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Working Together

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The Revd Dr Raewynne Whiteley

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be an Anglican in another part of the world? The average Anglican is a woman in her 30s living in sub-Saharan Africa on less than four dollars per day, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s a long way from my experience living in suburban Perth.

Recently I had the privilege of gathering with bishops and theological educators from across the Communion at a meeting of the Commission for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion. The official work of the meeting was to develop materials in response to the Lambeth Calls on intentional discipleship, safe church theology, slavery reparation, faith in science, and reconciliation. These materials will be rolled out in the next couple of years as part of the essential work of equipping our churches for mission in the twenty-first century.

But just as important as the official work was the opportunity to meet one another and listen to our various experiences as Anglicans across the world: we came from countries as diverse as Ireland, Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Brazil, Jamaica, Korea, the UK, the US, South Africa, India, Japan, the Solomon Islands, and Australia, and we represented a range of traditions within Anglicanism. We all have very different experiences of being Anglican.

But we also hold much in common. We are all trying to work out in our own contexts what it means to live as Christians in a changing world; we all have challenges in carrying out God’s mission in our own contexts. Above all, we are all followers of Jesus.

That was the joy of spending time together. We wrestled with questions of how Jesus himself learned and taught; we prayed together; we shared meals. And we developed deep relationships that I trust will continue beyond our work together.

So often we Anglicans – with the help of the media -- focus on the things that divide us. But there is far more that we share. At Wollaston, we have students from a range of ages, backgrounds, and theological traditions. And at the end of each year, when the students reflect on what has been most valuable to them in their study, they name the relationships they have formed, often with people very different from each other. Praying together, studying together, and eating together all provide opportunities to discover how much we have in common, all grounded in our shared faith in Jesus Christ.

And perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at this. After all, it’s what Jesus himself did, gathering a group of people together (whom today we know as disciples) to build a new kind of community. They prayed and learned and ate together, and this became the model for the early church, as we are reminded in Acts 2:42, 'They [the apostles and the three thousand who believed and were baptised at Pentecost] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers'.

It's as simple – and as challenging – as that: being willing to come together with other followers of Jesus, to pray and learn and listen, and to discover the blessings we can be to one another.

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