I intend to return to Dark Holy Ground in the future but this will be my last post about it for a while (until I find the paperwork). I want to reflect on ecumenism in the light of what happened in Cleveland over 20 years ago.
- RESPOND! and Dark Holy Ground were ecumenical projects - they were conceived as such from the outset and the spirit of collaboration was largely unimpeded by the usual concerns about unity. I am not saying these concerns are unimportant; merely that they did not in any way impede this work.
- A great deal of ecumenical work is of this type. An issue is identified and the relevant churches get together to address it. This happens to such an extent that it seems there are almost two ecumenisms; that of formal conversations and that of informal collaboration. To a large degree these continue independently of each other. This is equally true between national churches and between local churches. For now I simply make this observation.
- The experience of Dark Holy Ground raises other questions about ecumenism. The exercise of listening to marginalised people changed the lives of those people. It brought people at the margins of the churches into the mainstream of the lives of the churches; to the extent that a range of church leaders were able to speak to government ministers on the behalf of the marginalised. It could be asked whether churches could have enabled direct conversations between the government and long term unemployed but for its time this was a radical departure.
- Dark Holy Ground presented the churches with the image of the dark face of God and this is something the churches together still need to hear and experience. There is a great deal of talk of sharing the treasures of our traditions and perhaps too little willingness to explore the dark places in relationships between churches. Even churches that are habitual close collaborators at times find themselves facing darker dimensions to their relationships.
- And what of relationships where one potential partner refuses to recognise the other as Christian? Such debates, or sometimes confrontations, quickly lead us all in dark places. (If you don't recognise me and my tradition, how can I possibly recognise you and yours?) These confrontations are not peripheral and sometimes reach the very core of our mainstream churches.