January 2011 - Vol. 46
by Arthur Delargy
I've been a member of Antioch for over 20 years now, having first come into contact with community through one of its outreaches based at the University of London, where I was studying.
I can think of many reasons why I decided to join Antioch, not least the blessing of being able to find “a place to stand” with men and women who were, and are, constant in faith, hope, and love, having a vision to be a bulwark and a place of refuge, and a desire to make Jesus known in this generation. But, I always come back to one thing, something that makes Antioch, though numerically a small community, a significant, unique, and prophetic expression of God's love for his people, and that's our ecumenical call – a call to live out Christian unity with integrity.
I was born in 1968, in Ballymena, Northern Ireland – the year the modern-day “troubles,” as they are euphemistically called, began. I was brought up in a strong Catholic family, in a small farming community. All the other villages around us were all Catholic, and also quite strongly believed that Northern Ireland should become part of the Republic of Ireland, not the United Kingdom. To say that I had a parochial upbringing would be true in its fullest sense. Anti-Protestant feeling was very strong in our local community. The sense of mistrust, suspicion, and hostility was not helped by the segregation of the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. In my case, I was 17 years old when I met my first Protestant. In many ways this was a watershed, the guy was perfectly normal (we went on to be close friends when we went to college in London) so my worldview, such as it was at the age of 17, was challenged for the first time.
A year later, when I left home to study in London, the Lord started to stretch my perspective even further. I became involved in University Christian Outreach (UCO), a student Christian group at the University of London (now called Koinonia), mainly through the persistence and faithfulness of a few men. Even back in 1986 the university environment was a hostile place for Christians. This group was unique among the student Christian societies in providing a place for Protestants and Catholics to serve and worship together, a place where I quickly felt spiritually at home. Later on I discovered that UCO was an outreach of the West London Community (now called Antioch), a group of Christians of all denominations, including families and single people, as well as a lay brotherhood of celibate men who were seeking to live out the call to Christian unity in their day-to-day lives. The theologians call this grassroots evangelism – it's a precious thing, which comes from the recognition that as fellow members of the Body of Christ we have a relationship with and an obligation to each other. In 1988, I made a public commitment to join the West London Community. That night was significant for me and for the community too – at the time the senior leader of the community was a Protestant from Northern Ireland, and I was the first Northern Irish Catholic to join. On the same evening a Singhalese from Sri Lanka joined, crossing another divide, and taking his place worshipping side by side with several Sri Lankan Tamils, who at that time formed a significant contingent of the West London Community.
Regarding reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians (2:14-16) wrote:
For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.In Antioch we attempt to live out our life together because of what we've got in common – what we have received from the same person – the Lord Jesus. At the same time we try to understand our differences, showing charity and humility in our dealings with one another, and supporting each other in being faithful members of our own churches and traditions. This is not cheap and not always easy, but as Psalm 133 says, when we dwell in unity, God commands a blessing, and this is my experience of 20 years living in this ecumenical, charismatic, covenant Christian community called Antioch.
[Arthur and his wife Rebecca live in London, UK with their two children.]
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