I have just been watching Songs of Praise on BBC TV. The programme was about Gospel Music.
I am a big fan of certain strands of "Gospel", and was very impressed by a singer I knew nothing about; Jessie Dixon. He performed a song called, "Destined to Win" which I found both moving and encouraging. I have looked for it on the Internet, but the CD's carrying this title seem unavailable!
Watching the show and listening to the inspiring music I thought (and prayed) about Christian unity. How do all the different strands fit together? Through my Catholic faith and especially through my reading of "True Life in God" I am convinced that the ONE CHURCH will contain (contains?) certain elements which are non-negotiable. One of these is the Holy Eucharist (the Mass) and belief in the Real Presence. Another is a balanced devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I believe that the Liturgy is NOT created by committees or parish groups, but given. I therefore accept the Pope's (Cardinal Ratzinger's) analysis of the Liturgy (see "The Spirit of the Liturgy") and the late Klaus Gamber's insistence that the Liturgy is something we receive. Within this a proper understanding of Tradition and traditions is essential. There are other elements which I believe are non-negotiable, and I find them in both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (Greek, Russian et al). Another essential element is the Petrine Ministry.
Where do Gospel music and many aspects of the Protestant tradition fit in? First of all, in every spiritual renewal there is a call to personal holiness, and this centers on the invitation to a deeper relationship with Christ, and through Him with the Father and The Holy Spirit. This PERSONAL call is also essential. It is found not only in classical and free Protestantism but in devotion to the Sacred Heart and, in many ways, in the use of Holy Icons. The reading of Sacred Scripture, not only in Church but as an individual and personal activity, is central to this. Within the different forms of prayer both inside and outside church buildings and official liturgical gatherings, there is a place - and an important place - for Gospel music and charismatic worship. It seems to me that maintaining the centrality of the Eucharist, and insisting on a correct formality and reverence (non-negotiable!) we can also express our love and worship of God in other ways, whether in groups or as individuals.
The Holy Spirit has not been innactive in the lives of those who do not believe in the Eucharist. Not only that, but I do believe that God respects and works through and in different environments and social and religious traditions. We do no favours to ourselves or to the Church by refusing to accept the good in others, wherever they come from and whatever their background. God is calling all His children together, and there is much we can learn from each other. Alongside and around those central and non-negotiable aspects and characteristics of the ONE Church, there are legitimate, good and even wonderful expressions of faith, hope and joy. it seems to me that anyone who is truly open to the Holy Spirit will not only see the truth of this, but celebrate it.