ADDRESSES OF FRATERNAL DELEGATES AT THE XV ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS ON YOUNG PEOPLE, FAITH AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT
(3–28 October 2018)
Reverend Dr Tim Macquiban
Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome
(World Methodist Council)
Holy Father, sisters and brothers in Christ, young and old in the Faith. Thank you for the hospitality and welcome you have given us as ecumenical representatives to this Synod.
Nearly three hundred years ago, a group of serious minded young Christians, students at the University of Oxford in England, met regularly for prayer, bible study, sharing in the sacrament of communion, holy conversations and acts of practical piety in visiting the local hospitals and prisons. They gathered around John and Charles Wesley who gave birth to the Methodist movement of revival of religion. They were nicknamed the Holy Club.
Methodists and Catholics in this age are united in the stress they give in their dialogue together (The Call to Holiness: From Glory to Glory report 2016) and in their pilgrimage together in what the Holy Father has described as “walking, praying and working together”. And it is this call to holiness that really excites and energises young people today. And they offer us models of what it means to be church together.
The Instrumentum Laboris, in paragraphs 126, 146 to 148, rightly point us to the importance of schools, colleges and universities as crucibles of religious formation where, with proper accompaniment and support, young people “journey towards their personal form of holiness”. But, as John Wesley reminded us, there is no personal holiness only social holiness. It is in small intentional groups of Christians living the life in Christian discipleship that the faith is supported and sustained. As Bishop Jensen reminded us earlier this/last week, in new lay movements there is a real opportunity to foster vocation in its widest sense.
I am aware of the so called “new monasticism” which is catching on amongst young people in Britain where Christians of different traditions are coming together, Catholics and Protestants. Some examples: a group of young Franciscans, a tradition that long ago helped shaped me in my own Christian journey as a student: the new community of St. Anselm at Canterbury bringing young people together: the community life established at the ecumenical University of Roehampton in London helped by a Catholic and a Methodist chaplain working together: the internships established by the British Methodist Church placing young people in challenging work situations with mentorship: and of course places like Taize and Iona which draw many young people to their events and programmes and send them out newly recharged. These are all places of an exciting revival of connectedness between worship and mission and service, centred on the call to holiness and the unity which is in Christ.
Yes, they will only succeed if we the churches support them as we work together, with the resources they need, including the mentoring which will underpin their community life together. They, young people, in their networks and community life based on friendship, will show us, the institutional church, new ways of being church together, chiesa insieme, which will renew our own spiritual life. Let us listen to their voices and follow their path to holiness in our worship and work together.