Brentwood: Anglican and Catholic Bishops sign historic accord

 An historic event took place in Brentwood Cathedral on Sunday 30 November. Two Bishops and two Cathedral Deans from different Christian traditions signed a covenant formalising their continuing desire to work together. The relationship between the Anglican Diocese of Chelmsford and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brentwood is unique. The two are 'coterminous', covering the same geographical area of Essex and the five boroughs of East London.

The Bishops, the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood, and the Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, have often worked together in the past and are keen to support the growing relationship between the two churches. At an Advent service of carols and readings on Sunday afternoon, they affirmed that relationship with the signing of a pledge to encourage pulpit exchanges, a united service on Pentecost Sunday afternoon, shared study days, retreats and pilgrimages; regular public prayer for each other at the principal service once a month; working towards an exchange of cycles of prayer; exchange of items of common interest for the diocesan newsletters or journals, and a deepening of the link between the two cathedrals brought about by music, with Bishops' Choristers' Awards and Deans' Awards, Choral Scholars ~ Brentwood School, and choir festivals.

The two Cathedral deans, the Very Revd Peter Judd from Chelmsford and the Revd Mgr Bill Nix from Brentwood also signed the covenant. Said Dean Judd: "After years of co-operation at every level, it is our duty and our joy to take this step. Looking back we see the glory of the Gospel and the tragic pain of history; looking forward we see God's call to walk together in mission with hope and faith and love."

In a service featuring the combined talents of the two Cathedral choirs, Bishop John spoke of the covenant as a binding commitment. "It marks a new chapter in the journey we have travelled on from the past. We celebrate a journey of friendship and mutual love born of recent years." He added: "This is a visionary moment which we owe to the inspiration of Bishop Thomas and I suspect it has captured the imagination of many." In a world where shocking things are taking place, he said, people are looking for hope. "Moments such as these offer a different vision and have the potential to open people's eyes to another future."

Bishop Thomas thanked the congregation for attending the event: "It is wonderful to see so many of you here," he said. "I sense your strong support for what we are doing."

Earlier in the day he had talked on BBC Essex about the covenant and his collaboration with four successive Anglican Bishops over the years: "Bishop John is the fourth Bishop John I have worked with ­ we get on extremely well," he said. "We already do a lot together and this covenant formalises that relationship. Both Dioceses cover the same large and diverse 'patch' and face the same challenges ­ in so many areas we are able to speak with one voice. Together we are stronger."

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