The presence of Reformed churches in Rome is being strengthened through the appointment of Tara Curlewis in a dual-serving capacity.
Curlewis, an ordained minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, will serve in two roles: as the new minister of the Church of Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Church and as the Reformed Ecumenical Officer for the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).
She said she was looking forward to taking up a calling that is grounded in an international and multicultural congregation and “exercising ministry in an exciting ecumenical setting.”
Curlewis said ecumenism “is in her DNA” and churches are “at their best when their voices unite to advocate for shared concerns together.”
“When I am in the ecumenical spaces, I am filled with an inner stirring of God’s perichoresis and have a sense of that same stirring as I prepare to take up the role in Rome, which provides strategic opportunities to uphold and promote the concerns of the Reformed churches,” she said.
The Reformed Ecumenical Officer role will see her develop dialogue, engagement, and joint action for peace and justice with ecumenical partners and give momentum to Reformed initiatives in the ecumenical setting.
Curlewis will act as a liaison to support cooperation amongst the WCRC and its member churches, the Waldensian Church, and the Church of Scotland with the Roman Catholic Church, particularly with the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
“We hope that the new office will develop the cooperation of the member churches of the WCRC with the Roman Catholic Church and the wider ecumenical fellowship in Rome,” said Hanns Lessing, WCRC acting general secretary as part of the collegial general secretariat. “We thank the Church of Scotland and the St. Andrew’s congregation in Rome for their support and look forward to good collaboration in the future.”
The WCRC and the Waldensian Church will cover the costs of running a new Reformed Ecumenical Office which will be supported in its work by an Advisory Board, appointed by the WCRC, Waldensian Church, and Church of Scotland.
Employed and paid by the Church of Scotland as a mission partner, Curlewis will also cooperate with the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Conference of European Churches, and World Council of Churches.
“The cooperation with WCRC and the Waldensian Church in appointing a Reformed Ecumenical Officer is a significant step for the Church of Scotland and the broader Reformed movement,” said Ian Alexander, who leads on international partnerships for the Church of Scotland.
“Tara Curlewis brings to the role a history of engagement and action within the Uniting Church of Australia and the National Council of Churches of Australia in building relationships with international ecumenical bodies,” he said. “It is a good fit, relating to the Vatican and the other world communions with representatives based in Rome.”
As pastor of the St. Andrew’s Church, Curlewis will lead worship and offer the sacraments in the Reformed tradition, sensitive to the international nature of the congregation, including a variety of worship styles, provide pastoral support, and encourage people to take services.
She is expected to support the congregation’s commitment to participating within the wider ecumenical community in Rome, to engage with the work of Churches Together in Rome, and strengthen collaboration with Mediterranean Hope, the refugee and migrant programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy.
“The congregation of St. Andrew’s has been vacant for a number of years and will be glad to have a permanent minister to work with them and share in their ministry amongst the English-speaking community in Rome, and reaching out in service,” said Alexander.
St. Andrew’s Church was established in Rome 161 years ago. Its congregation today is diverse and international.
Curlewis will also act as an ambassador for the Church of Scotland, engaging with the British and Australian ambassadors to the Holy See and other members of the diplomatic corps.
She is expected to take up her post in November.
Curlewis was ordained in 1994 as a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, a sister church to the Church of Scotland and a member of the WCRC. She has served congregations in rural and urban locations in New South Wales (NSW) and served as the president of the NSW Ecumenical Council and also as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia.