Kirk joins landmark ecumenical partnership in Cumbria

The Church of Scotland has joined with partner Churches in Cumbria to work together on a shared ecumenical vision.

Partners and companions signing ecumenical agreement
At the Advent service the partner churches signed a new Declaration of Covenant Partnership and the companion churches signed a letter of companionship

The partnership was formed five years ago when leaders from the Methodist, United Reformed and Anglican churches joined together to sign a Declaration of Intent, signalling moves to work more closely together in mission.

The Church of Scotland, is one of five companionship denominations to join the partners in working together towards the ecumenical God for All vision:

By 2020 every person in Cumbria of all ages and backgrounds will have had an opportunity to discover more of God and God’s purpose for their lives, so that they will discover more of Jesus and the Good News and become followers of Jesus within a Christian community.

To celebrate the occasion, hundreds of people gathered at Carlisle Cathedral on Sunday 27 November to take part in a service of Hope and Expectation and to affirm Cumbria’s designation as England’s first ecumenical county.

At the service the Salvation Army became the fourth partner denomination to officially sign a new Declaration of Covenant Partnership, which will allow ministry to be more easily shared across the county.

Ecumenism in action

Representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Religious Society of Friends in Cumbria, the Roman Catholics and the North Western Baptist Association signed a letter of companionship, reinforcing their commitment to pray for those churches who are signing the Declaration and to work in mission with the denominations at a local and county level where possible.

Rev David Pitkeathly of the Border Kirk said:

“Churches Together in Britain and Ireland will readily tell you that this is one of the most significant ecumenical initiatives in recent British church history and the Church of Scotland here is an active and positive companion congregation.”

Rev Dr John McPake, the Kirk’s ecumenical officer said:

“The Church of Scotland welcomes the growth of the Covenant Partnership within the county of Cumbria. The focus on shared mission within a significant regional area offers a model which I believe we have much to learn from and an exemplar of ecumenism in action.”

The Advent service at Carlisle Cathedral

A God thing

Major Drew McCombe, Divisional Leader of The Salvation Army’s North West England & North Wales Division, said:

“For the Salvation Army the signing is the next intentional step in joining in partnership. Having signed the letter of companionship in the south of the county, to now join the whole of the county gives a great opportunity to further engage and to further strengthen the unity and the mission.

“The God for All initiative is one of the main reasons why the Salvation Army should be a part of this; it’s a God thing.”

The Rev’d Richard Teal, Chair of Cumbria Methodist District, said: “This service was hugely significant. It is five years since we made our first signing and during that time we’ve moved mountains to get to where we are today.

“It is so important that we are together as Christians in the county as we spread the Gospel of God’s love and spread his kingdom across Cumbria. We are much stronger together than we are if we act separately.”

Historic moment

The Rev’d Sarah Moore, Area President of the Cumbria Area of the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church said:

“This is a really significant moment and gives us all a further green light to push on with God for All, as we look to make the reality of God known to as many people as possible in Cumbria.

“There was a fantastic turn out for the service and it was really heartening to see so many people join together from churches right across the county. Now I pray that we continue to see those closer working relationships continue to grow as we work towards the creation of mission communities.”

The Rt Rev’d James Newcome, The Bishop of Carlisle, said: “The service was a really historic moment, not only for the county but for the whole of the country. It’s a sign of our absolute commitment to each other as Christians to take the Gospel into the whole of the county.

“We could hardly feel more encouraged and to make the signing on Advent Sunday when we’re thinking about the coming of Jesus was a wonderfully appropriate time to do this. Everybody has been so warm, enthusiastic and friendly; it augurs very well, in deed, for what lies ahead.”

Shared ministry

Covenant Partnership applies across the whole county and so makes sharing of ministry easier, though with no binding requirements.

Each signatory of the Declaration committed themselves and their churches to:

  • seek out every possible opportunity for joint initiatives especially for God for All, at local and county level in mission to all the people of Cumbria
  • work together to equip both lay and ordained ministry whenever possible, and to share that ministry wherever appropriate
  • continue the work of developing strategies whereby we optimise the use of our church buildings for the benefit of communities throughout the county