In my time, I've been to a number of ecumenical services. They're usually a very good way of reaffirming my belief that a lot of Christians really aren't all that Christ-like. They also usually convince me that I'm very happy to be a Catholic, thanks very much.
Take, for instance, the Pentecostal "ecumenical" service I went to a few years ago. Christians of all denominations were invited. The MC (yes, there was an MC) kept taking cheap potshots at Catholics - for instance, when he said, "You see, most of us believe that Roman Catholics can't receive the Holy Spirit, but maybe they can".
This prejudice against Catholics is widespread in the Protestant churches. Some other comments of which I have been on the receiving end over the years are:
"I daren't tell my father that I'm friends with a Catholic - he'd be absolutely furious."
"Well, we all know Catholics don't read the Bible."
Person accosting me in the street: "Do you know Jesus?"
Me: "Yes thanks."
Person accosting me: "Oh, so when were you born again? Or are you just a [voice dripping with scorn] nominal Christian?"
OK, the last one is anti-anyone-who-hasn't-been-born-again rather than specifically anti-Catholic, but you get the picture.
So why do I still bother going to these things? This year, I heard that all the local churches had got together to organise a series of Lenten talks - the speakers are Methodist, Church of England, Baptist, Weirdo Born Again and Greek Orthodox (not a Catholic in sight, of course). The names of the speakers were publicised, but not the titles of the talks, and I was kind of intrigued, so I went along this week.
Well, it turned out to be a sort of service with a visiting preacher, and I did feel slightly as though I'd been dragged in on false pretences. We started with a couple of hymns, a reading and a few prayers, and ended with a blessing and another hymn. In between was the talk.
Two things struck me during the "prayer service" bit. The first was during the prayers. I was amazed to see people eating their supper - with knives and forks and all - while praying. How can you give your attention to God when you're tucking into a pizza?
The other thing was that everyone (except the few Catholics there, who looked embarrassed and shuffled our feet because we didn't know the hymns) sang with great gusto - and when it got to the refrain in each verse, all the men and all the women sang different parts, so it was a sort of round. Can you imagine that happening spontaneously in a Catholic church? And how did they know - especially when they were presumably from all the other churches in town and not just from the church where the service was being held?
They're a funny lot - and they think we're a funny lot. But we all believe in the same God, and the same Jesus Christ, and it would be nice if we could get along a bit better, and all show a bit more respect for each other. So that's why I'll probably try to go to the other 'talks' in this series as well.
Update: I've just read Simon-Peter's post on the consecration of an Episcopalian bishop in a Catholic Cathedral. When I say we should get along better and respect each other, I mean we should rejoice in the beliefs that we share and be friendly towards each other - have cups of tea together, pray together and pray for each other.
I also think we should respect the integrity of people of other faiths and other denominations in their sincerely-held beliefs. And I think the respect should be two-way, and they should also show more respect for us.
I don't mean that we should ignore the very real differences between our beliefs, or downplay the importance of those differences.