Fostering interfaith connections and inspiring the future of the Church
The first ever week-long ecumenical event for young people in our diocese was held in the heart of Portugal at the Anglican Church of St George, Lisbon in partnership with the French Catholic community Chemin Neuf in August. The week was a chance for young people to explore different Christian traditions and deepen their faith.
The chaplaincy team at St George’s was delighted by the success of its team, which crossed ecumenical boundaries to serve young people in Europe.
Assistant Chaplain, Iain Bendery shared how he was inspired by the young people themselves who gave up their time and made the effort to be in community with their peers, with some travelling over 20 hours to get to Lisbon. “It was simply amazing”, he said.
Iain added: “God moved in Lisbon that week and it fills me with great excitement and hope for the future of the church.”
The young people heard teachings from the Archbishop of York, Archbishop Ian Ernest, Tabea Oppliger (an entrepreneur in Israel providing work for women who were escaping the sex trade) and Joe Tosini from John 17.
They also had the opportunity to experience different eucharists from different denominations.
At the heart of the Anglican cemetery, a prayer tree became a gathering spot for forging new friendships. The tree not only served as a focal point throughout the week, but also facilitated the sharing of faith stories among attendees.
When reflecting on the event, Iain said: “The Holy Spirit was buzzing, and the young people were too. And me!”
Iain went on share his perspective on the importance of embracing young people’s potential in shaping the future of the Christian community. He emphasised that ‘grown-ups’ must step aside’ and trust the future of the church and the Christian faith to young people who have a passion to share the love of Christ without the boundaries and barriers often imposed by adults.
Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell shared: "It was an inspiring and energising joy to be part of the Roman Catholic World Youth Day events in Lisbon, and one of the most unexpected joys was to find myself based at the Anglican chaplaincy of St. George’s, Lisbon with Iain & Beth Bendrey, priests I had known from my time as Bishop of Chelmsford.
"With the help of the Chemin Neuf community they put on a series of ecumenical encounters under the title of Rooted in Unity, emphasising that 'the unity of the Church' as William Temple put it, 'is a perpetual fact; our task is to not to create it but exhibit it'
"Day after day we were joined by literally hundreds of young people from all over the world, and together we explored how we can make the unity we already have in Christ more visible. And all this for the sake of the world, and so that people may believe." he conculded.
St George’s hopes to hold a follow-up event in the diocese, and plans are already underway to explore a special event in Rome for 2025, which Pope Francis has named ‘Jubilee of World Youth’.