Sharing spirituality and worship lifeSharing spirituality and worship life

Consultation of the Conference of European Churches and the Institut für Evangelische Aszetik (Institute for Protestant Spirituality)
"Prayer and the Spirituality of Worship at Ecumenical Conferences"
Augustana-Hochschule Neuendettelsau (Germany, 23-25 April 2009)

Closing statement: Liturgical Assurance as a fundamental spiritual attitude

In the midst of the joy of the Easter season – indeed in the Orthodox Easter Week – a consultation of the Conference of European Churches and the Institut für Evangelische Aszetik (Institute for Protestant Spirituality) took place at the Augustana Hochschule Neuendettelsau (Germany). 
Participants were:

  • Prof. Dr. André Heinze (Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden (Baptist))
  • Rev. Prof. Dr. Viorel Ionita (CEC)
  • Ref. Dr. Ferenc Janka (Greek-Catholic, CCEE)
  • Prof. Dr. Christel Keller-Wentorf (Institut für Evangelische Aszetik)
  • Pfr. Dr. Gerhard Knodt (Institut für Evangelische Aszetik)
  • Rev. Canon Dr. Charlotte Methuen (Church of England)
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Raschzok (Institut für Evangelische Aszetik)
  • OKRin Pfrin.Barbara Rudolph (Ev. Kirche im Rheinland, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland)
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Seitz (Institut für Evangelische Aszetik)
  • Prof. Dr. Reinhard Thöle (Institut für Evangelische Aszetik)
  • Pastor Karl-Martin Unrath (Methodist)
  • Prof. Dr. Athanasios Vletsis (Orthodox)
  • Pfr. PD Dr. Matthias Zeindler (Swiss Reformed)

I. 1.   T
he aim of the consultation was to discuss the problems of and possibilities for spirituality and prayer at ecumenical conferences, and to offer suggestions for future work in this area.  The discussions took as their starting point the final report of the Special Commission on Orthodox participation in the WCC (2002).  The Consultation was intended in part as a contribution to the preparation of the 13th CEC Assembly in July 2009 in Lyon.

2.   Seven church traditions were represented at the consultation.  Aspects of the theology of worship of each tradition were explored, focussing in particular on the possibilities, accents and sensibilities of each tradition in the context of ecumenical worship.  Integral to the consultation were the acts of worship which structured our time together.  These were celebrated according to the different church tradition of the participants.  The most noticeable aspect of the consultation was the way in which a deepening mutual trust became apparent, made possible through attentive listening to each other, and through the recognition that in their acts of worship, all the different church traditions demonstrated both liturgical competence and theological reflection.

3.   The participants experienced a real seriousness in the attitude towards worship taken in both the presentations and the acts of worship.  Despite the variety of approaches to worship, the encounter with the holiness of the Trinitarian God stands at the centre of each act of worship.  Common to all is also the conviction that the initiative is God’s. 

II. 1.  
Although acts of worship may take many forms, we recognised that in all traditions the inner spiritual attitude is of enormous significance.  This shared spiritual attitude is of greater importance than formal criteria or definitions of content in making it possible to recognise the acts of worship of another tradition as praising God and enabling encounters with God and therefore making it possible to participate in the worshipping community.

2.   On the basis of this experience, we have come to recognise the importance of fostering “liturgical assurance”.  Liturgical assurance means, we have confidence that God mediates his grace to people through a range of liturgical and spiritual traditions.  The different traditions reflect different dimensions of worship.  Liturgical assurance comes into being when ecumenical services are celebrated on the basis of Holy Scripture and with a recognisable form, and when the serious spiritual attitude of those responsible for the liturgy is apparent.  We are aware of the need for future work towards a joint theology of ecumenical acts of worship.

We recommend that the following points be considered when preparing and conducting acts of worship at ecumenical conferences:

–   spiritual life, including acts of worship, should not be regarded as being of less important than the theological discourse, not least because of spiritual life often  results in an strong impulse to unity.

–   The doxological approach to God through praise and worship (theologia prima) is a prerequisite for theological discourse (theologia secunda). Theological discourse also shapes the doxological.

-   Embers of the preparatory group for acts of worship at ecumenical conferences must have a good knowledge of their own traditions and the confidence of their own church.  This should alleviate anxieties that one tradition is seeking to dominate and to impose its will on others. 

-   The preparatory group should pay particular attention to creating a clear and transparent liturgical structure for ecumenical acts of worship.

-   Acts of worship should create space for the congregation to express its sense of being one community and their love for one another.

-   Particular attention needs to be paid to the different traditions of free prayer and fixed forms of prayer. Both can be expressions of either spiritual freedom, or liturgical discipline, or both.

-   Fixed forms of prayer expressed in the form of songs, hymns and chants are particularly sustaining of community.  This should be noted in the preparation of celebrations at ecumenical conferences.

-   Participation in acts of worship in other traditions is a good preparation for joint worship at ecumenical conferences.

We thank the organisers of this consultation, CEC und IEA, and urge them to continue to work to develop and deepen this theme.

Neuendettelsau, 25 April 2009