The Rev. Matthew A. Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office Rome, spoke to Andy Dye in the Methodist Church Britain’s Global Relationships Office in a short interview on 22 November 2021. Rev. Laferty is a mission partner of the Methodist Church in Britain.
How would you summarize your work as a Mission Partner?
My work is to promote dialogue between Methodists and other Christians, to provide education on how to engage ecumenically and to share the work that Methodists are doing ecumenically, particularly with Catholics. Also to provide hospitality for Methodists passing through Rome.
Why is the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome important for Methodists in Britain and Ireland?
In a place where Methodists are a minority, the work of dialogue and understanding is critical. It is a way of trying to mirror the experience of Methodists here. In scripture, the prayer of Jesus is, ‘May they be one….so that the world may believe’ – its part of our mission imperative. It is also a way to deal with the difficult issues that have divided Christians for so long.
While you have been a Mission Partner in Rome, what has been your greatest challenge?
Eating too much pasta! But seriously, the office is still a newcomer in Rome. We are the new kid on the block, we started in 2014, so in Rome a lot of the work is convincing people that Methodists have something interesting to bring to conversations and gifts to contribute in ecumenism. On a personal level adjusting to culture and ways of going about things is very different from my previous work in Austria.
What impact do you feel you have made?
Continuing to build on the core relationships and strengthen them. Covid has even helped us, to give us time to focus on these core relationships and use technology in useful ways. We have been developing other programs, including webinars that everyone can access and understand the work more widely.
How do you think that God is guiding you in your work?
I have started a Thursday prayer group with an Anglican colleague. I am good at work items, less good at prayer and I have sensed a calling back to prayer with colleagues is important. Calling us back in to prayer with one another. Its significant that the week of prayer for Christian unity is the highlight of the ecumenical calendar.
What has surprised you most of all?
It is so hot! It’s important to prepare for the three changes of shirt days, especially in meetings that might include people like the pope! The goodwill toward me and toward the office is also surprising, I was expecting people to keep me away from things, but actually, in the main, from cardinals to those interested in social issues, people are open to hearing a Methodist point of view.