One Love!

Last month I was privileged to spend a couple of days in Lisbon for the Jornada Mundial da Juventude (JMJ) – or World Youth Day (WYD) in English. 

Although this was a Catholic Church-organised event, with Pope Francis in town, there was an ecclesiastical buzz in the city and all denominations were involved in the organisation of an array of events. 

St George’s (Anglican) church in Lisbon, part of the Diocese in Europe (as we are here in the Algarve), was asked to be a hosting centre for many talks and events over the course of a week.

In conjunction with a group called Chemin Neuf (from France originally, but very much global now), there were talks given by some wonderful speakers on the topic of ‘Being One Church’ – in other words, our ecumenical relationships. While you only have to go back a few decades or centuries in church history to see that there has been great disharmony over the years between church denominations, thankfully, today, there is new cooperation and, dare I say, love between church denominations. This harmony was the emphasis of the JMJ/WYD week. It was wonderful to see so many young people (and us ‘oldies’) coming together, not as Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, or Baptists but as Christians. And this is how all churches should be – it’s the ideal they should work towards.

In Luz church, we are fortunate enough to see that ideal in action. Firstly, the Anglican church community here has been welcomed by our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers for many years and has enjoyed the use of Nossa Senhora da Luz for decades. We try to have joint services in Portuguese and English a few times a year. 

Secondly, the church services here will always attract many different denominations, including people who live here all year round, but also many visitors who are only here a short time and want to attend a service or two – and for me, that’s a privilege also. 

When I first took up post some six years ago, I had a preconceived idea that the congregation would consist of retired Brits, but I was soon pleasantly surprised by the cosmopolitan make-up of the congregation – we have Italian, German, American, Canadian, South African, Moldovan and Nigerian worshippers (to name a few) in Luz church. On one Sunday at the 8 am service, we even had six people from Hawaii turn up! That generally doesn’t happen in the average UK church! Perhaps then, we are fulfilling that imperative of loving one another here in Luz.

Fr Rob Kean is the Chaplain of St Vincent’s Chaplaincy Algarve and area Dean of Portugal and Madeira.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

John 13:34-35

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