Ecumenism at work

 — Nov. 17, 200117 nov. 2001

Ecumenism at work:
Nutana Park churches put theological concept into practice

It started with one couple who wanted to practise grassroots ecumenism; today it is a grouping of nine churches of different denominations actively sharing worship experiences and learning what elements of the Christian faith they have in common.

The group is the Nutana Park Ecumenical Committee; Ken Saunders is its chair.

It was Saunders and his wife Helen who, 16 years ago, approached Rev. Bernard de Margarie, director of the newly-launched Saskatoon Centre for Ecumenism, to propose an avenue whereby they could put ecumenism into practice.

“We wanted to develop a real grassroots experience,” he says.

The Saunders, who are members of St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, rallied a group within their congregation to study the Catholic Church’s document on ecumenism. “One thing we learned was that we needed to know a whole lot more about other denominations,” Saunders says. “So we went out to meet the different Christian denominations in our south Nutana area. We would phone the pastors and say: ‘We’re interested in knowing more about your congregation … can we come to a worship service?”‘

Between 1985-86, the group attended services at several different churches and got to know the pastors. Those contacts led to the eventual formation of the Nutana Park Ecumenical Committee which draws representation from the various congregations.

Nine Nutana churches are involved in the 16-year-old ecumenical project: Bethel United, Calvin-Goforth Presbyterian, Nutana Park Mennonite, Redeemer Lutheran, St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic, St. Stephen’s Anglican, Saint Timothy’s Anglican, Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic, and St. Martin’s United. The actual committee has a basic cell of about 10 people.

“We try to arrange special events once or twice a year,” Saunders says, “sometimes a Sunday evening choir festival, or prayer and fellowship evenings.

“We also hold workshops on various topics. Earlier this year, we held one on Christian values in health care. We’re attempting to follow it up by developing a directory of spiritual care resources that will be distributed to local health care providers like group homes and home care residences.”

Another workshop was held on the subject of baptism which is, after all, says Saunders, the common bond that unites the Christian church.

The Committee’s primary event is its annual Lenten morning prayer services which are held at 7:15 every Wednesday morning during Lent. Fifty to 60 people generally attend each morning.

An ecumenical Bible study has also been going on for eight years now. Attendance varies from two to three dozen people who come about 10 different congregations. Saunders says this year’s study is on the book of Genesis.

“One of the concepts of working ecumenism is covenanting relationship between congregations. The question for us was: how do you covenant with eight other congregations? It lead to the idea of twinning churches so the congregations could work together in a sustained way to develop a special relationship.”

“There is a strong twinning between St. Martin’s United and Nutana Park Mennonite,” Saunders says. “Those congregations have done a variety of things together like summer school programs, Sunday School classes, pulpit exchanges, and choir sharing.”

St. Philip Neri paired with Redeemer Lutheran about the time the Lutheran Church’s agreement on justification was being formalized. Prior to the official agreement, the two congregations engaged in a series of prepared studies on justification based on a Bible study approach. On Oct. 31, 1999, the day the agreement was signed, they participated in a prayer and worship service and social to celebrate the event. As a follow-up, the congregations worked through a five- part series studying the actual document to discern its meaning.

“Because of the developing Anglican/Lutheran relationship in regard to full communion, St. Timothy’s Anglican has joined with Redeemer and St. Philip Neri to make it a triad-relationship,” Saunders says. “We’ve done potlucks together, a joint family picnic, and a prayer and information service explaining the meaning of full communion. This Sunday, we are holding a prayer and worship event at Redeemer to celebrate full communion.”

Saunders says the efforts of Nutana Park Ecumenical Committee have served to build relationships based on faith and prayer and what the denominations have in common.

“I think we have made important bridges across denominational boundaries. People feel at home with the other congregations now, and important friendships have developed among the pastors.”

“We are all being stretched, and in the process, we have come to understand that God works in many ways. This new openness has made us realize that our own way of experiencing God through relationship and prayer is not the only way.”

Saunders says: “We are proud of what we’re doing, but we know we’re only taking baby steps still. We are going slowly and gently in order to create unity and not division. In so doing, I believe we are an important witness in our community.”

He adds: “The Bible says in Ephesians: ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.’ We are Christians from many denominations helping each other in faith, evangelism, and service.”

Ecumenism at work: Nutana Park churches put theological concept into practice

Posted: Nov. 17, 2001 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: covenant, ecumenism, Saskatoon
Transmis : 17 nov. 2001 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : covenant, ecumenism, Saskatoon

  Previous post: Ancien article : Festival fosters understanding
  Newer post: Article récent : The Indulgence Controversy, Again