Ecumenical Service for ‘Big IF’ Inspires Sell-Out Crowd

Ecumenical Service for ‘Big IF’ Inspires Sell-Out Crowd

By Daniel Côté Davis – Regional Communications Intern, Plymouth

Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall, packed to full capacity for an ecumenical service in support of the Big IF campaign.

Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall, packed to full capacity for an ecumenical service in support of the Big IF campaign.

There were so many people packed into the ecumenical church service at Methodist Central Hall, London, on the 8th June, to kick off the IF campaign, that spilling crowds were being turned away from the doors as early as half an hour before proceedings.  The location which brands itself on its own website as ‘Central London’s largest conference venue’ was packed to the breaches. IF’s own report stated that ‘around 3,500 people from all over the UK attended,’ representing over 1,500 churches nationwide that had joined the campaign.

Those who could not get in were directed to Margaret House to follow events on an organised screen, which also became filled to maximum capacity. An ‘im promptu’ outdoor gathering of prayer therein begun on the adjoining Storey’s Gate Street, with supporters holding campaign banners, in the morning sunshine.

Amidst the excitement, I managed to squeeze in past the door attendants and find my way to the back row of the left-side upper gallery, where I looked out onto the congregation of over 2,000 members, as the service began with a rousing chorus of ‘Be Thou My Vision.’

Archbishop Justin Welby, the newly elected Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, addressed the congregation via video, to begin the service. He said:

‘The G8 is the centre of financial resource and power, in all kinds of ways. Many members of the G8 are increasingly deeply committed to using that power for the global good, and our own government is one that has very courageously, at a time of austerity, increased its giving in aid.

“But it’s important that we put before them the needs of the global community in which we live, with which we are interdependent.

“My prayer would be that in this country, and across the world, that we are deeply committed to enabling people to be self-sustaining, so that global hunger can be ended in our lifetimes.”

The service lasted an hour and finished with a challenging sermon from the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who had waited until last to address the faithful. In his speech he said:

‘This is a gathering of the followers of Jesus. We have a distinctive voice to add, as our motivation our dedication is different. We must be sure of ourselves and not at all apologetic, as the Christian Gospel brings life in its fullness.

Referring to Pope Francis’ declaration that the Church is ‘of the poor and for the poor’ he went on to say:

‘When we recognise our own poverty and see another in material poverty, we see the flesh of Christ, who we must serve.’

 Archbishop Vincent Nichols greets supporters of CAFOD gathered on Storey’s Gate Street, Westminster.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols greets supporters of CAFOD gathered on Storey’s Gate Street, Westminster.

As part of the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign, the service was organised by CAFOD, Tearfund, Christian Aid, World Vision UK and other major faith agencies. After the service they joined a 45,000 strong crowd for a rally in Hyde Park. For further information on the campaign go to:

http://enoughfoodif.org/

http://www.cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Take-action-today/Joint-campaign-on-food

Or to watch Archbishop Welby’s address at the service go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYQU6gxjyWQ

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