The chaplaincy article is written by the Rev Sam van Leer, Groningen chaplain.
2017 is a momentous year. Lots of referenda and elections have taken place and will do, and community, political and international relations seem under particular strain in these uncertain times. So the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in late January this year has had special poignancy, not least too because this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s effective launching of the Reformation after (as legend has it) nailing his 95 Theses critiquing indulgences, sacramental confession, and other practices to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, throughout the world, churches of different denominations pray together that we be reconciled, that we be one in Christ, as Jesus Himself prayed we would be, in John chapter 17: 20 ‘I ask not only on behalf of these [disciples], but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ‘
From these words, we see that Christian fellowship is a witness to the Trinitarian nature of God and shows how we relate to God. Christian unity also brings God glory. That said, we are mindful of the rich variety of the Christian Church, worldwide and closer to home, and all that we can receive from each other. The Anglican Church has never claimed to be THE Church, but always confessed to being part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. As such, we have a rich, distinctive and valued contribution to make, but also a lot to learn.
One of the well-wrought intercessions in the Epiphany material of Common Worship asks: ‘That the Church may discover again that unity which is the Father’s will.’ What sort of unity is the Father’s will, how do we prayerfully discern it? And what contribution can we make to build peace and reconciliation in the Church and beyond?
In the Netherlands, nationally, as well as locally, we do our bit towards Christian unity. Two small recent instances, close to ‘home’: Nationally, the Anglican Church has sat on the Netherlands Council of Churches for many years. And in November, the Executive Committee of the Anglican Church in the Netherlands had the pleasure to welcome the General Secretary, Klaas van der Kamp, and the new Chairman, Dirk Gudde, of the National Council of Churches, to Holy Trinity for an afternoon of fellowship. We shared tea and scones, showed off the beautiful church and enjoyed warm conversation. For a perspective on the visit, see the Council of Churches’ website, .
And in January, Grace Church Groningen participated in a local series of prayer evenings for the Week of Prayer, hosting an event for students and others, highlighting the reconciliatory work of Christ revealed in Romans 5: 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.’
May this year be one of reconciliation, in and for Christ.
Yours in Christ,
The Revd Sam Van Leer