Over twenty new ecclesial movements and communities gathered for ‘Many Streams One River’, following a world meeting of movements with Pope Francis at Pentecost.
The event opened with the beautiful song: “All who are thirsty”, and the theme reading from Ezekiel 47 of water flowing from the side of the temple: “And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the GreatSea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflected on the theme, telling us we are invited to share life with the Lord, and to let the Lord be seen and loved – to be ‘crystals reflecting the light of faith’. Evangelisation is like the giving of water, and every parish should be the ‘village well’, where people can come to source the living water flowing from the right side of the temple – the body of Christ. This made a striking connection between the vision of Ezekiel, the Crucifixion, and the identity and mission of the Christian community.
Michelle Moran, President of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services, brought greetings from another gathering of new movements in Paris. There were testimonies and talks from many new communities about their charisms and conversions including Ascent, Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Chemin Neuf Community, Faith Café, Focolare, Jesus Youth, L’Arche, Madonna House, The Maranatha Community, Mothers Prayers, Neo-Catechumenal Way, Schoenstatt, St Egidio, Sword of the Spirit, Sion Community, Teams of Our Lady, Youth 2000 and others, and several other groups had representatives present.
There was a great emphasis on unity. Gerry from the Schoenstatt community led a song from John 17: “Father hear my prayer; may they all be one, as you are in me, and I am in you; may they all be one.” The Sion Community presented a symbolic drama in which three worshippers took the stage enthusiastically singing contrasting styles of song in a comedy clash. The musical mess echoed disharmony between the members of Christ’s Body who fell silent and formed a physical cross while the Reproaches were sung and signed. A mime then represented living waters flowing from the side of Christ, and culminated in the harmonious singing of the Taize chant ‘Laudate Omnes Gentes’ by the three reunited worshippers and the entire assembly.
Bishop Robin of the Anglican Communion provided an ecumenical perspective: “May the wounds in the Body of Christ become scars – may we become one. The Unity of the Church is something you live. We live together that unity in Christ that is so much more important than all that divides us. We experience those differences not as negative but at particular gifts we bring to the whole people of God. Chiara Lubich called us to live the unity we have.” As the Focolare community told us, “What I can do you can’t do. What you can do I can’t do” (Mother Teresa to Chiara Lubich, founder of Focolare).
The L’Arche community dramatised how we can see community relationships either as a burden, or as blessing and a gift, and as the worship of God. Kevin from L’Arche shared the founder Jean Vanier’s message that “to love someone is to reveal to them that they are precious.” Another beautiful song was shared by singer Veronica with the inspiring message: “Lost in the crowd we’re shining, and helping to bring heaven on earth.” Steve Murray mimed for us the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, explaining, “There are a lot of emotionally handicapped people, but God can take our gift, and use it to feed thousands.”
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor reminded us of the messages of Pope Francis: that “Jesus knocks at the church from the outside but I think he is also knocking on the door on the inside. God is there, in the people; God is there everywhere… let people know they are loved.” Charles Whitehead introduced Sam Goldsmith to give her testimony for Charismatic Renewal, who told us, “This love cannot and should not be confined to a Sunday morning”.
Dennis Wrigley of Maranatha spoke powerfully of unity, healing and renewal. “We are a listening community, and listening is dangerous – because God says, ‘GO!’” He quoted the prophetic words of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin: “The Gospel is public truth – they are trying to privatise it.” He told us, “God is saying to the nation, ‘You’ve turned your back on me. But I’m waiting.’ …If we listen as one, we will hear God’s voice. If we speak as one, the nation will hear the voice of God.” He invited a doctor to tell us what healing was. She said, “Healing is this,” and joined hands with those on either side of her. We all did the same and prayed for the people on our left and on our right.
David Wells encouraged and challenged with his input. “If water stands still it begins to lose its capacity to support life. What happens when we lose our mission? Water too needs the breath of life – the work of the Spirit. We are a bunch of bubbles! ‘The new movements create the conditions for an encounter with Christ’ (Redemptoris Missio 18). The new movements move the heart to Christ, and then He becomes real, and then there’s no going back… We are drawn to a Lord who says ‘I love you’. It becomes personal – then it dares to become intimate – then it’s infectious.”
The take-away message of the day could be summed up by the words Unity, Love, and Evangelisation. Rocking out to an upbeat version of “Be Thou My Vision” we also took away a great big ‘Ready-brek’ glow!