The Ecumenical dimension of the life of St Christopher’s is integral to who we are as a Church community and is one of the great strengths of the Anglican Church. As a community we are home to people of a great variety of church backgrounds, who throw themselves into the life of St Christopher’s, like Erin (left) who is now training for Presbyterian ministry at Yale Divinity School, who preached at an American Thanksgiving Service in the Cathedral. Our compound is also used by a great number of different church groups with whom we rub shoulders each week. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church who meet in the Alun Morris Hall on Sunday mornings are one such group.
The older Church communities here are the National Evangelical Church, linked with the Reformed Church of America, adjacent to The American Mission Hospital, the Roman Catholic Church – Sacred Heart, who also share a church in Awali with us, and several branches of the Orthodox Church.
There are more formal times to come together as in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Service at Sacred Heart Church and the Women’s World Day Of Prayer annual service which St Christopher’s has in recent years hosted. And there are special events in each church to which ecumenical friends are invited as when the Roman Catholic Diocese was being re-organized and Bishop Camillo Ballin became Bahrain’s Diocesan Bishop instead of Bishop Paul Hinder.
But from those formal occasions comes the start of friendships and links. At the first Friday of the New Year, at Epiphany, we welcomed Jesus Youth from Sacred Heart who presented a powerful mimed biblical drama based on the song Our God is an Awesome God.
Living Room Dialogues are a good way for us to explore the Ecumenical dimension of life in Bahrain. We have had several speakers from different church traditions. US Navy Chaplain Brent Scott, introducing the sermons of Lancelot Andrews and Post Modernity; Pastor Isaac Inayat from the NEC Urdu Language Congregation speaking on the persecution in the experience of Christians in Pakistan and Dr Maher Abouseif from the Egyptian Coptic Church reflecting on Faith in Work.
Of course some groups are linked together less by denomination than by language. It was a privilege to share in a small group of Chinese Christians who meet together to sing and pray and study in Mandarin.
And then there are the para-church groups who draw their membership from across a variety of churches; like the Gideons and the Bible Society, who have a small Resource Centre on the Cathedral compound and stock a variety of Bibles, Christian books and other resources.
It is amazing when representatives of many different churches come together occasionally for a big celebration, as at the dawn service at the American Mission Hospital/NEC car park. More than a thousand people gathered on what is a regular working day in Bahrain to celebrate the reality of Christ risen.