Friendship draws two churches closer together

 — Mar. 8, 20008 mars 2000
By Andrea Ledding, Prairie Messenger

SASKATOON — It was a Valentine in the form of a covenant signed by a Roman Catholic bishop, a United Church Presbytery chair, two local pastors and members of their congregations on the eve of Feb. 14.

The covenant was the formalization of a long friendship between McClure United Church and Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Parish. The covenant was written, according to the document itself “in response to the call of Jesus, “that they may all be one and that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21-23).

“You must have been listening to the Spirit,” said Sister Anne Keffer, director of Saskatoon’s Centre for Ecumenism, where the official document signing took place.

“On behalf of the whole church, I thank you. I thank God.”

In total, some 40 members from the two congregations were present for the signing ceremony which involved joint prayer and reflections on healing and reconciliation.

Rev. Bernard de Margerie of Holy Spirit Parish, a past director of the Centre for Ecumenism, said the stages of the relationship between the churches were like any other. It first involved a courtship, which built into a relationship. The covenant itself was a gesture of solidarity, followed by the joint celebration of the formal covenant on Sunday. The last step will be ongoing faithfulness.

Heather Desautels of McClure and Carol Pek of Holy Spirit, talked of the shared history between their churches. As far back as 1966, they said, there was talk of building and sharing a church facility as both congregations were attending services at Holy Cross and Walter Murray high school gymnasiums. Those plans were defeated largely over concerns of accommodating services and crowds during the Easter and Christmas seasons.

Joint prayer groups and socials continued, and in 1990, an interchurch group was formed in the southeast Saskatoon area. According to one of the group’s founders, Carol Pek, the aim was to promote healing and combat the “prejudice and fear that Christians look at other denominations with, through eyes of non-understanding.”

Over the years, pastors and members preached in other denominations, Sunday services and bulletins included regular prayer for other churches’ ministries, and in 1997, dialogue between the two congregations began seriously as the possibility of a closer relationship was explored, said Desautels.

Joint Bible studies, senior socials, and a ‘pulpit exchange,’ where the two pastors switched churches for weekend services, helped pave the road to a formal covenant. A committee was struck and strived to keep the wording of the document, “simple yet meaningful,” Pek said.

Radio-Canada television report on the ecumenical covenant service, March 5, 2000 between Holy Spirit Parish and McClure United Church

“It was real and living for a fractured church and general enough for interpretation,” she said.

It recognizes the need for healing and rejoices in the gift of unity and the real, though imperfect, communion that is shared, and the valuing of respective traditions and their growth “in a manner that unites rather than divides.”

Ten specific pledges are also included which cover a variety of issues including prayer, joint services, communication, collaboration in ministry, social justice and fellowship and the support and furthering of the covenant.

Grace Tannahill, chair of the Saskatoon Presbytery for the United Church of Canada, said she and the Presbytery “whole-heartedly endorsed this endeavor and held it up as a hope and example for other congregations.”

Bishop James Weisgerber echoed that statement.

“It’s larger than the parish,” he said. “This event is important and significant. As the Gospel of St. John states, this is unity to the will and plan of Jesus. It is pleasing to the heart of our Lord.

“This covenant helps not only institutions, but all, in growing in unity and the struggle needs to be done at a local level. The gesture of each one is the key.”

Weisgerber explained that it is local acts at the individual and parish level which will pave the way to unity. “The church only exists at the local level, “he said.

Posted: Mar. 8, 2000 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Catholic, Christian unity, covenant, ecumenism, Saskatoon, United Church of Canada
Transmis : 8 mars 2000 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Catholic, Christian unity, covenant, ecumenism, Saskatoon, United Church of Canada

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