St Alban's Cathedral to host major ecumenical conference

 An archbishop, a cardinal and a former cabinet minister will be among leading figures from the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Free Churches taking part in a major conference on Christian unity, to be held at St Albans Cathedral on 17 May 2003. Keynote speakers will be Rowan Williams, current Anglican Archbishop of Wales; Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pope's Council for Promoting Christian Unity; and Rev Elizabeth Welch, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church 2001/2. Former Cabinet minister Baroness Williams of Crosby, Catholic politician, academic and writer, will also be addressing the conference. Other conference speakers will be Elaine Appelbee, Director of Bradford Health Action Zone, and member of The Church of England's General Synod; and Bishop Joe Aldred, Director of the Centre for Black and White Christian Partnership at the University of Birmingham and a Bishop of the Church of God of Prophecy. Announcing the conference, called 'May they all be one...but how?' Canon Iain Lane, director of the St Albans Centre for Christian Studies, said: "This conference will draw together a range of distinguished speakers to explore a vision of Christian unity for the next generation. Everyone is happy to affirm that Christian unity is important, but in reality progress is slow and often churches seem to have become focused only on the theological and institutional issues. "There is a need for renewed energy in all aspects of the search for unity, and a new emphasis on a shared experience of prayer, social action, engagement with the Bible, and the expression of the gospel in and through the creative arts. The conference aims to stimulate, encourage and inspire a renewed commitment to discover a form of unity which is practical and achievable in the next generation." The conference is jointly organised by The Newman Association, the Catholic organisation promoting an informed laity; The Society for Ecumenical Studies, an organisation committed to the search for Christian unity through dialogue, study, and mutual understanding; and St Albans Centre for Christian Studies, an ecumenical centre for Christian learning based at St Albans Cathedral. Canon Lane added: "The conference is intended not just for church leaders or academics, but for all Christians, of all ages and from all backgrounds. We hope that at least 800 people will attend." Conference booking will be administered by St Albans Centre for Christian Studies and conference brochures and booking forms will be issued this autumn. The conference takes place at the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Ecumenical Chaplaincy at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban. The Abbey stands on the site of the death and burial of Britain's first Christian martyr, St Alban, in 250 AD. The cathedral is a centre of worship for many Christian people and services are regularly held there by churches of many traditions (Catholic Mass every Friday, Free Church service fortnightly, Orthodox liturgy and Lutheran service monthly).

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