The SMT supports collaborative ventures that develop dialogue and understanding. It focuses in particular on nurturing practical ecumenism.
Nurturing Practical Ecumenism
Southlands College engages in a range of work with ecumenical partners, focused especially on a lived, practical ecumenism. It explores the contributions which church communities can make to one another, and to society more broadly, when they work, learn and think together, overstepping the limitations of rigid denominational segregation.
Southlands is becoming a hub for activity around practical ecumenism, and in particular around the ecumenical relationships between Methodist and Roman Catholic communities. Its activities demonstrate a growing body of learning and activity focused on lived ecumenism.
Activity on Campus
Our Roman Catholic and Methodist-led ecumenical, intentional student community house – Barat House – is a new and innovative ecumenical project. This exciting venture is an expression of the ecumenical commitment made through Southlands and Digby Stuart Colleges at Roehampton. Feedback from residents at the end of the year was overwhelmingly positive:
“I have really thrived from the community’s sense of purpose and spiritual engagement…as an individual I felt much more reflective, happy and mindful.”
“Having been a member of this community since September I have found my personal and spiritual growth has been incredible.”
The creation of the Barat House community occurred largely in response to the desire of the College and of the Trustees of the SMT to realise more fully the ecumenical partnership signalled by the building of the new Southlands College on land provided by the Society of the Sacred Heart in the late 1990s.
In Holy Week of 2018 the Trustees supported the Heads of Digby Stuart and Southlands Colleges to visit Rome to talk with leaders in ecumenism about the potential for this work. Meeting with the Director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office, the Treasurer General of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and a senior officer of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, plans were made for a range of projects, not least a pilgrimage for the Barat House community to Rome in May 2019.
Research and Teaching
SMT has commissioned a range of research projects inspired by the ecumenical commitments made when Southlands was built on its present site, exploring the intentions, hopes and experiences of those directly involved in that project. This research helps frame and shape the College’s continuing involvement in ecumenical activity.
In addition, a research project is using Theological Action Research to examine the unique contributions and synergies of Methodists and Roman Catholics in leading social action work and to offer advice and support for those hoping to engage in similar work in the future.
Alongside this, the SMT continues to sponsor, through the Susanna Wesley Foundation, a partnership with the Catherine of Siena College, which is a Roman Catholic-led charity that offers learning opportunities online across a range of subjects.
Within the Susanna Wesley Foundation, specific projects have a focus on ecumenical collaboration, greater detail about which is available on the Foundation’s website. These ranged from the practically-focused Church Consult initiative through to more research-led activities such as a PhD exploring disability theology in conversation with Edith Stein and Susanna Wesley.