On Sunday I found myself worshipping in York Minster. Bizarrely it was the second time in under a fortnight that I was served communion by an Archbishop! But that’s another story.
The most significant person I met that morning – apart from Christ in the Eucharist – was not Archbishop SENTAMU but an old man called Angelo.
In a packed congregation of hundreds I found myself sitting next to an old man who turned about to be Italian but who had lived in York for many years.
In the few moments before the service Angelo and I ended up chatting and I asked why a Roman Catholic Italian was attending a Protestant service in York Minster?
He shared his testimony of how many years ago he had been far from God but was still attending Catholic church from time to time.
One Christmas his Catholic church in York was closed as the heating system had broken down. So he went to a Christmas service at the Minster.
At that service he encountered God in a new and life-changing way and since that day he has attended evensong each day.
He spoke of how he now knew that ‘labels’ mean nothing and that we all worship the same Jesus Christ.
I was then able to share with him my testimony of serving the French Catholic church as a Protestant Evangelical missionary for 14 years.
We embraced as brothers.
That felt like a ‘God-moment’ to me, like God was reminding me of how He has done something in Sharon and my hearts and lives which has opened us up to the ecumenical imperative of John 17;
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
that all of them may be one (John 17:20, NIV)
I’m not that sure what this encounter ‘means’.
But I think it was at least a reminder to Sharon and I that in our hearts God has put a deep love for our Catholic brothers and sisters and of all the other ‘sheep that are of a different sheep-fold’.
I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold (John 10:16, NLT)
As we approach the end of this ministry in Leicester, whatever we do, and wherever we go, we will do and go as people who embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of their spiritual tradition.