Over the late May Bank Holiday weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to be one of 21 young people from across Europe who came together for the European Anglican / Old Catholic Youth Pilgrimage. We spent three days together learning about each other’s churches and building unity between them. We reflected on ourselves, our journeys and on the wider journeys of our churches.
Who are the Old Catholics!?
Old Catholics are a church which split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1870s. They hold the Eucharist as central to the Christian Church and believe in unity in diversity as important to the church. After spending three days worshiping with a mixed group of Anglicans and Old Catholics there were a lot of similarities and overlaps between the Anglican Church and the Old Catholic Church.
Where’s Echternach and why there?
Echternach is a small town in eastern Luxembourg. It was the home of St Willibrod and is now his resting place. St Willibrod is thought of as a unifying figure for Anglicans and Old Catholics, he was born in Northumbria, studied in Ireland and then carried out most of his ministry in the area we now know as the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He worked closely with the Roman Catholic Church whilst retaining his Celtic roots from his studies and upbringing. What better place for us to get together than a beautiful lake side town with such a deep connection to bringing churches together.
Why did we get together?
The Anglican Communion and the Union of Utrecht of the Old Catholic Churches are in full communion and this communion is supported by the work of AOCICC, the Anglican-Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council (we thought CEYC was a bit awkward!). AOCICC invited young people from across its member churches to come together to discuss what our vision for the future of the two churches might be.
Churches from Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England and Ireland were represented with a good mix of Anglicans and Old Catholics.
What did we do?
We spent a substantial amount of time together in prayer and worship as well as spending time together getting to know one another. We had formal sessions presenting to each other about Anglicanism and Old Catholicism, workshops on ‘Working on one’s own biography’, ‘Faith and Identity’ and ‘Curating one’s identity’. I took part in the first two works shops which led to great discussions about labels and what defines who we are!
We also spent time answering the following three questions, I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts on these:
- What does it mean to be a Christian in the context that you live?
- What challenges do I see?
- What visions and hopes do I have?
- What must the Church do to address these issues?
We took all the groups ideas together and formed them into a declaration on unity and faith in action which will be published soon and I’ll attach here when it goes live!
As well as all these deep topics we found time for beach volleyball, cycling, rock climbing and all important group bonding time in the local bar!
I’d really encourage you if you’re on holiday this summer in one of the European countries who have Old Catholic Churches to go along and find out more about one of our sister churches and if this weekend sounds like something you would have loved, keep your eyes peeled as hopefully there will be more opportunities to build links in the future!
A huge thank you to AOCICC and the leaders on the pilgrimage for bringing us together – to Antje, Lars, Samuel, Bishop Michael, Bishop Dirk, Erna, Franziska and Walter.
We would love for young people across the Anglican and Old Catholic churches to engage with the declaration and encourage their churches to act, so let us know if you feel inspired and are acting on the declaration.
Bethan is the CEYC Intern. When she’s not at work she fills her time with Scouting, exploring mountains and beaches, and baking. She is passionate about facillitating young people to fulfil their potential and set an example, be that in Scouting, in Church or in the wider world. You can follow her on her sporadically active twitter account @betherthanu .