When upon an ecclesial visit some months ago, my sister wife and I were taken to the Bible Class by two elderly sisters who apparently always go together on Wednesday nights. But this was a huge city and the suburban drive was for many miles through thick and fastmoving traffic. Besides, the night was very dark with rain beating down upon us, the wipers barely keeping up with the continuous downpour. The sister driving was in her eighties and her companion in her ninety third year! What a scenario! And we had never met them before in our lives! How could all this be? Whatever brought us together into these strange circumstances, after we had already enjoyed a beautiful evening meal in our sister’s home? Never been there before, never ever met them before! But what a treat in ecclesial life.

It was the work of the Truth that we have learnt in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. No money, no material grand show could ever give such a priceless experience. The love of the Truth was in that little car; rain or shine we were off to Bible Class and chatting away with a warm and earnest humour; surely we had been friends for years!

This kind of experience is mirrored thousands of times a year among the ecclesias of this wide country. It may not have been that way. Before 1958 there would always be the question when visiting ecclesias, “of what fellowship are they?” That question is almost never heard in Australia today, because the overwhelming percentage of Christadelphians in Australia belong to the Central Fellowship. We look up the ALS Diary and find the ecclesia in such and such city and we are warmly welcomed to the table of remembrance. These are the fruits of Unity. And our children or grandchildren will grow up to love the relationship and later the fraternity. What a nightmare it would be if we had to explain to them that we were not able to attend this or that meeting because back 50 years ago – or 100 years ago! – our fathers had an issue which was never resolved and so we are out of fellowship with the current generation!

So we can be very thankful to our God for 1958. There was a spirit abroad, a desire to get over prevailing differences and to work together to make one. Some of the matters of previous contention had been about for more than 60 years and some minds were very fixed in those thoughts. But the good spirit about was abetted by a clear elucidation of the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus, and there was a desire by the overwhelming majority to bury the past contentions and work together as one Brotherhood.

It was a remarkable thing given the deep roots of the matters involved, a notable achievement indeed.

One of the great blessings of our greater unity is seen in the Mission fields. Australia has close to 40 countries to which they send Gospel workers. Those lovely, mostly small, scattered ecclesias have been very dependent upon the “home” ecclesias in Australia and look to them for encouragement, experience and other support. It is almost certainly true that this great expansion into other lands could not have occurred without the Re-union of ’58. There is a cause of celebration! And in those very Mission fields brethren of many and various Australian ecclesias find themselves working shoulder to shoulder with those whom they have never before met. The Unity of Australian ecclesias fostered the scattered new centres through Asia and the Pacific and these fledgling ecclesias throw a ‘compulsion’ for unity upon us all. Would we let them down? Just unthinkable, surely. The Bible Mission has been a healthy influence upon our ecclesial unity.

“For whom Christ died”

This is a poignant phrase of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (14:15). It is the more poignant when we recall that the love of the brethren is the very thing that is central to the prayer of Christ in John 17, given just hours before his death. “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (v11). Why should he give his life for them if they were going to turn around and be at loggerheads with each other?

Be an encourager

Peace-making between ecclesias is a course that Christ will bless. The principal responsibility may rest upon arranging brethren but there are ways in which we can all participate, such as when we visit the ‘other meeting’; attend the local ecclesia when we are travelling; broaden our ministry of care beyond our own family or own ecclesia; cross the road to make valuable contact; give support for the larger occasion; and discipline our interests and our way of life so that they are not offensive to others, or give cause to justify a path that may be injurious to their walk in Christ. The clear and faithful teaching of the Unity Basis and principles of the Atonement confirm the foundation. We must also be prepared as faithful stewards to defend the Truth when it is challenged.

In all these ways and many others we show our support for unity and ecclesial peace.

We can all be encouragers in this great cause.