Tuesday, October 28, 2003


St Colm's International House in Edinburgh was the meeting place for a weekend gathering of European base ecclesial communities (24-27 October 2003). Some 25 persons from 12 countries / people groups were present to share stories and experiences and plan for the future.

Many people are aware of the existence and impact of CEBs in Latin America and South-East Asia (for example), but a similar phenomenon in Europe is less familiar. In some countries, such as Spain and Euskadi, the communities are very well-organized. In others (most notably England) they are few and fragmentary. Their characteristics include an orientation to those at the base of society, contextual reading of the Bible, socio-political engagement, prayer and celebration, and a critical position in relation to institutional church. Many are Catholic, some Protestant, and all stress ecumenism.

Few CEBs are what would be called 'intentional' communities in the sense of living together on a daily basis, but all have features of communal intentionality, including the sharing of resources and money. In Scotland Bert and the Iona Community home groups are among those linked in to the European network, which has been in existence for 20 years. In Ireland, the Crumlin Road community are involved.

In England there is a Contact Group which has been galvanised over the years by Jeanne Hinton. Simon Barrow has been part of this initiative, along with David Cowling (formerly of Grassroots) and Ruth Harvey (when she was with the Living Spirituality Network) and the late Derek Hanscombe of USPG.

The English group plans to meet again in December 2003. St Margaret with St Mary in Liverpool is one parish developing a distinct CEBs model here.

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