Minister appointed to strengthen presence of Reformed Church in Rome
Published on 5 September 2023 5 minutes read
A minister has been appointed to strengthen the presence of the Reformed Churches relating to the Vatican and other ecumenical bodies in Rome, and provide spiritual leadership to the Church of Scotland's congregation in the Italian capital.
Rev Tara Curlewis will serve in two roles:- as the new minister of St Andrew's Church and as the Reformed Ecumenical Officer for the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).
She said she was looking forward to taking up a calling that is grounded in an international and multicultural congregation and "exercising ministry in an exciting ecumenical setting".
Ms Curlewis said ecumenism "is in her DNA" and churches are "at their best when their voices unite to advocate for shared concerns together".
The Reformed Ecumenical Officer role will see her develop dialogue, engagement and joint action for peace and justice with ecumenical partners and give momentum to Reformed initiatives in the ecumenical setting.
Ms Curlewis will act as a liaison to support cooperation amongst the WCRC and its member churches, the Waldensian Church, and the Church of Scotland with the Roman Catholic Church, particularly with the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Employed by the Church of Scotland as a Mission Partner on a fixed-term four-year contract, the Uniting Church of Australia minister will also cooperate with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Conference of European Churches and World Council of Churches.
She will also engage with the British and Australian Ambassadors to the Holy See and other members of the diplomatic corps.
St Andrew's Church was established in Rome 161 years ago and can accommodate 100 people comfortably.
Its congregation today comes from all the continents and is diverse and international.
A simple four-storey building constructed in the style of a Florentine palazzo, it houses the sanctuary and manse, complete with roof terrace with views of the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica.
In addition to serving the diverse international congregation as a Minister of Word and Sacrament, Ms Curlewis will act as an ambassador for the Church of Scotland.
She is expected to support the congregation's commitment to participating within the wider ecumenical community in Rome, to engage with the work of Churches Together in Rome and strengthen collaboration with Mediterranean Hope, the refugee and migrant programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.
Ms Curlewis will lead worship and offer the sacraments in the Reformed tradition, sensitive to the international nature of the congregation, including a variety of worship styles, provide pastoral support and encourage people to take services.
She was ordained in 1994 as a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, a sister church to the Church of Scotland and a member church of the WCRC.
She has served congregations in rural and urban locations in New South Wales (NSW) and served as the president of the NSW Ecumenical Council and also as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA).
Ms Curlewis explained: "Ecumenism has always been in my DNA and engaging ecumenically is always at the forefront of ministry for me.
"When I am in the ecumenical spaces, I am filled with an inner stirring of God's perichoresis and have a sense of that same stirring as I prepare to take up the role of Mission Partner in Rome, which provides strategic opportunities to uphold and promote the concerns of the reformed churches.
"During my time as the General Secretary of the NCCA, I developed connections and friendships with many ecumenical partners around the globe and look forward to working with friends and colleagues in this role.
"It feels like a natural step and I am looking forward to the opportunity to equip and build ecumenical capacity within the WCRC member churches."
Ms Curlewis said her previous experience provided her with many opportunities to develop worship that is culturally and linguistically inclusive and raise the concerns of the churches with political and civil society leaders.
Rev Ian Alexander, who leads on International Partnerships for the Church of Scotland, welcomed the news.
"The cooperation with WCRC and the Waldensian Church in appointing a Reformed Ecumenical Officer is a significant step for the Church of Scotland and the broader Reformed movement," he said.
"Tara Curlewis brings to the role a history of engagement and action within the Uniting Church of Australia and the National Council of Churches of Australia in building relationships with international ecumenical bodies.
"It is a good fit, relating to the Vatican and the other world communions with representatives based in Rome.
"The congregation of St Andrew's has been vacant for a number of years and will be glad to have a permanent minister to work with them and share in their ministry amongst the English-speaking community in Rome, and reaching out in service."
Ms Curlewis is expected to take up her post in November and will be paid a salary by the Church of Scotland.
The WCRC and the Waldensian Church will cover the costs of running a new Reformed Ecumenical Office which will be supported in its work by an Advisory Board, appointed by WCRC, the Waldensian Church and the Church of Scotland.
Inge Weustink, session clerk of St Andrew's Church, said: "The congregation is grateful and excited to welcome Tara Curlewis as their minister.
"I am confident that she, with her extensive experience in ministry and mission, will be able to help us build community, grow in faith and serve others.
"We are looking forward to working with her."
The WCRC is comprised of 100 million Christians in Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches.
With 233 member churches, it is active in supporting theology, justice, church unity and mission in over 105 countries.
Rev Dr Hanns Lessing, acting General Secretary of WCRC, said WCRC is excited to open its new office in Rome and welcome Ms Curlewis to her post.
"We hope that the new office will develop the cooperation of the member churches of the WCRC with the Roman Catholic Church and the wider ecumenical fellowship in Rome," he added.
"We thank the Church of Scotland and the St Andrew's congregation in Rome for their support and look forward to good collaboration in the future."