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Sharing the Dream

Interchurch family groups and associations have been meeting for international gatherings and conferences for many years. Two of the most significant were multi-lingual gatherings in Geneva in 1998 and Rome in 2003, where families were able to bring their concerns and experiences to church leaders at the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, and to offer from their special perspectives to help in the process of building church unity.

The conference in Newcastle brought together interchurch families living in Australia, many of whom had never met personally, to enable us to share our stories with each other, our pastors, families and friends. We also welcomed interchurch couples, pastors and those who support them from several countries around the world, who have found their shared lives and faith enriched by meeting others who encounter similar joys and difficulties within their family life, and seek opportunities to build unity between their church communities.

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What happened at the conference?

As at previous national and international conferences of interchurch families, there was the chance to share experiences, good and bad, to worship and pray together following several traditions, to consider where God is leading us in our families and beyond, in our parishes and our church communities.

Several distinguished Australian church leaders were present, to speak to us and to listen to our stories and dreams. A keynote speaker was Rev Dr Gerard Kelly, a foremost Australian theologian, President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney, a seminary which also accepts many lay people and religious to study for theological degrees. He completed his doctorate under the direction of J.M.R Tillard OP in Ottawa, Canada, and his particular research interests are Ecclesiology, with a particular focus on Christian unity, and Baptism and Eucharist and their significance for the unity of the Church. He has written extensively on eucharistic sharing, interchurch families, and theological education (e.g. Recognition: Advancing Ecumenical Thinking). He has participated in the RC Dialogue in Australia and the Faith and Unity Commission of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

A principal focus of the conference was the document ‘Interchurch marriages, their ecumenical challenge and significance for our churches’, the report of the Australian national dialogue between the RC Church and the Uniting Church in Australia. ‘Interchurch families and Christian unity’, the document produced at the Rome conference last year, was be studied.