (please pray for a suitable storage facility). Here we have the churches being salt and light for the people of Ormskirk.
Again Park Praise in the heart of Ormskirk showed what the different churches could achieve when working in partnership – and drawing other parts of the community around us. It wasn’t just the churches but only the churches could make it happen.
In this the resource of the Boiler House in Burscough Street, provided by Ormskirk Christian Fellowship, is invaluable. In fact, the whole ecumenical project in Ormskirk was enlivened when OCF made the strategic decision to get involved. The outcome is so much more that the sum of the different churches working apart.
In all this Ormskirk Churches Together has moved from a talk shop to an entrepreneurial centre. And for this we can praise God.
So here at Christ Church we have a growing commitment to Ormskirk Churches Together – Pete Chalk is now secretary, for example. It is the only way we can minister to our town rather than just our parish, as reflected in our strapline revised after the 2020 consultation.
Rather than aiming to share Jesus with everyone beginning in our parish, we now aim to share Jesus with everyone beginning with our community.
And it is disciples like Eddy Weston, who represented St Anne’s on Ormskirk Churches Together, who make this possible. So it is only fitting that we all take part in his funeral service as a demonstration of what the Holy Spirit is actually doing amongst us.
Don’t forget to sign up for 48 hours of prayer starting this time next week – sign up board is in the Ministry Centre and on Sundays, in church. Christians working together begins with Christians praying together.