Main Menu  

   

Association of Interchurch Families
Great Britain

AIF UK’s work falls into a number of areas, with a named member of the committee responsible for each. Here is a summary of the past year’s activities, based on extracts from the Annual Review compiled by Ruth Reardon. Our AIF packs on various topics are continually updated with material from all areas.

Education and Spirituality

One of the main aims of the Association is to have accurate information available on the issues that arise for interchurch families and for those offering them pastoral care. Our response to telephone calls and letters and our AIF resource packs have been welcomed. This is only possible because we can staff part time a small office in London, and we remain enormously grateful to those who work there, mostly on a voluntary basis.

We continue to work hard on the question of eucharistic sharing in interchurch families. In our journal Interchurch Families (available on the website aifw) we report on applications of the 1993 Ecumenical Directory from Rome as they appear in different parts of the world (notably Canada and India during 2000-2001). Last year we reported on our study of Eucharistic Sharing in Interchurch Families in the context of a major British project on Authority and Governance in the Roman Catholic Church. We made a presentation to the culminating conference in Cambridge in June 2000, and are gradually making available, in our journal and elsewhere, the interchurch family experience we gathered in the course of that Eucharistic Sharing/Authority study. We took part in a meeting of the Theology and Unity Group of Churches Together in England in March 2001 to consider responses made by the churches to One Bread One Body, the application by the British and Irish bishops of the 1993 Directory’s guidelines on eucharistic sharing. This is an on-going process.

Spirituality in Interchurch Families was the theme of the Association’s annual conference at Swanwick in August 2000. Tim and Chantal Evans and their family gave experiential input, and there was a good deal of group work. Ruth Harvey, Director of the Living Spirituality Network for Britain and Ireland, and Fr Bernard Longley, Secretary of the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Christian Unity, reflected on the value of interchurch family spirituality for the churches.

The Association made its contribution to the collective publication Such a Feast: Spiritual Nourishment and the Churches, prepared by the Spirituality Group of Churches Together in England, on which AIF is a representative of the Bodies in Association.

Local Networking

In July 2000 responsibility for Local Networking was taken over by our Executive Secretary. Our Local Contacts List of couples around the country continues to be a valuable tool, constantly updated, and ready to be sent out to enquirers: couples, clergy, Ecumenical Officers and others. Also, the members of our Pastoral Network, many of them members of the clergy, are ready to respond to requests that come to the office or to our Local Contacts in cases which need sacramental or pastoral help from a priest, minister or counsellor.

Local Contacts continue to be active in many parts of England (we try to have at least one couple in every county, although we do not always succeed.): arranging displays, giving talks, using publication and radio to spread the message, preaching sermons. In many areas also, there are regular meetings of local groups of interchurch families, which act as a great support and encouragement to members and a focus for enquirers and local marriage and unity initiatives. Since the work of Scottish AIF came again under the aegis of the rest of the UK, Gerald and Avril Dobson have now become our Local Contacts for the whole of Scotland, although we aim to build up a wider network there, including both Local Contacts and a Pastoral Network.

Supporting Marriage and Family Life

Our Marriage and Family Life Working Group was responsible for the themes of two AIF events this year. One was the Local Contacts Meeting, the annual event offered to Local Contacts, partly for business and partly for input on particular topics. In November 2000 there was a lively and much appreciated participatory session on Preparing interchurch couples for marriage. A questionnaire on ‘Our Christian Traditions’ was prepared especially for the day; this and other questionnaires from the day are included in our Getting Marriedpack.

The third John Coventry Memorial Lecture was addressed in March 2001 by the Revd Dr Kenneth Wilson, OBE, Methodist Director of the Research Centre of the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Birmingham, on the subject: Making Love, the First Rule of Marriage.

We continue to be represented on Churches Together for Families, and on the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Marriage and Family Life Committee.

Promoting Christian Unity

In December 1998 Australian and British interchurch families took part in the Padare of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Harare, Zimbabwe. We aimed to influence the Assembly to support the recommendation of the Roman Catholic Church/World Council of Churches Joint Working Group that interchurch families should be on its agenda for future work (the subject had been dropped since 1989). We were delighted therefore when the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity asked Ruth Reardon, and the World Council of Churches asked Martin Reardon, to address the Joint Working Group n the ecumenical role of interchurch families, at its meeting in Northern Ireland in May 2001.

We are also delighted that the Anglican-Roman Catholic Working Group, established following the Mississauga meeting of bishops in May 2000, has joint pastoral care for interchurch families on its agenda. We take every opportunity to work together with interchurch families world-wide to follow up these ecumenical initiatives. The pastoral care of interchurch families is also on the agenda of the Methodist-Roman Catholic Committee in England. There are members of interchurch families among both Methodists and Roman Catholics on the Committee, as there are on English A-RC. We continue to collaborate closely with the ecumenical bodies, including service on the executive committee of the Enabling Group of Churches Together in England, and the Steering Committee of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The theme of our 2001 annual conference at Swanwick is: Christian Unity: Why? What? How?

Interchurch Children and Young Adults

A highlight of the year was the Considering Confirmation weekend held at Shallowford House in Staffordshire in May 2000. Ten young people aged between 13 and 16 from interchurch families all over England came to learn about the meaning and practice of confirmation. They were offered a ‘treasure chest of options’ to help them consider what to do about confirmation without cutting themselves off from either of the church communities in which they had grown up.

In 2001 there were two ‘firsts’. Sarah and Helena Mayles were confirmed at a Catholic celebration in which an Anglican bishop played a part, and Laura Finch devised a joint Service of Affirmation in which her Anglican and Roman Catholic priests took an equal part. In both cases their two local communities were involved.

Interchurch children of all ages have their own programme at AIF conferences. Young adults held their social weekend in March 2001 in London in conjunction with the Heythrop day conference. They edit and write for the Interdependent. They represented the Association on the Youth Forum of Churches Together in England, at Breakout in October 2000 and the Third Ecumenical Youth Event in March 2001. Our support for young people has developed by leaps and bounds since we were able to appoint a part-time Youth Officer.

Pride in our founders

It is clear how much work many members and friends of AIF put into keeping all this activity going, mostly on a voluntary basis. We cannot survive without valuable financial support, too, from regular giving by our members and friends, and occasional trust funding. But our efforts are beginning to bear much fruit in many varied ways.

We are enormously proud of our founders, Martin and Ruth Reardon, who have both received awards recently for their work among and for interchurch families. Firstly, they were awarded the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and recently, they received the papal award Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. For their work to be recognised in this way by the two separate church authorities is an enormous accolade, and encourages all of us to continue to work for church unity.

June 2001