Regional news

 — Mar. 31, 200331 mars 2003


Bridging the Gap Ministry, an interfaith program for prisoners and
ex-offenders, held a banquet in Winnipeg, Nov. 15, 2002 as part of Restorative Justice
week. “We hope to provide a spiritual presence and support to men and women who are
incarcerated, about to be released, or presently reintegrating into society, as well as to
their families,” said Margot Lavoie, chair of the board of directors of Winnipeg’s
Bridging the Gap group. Rev. Brent E. Cooper, the community chaplain of Bridging the Gap
Ministry, is assisted by a board of directors and other volunteers from a variety of faith
groups. Some of the tasks volunteers perform include preparing and serving a regular
weekly meal, distributing food from Winnipeg Harvest, helping move people into new
apartments, and visiting prisoners. An indication of the ecumenical nature of Bridging the
Gap Ministry is that it was founded by a Baptist minister, the banquet was held in a
Mennonite church, members of the B’nai Brith Youth Organization helped to serve the meal,
and the chair of the board of directors is a Catholic.

The Catholic-Mennonite Dialogue in Manitoba is co-chaired by Dr.
Helmut Harder of the Mennonite Church Canada and Rev. Luis Melo, SM, the ecumenical
officer for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. Harder and Melo together with six participants
from their respective churches have met on seven occasions to discuss a number of
different topics. There was much to learn from one another; “In ecumenism we talk of
the gift exchange,” Melo said. Each faith community has something to offer and to
learn from the other. Melo added that “the Anabaptist tradition of being a believer’s
church with their radical commitment to Christ really challenges us.” From Harder’s
perspective, Mennonites are impressed “with the structures that the Catholic Church
has in place for spirituality.” Harder said of the dialogue on the eucharist/Lord’s
Supper that “we certainly have a convergence in terms of an understanding that the
sacrament is, first and foremost, the People of God, living sacrificial lives and thus
being a medium for God’s grace.” Melo discovered that “we have a very close
understanding of salvation as something intrinsic, in the sense that grace doesn’t remain
something outside of us — it transforms us into the image and likeness of Christ.”
For Mennonites, Harder said this “issues into discipleship.” The group met in
January to discuss the possibility of taking the fruits of these dialogues to the parishes
and the congregations. Before that can take place, however, “there is a wider
constituency that has to be looked at in terms of ecumenical formation, and that’s the
clergy,” Melo said.

The Spiritual Teaching and Social Practice series, sponsored by the
Regina Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission and the JP II Centre, heard in January from Dr.
Tony Cummins, a teacher at the Canadian Theological Seminary. Cummins outlined the history
of evangelism, with its roots in the European Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and
the evangelical church. The Fundamentals were published between 1910 and 1915 and
expressed a militant anti-modernism that remains influential today, Cummins said. Cummins
defined evangelicalism as a bible-based, Jesus-focused, personally appropriated, publicly
proclaimed Gospel. He suggested that there is some overlap between evangelicals and the
charismatic movement, “but evangelicals are not usually Catholic.”

St. Paul’s Cathedral in Saskatoon was host to a special service New
Year’s Eve as representatives from several different religious faiths made impassioned
pleas for peace with prayer and song. Four candles representing north, south, east and
west were lit to cast a light against the threat of conflict. Candle-bearing participants
then used the flame from the four candles to further light up the cathedral as a beacon of
peace. Roman Catholic Bishop Albert LeGatt and Colin Clay, retired Anglican chaplain at
the University of Saskatchewan, spoke of the deep yearning for peace that exists in the
heart of each person. Jagat Singh Basran of the Sikh faith asked that the barriers to
peace be broken down and prejudice and hostility be replaced with love
and understanding. Sandra Ellis-Rollack from the Bahá’í faith reminded the
congregation that we are all citizens of one community — earth. Other speakers pleading
for peace included representatives from the Jewish and Islamic faiths.


Among the participants in a Muslim-Mennonite conference held in
Toronto October 27, 2002 were Hamid Parsania and Hassan Rahipour, Muslim scholars from
Iran and Jim Reimer, director of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre. The conference
grew out of an exchange program between the Imam Khomeini Institute in Iran and the
Toronto Mennonite Centre, in collaboration with the Mennonite Central Committee. Muslim
scholars and clerics from Iran and Toronto joined Mennonite scholars to discuss the
challenges of modernity to their communities.

Women from various cultures and faiths who believe in nonviolence
gather at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill each Wednesday at noon to pray for peace
in the troubled world. “Women for Peace” (Les Artisanes de la Paix)
started as a small group which began a weekly peace vigil on Jan. 23, 2002 — the eve of
the Interfaith Prayer Service in Assisi convened by Pope John Paul II. The women pray in
silence in a half-circle facing outward as a symbol of unity and the desire for peace
throughout the world. Sr. Jean Goulet, one of the founders of the group, said participants
at the weekly vigils come from several religions, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and
Bahá’í. Women for Peace invites others to start a group in their area, setting aside a
specific time and day for the vigil.


Participants in the 4th Grand Ecumenical Tour visited and worshipped
with the congregations of the Église évangélique du plein héritage in Montreal on
February 9, 2003 and St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Westmount on March 9, 2003. On
Friday, March 21, 2003 they shared the Shabbat dinner and followed the office sung in
Hebrew at Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom in Westmount. For more information: Unitas Centre,
Louise Boulianne-Séguin, co-ordinator, tel.: (514) 485-0009, (office), fax: (514)
483-9995. Canadian Centre for Ecumenism; tel.: (514) 937-9176, fax: (514) 937-4986.

Struggle & Harmony is a series of panel discussions followed by a
guest lecture initiated by Concordia Multi-Faith Chaplaincy to promote greater
understanding and sense of community within the University. The topics covered include:
Freedom of Expression; Religious Traditions, Holy Days and Precepts; Finding Common
Values. The first panel discussion on the challenges of freedom of speech for religious
traditions and secular institutions was held on January 28 with panel members: Dr. Donald
Savage, Rabbi Shlomo Mahn, Imam Salam Elmenyawi and Dr. Christine Jamieson. For more
information call Daryl Ross at 848-3585 or Ellie Hummel 848-3590.

An ecumenical Remembrance Day service in Huntingdon was attended by
members of St. John’s Anglican, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic, the Presbyterian Churches of
St. Andrew’s and Athlestan and the United Church congregations of Huntington and Rennie.
The bilingual service was presided over by United Church minister Susan Estabrooks. Five
youths helped in lighting three candles, representing thanksgiving, peace and hope.
Instead of a sermon, six narratives of contemporary perspectives on peace were read. After
the service, about 400 people gathered at the War Memorial to lay a wreath. Members of the
recently formed ecumenical group have explored different opportunities for combined
worship, such as the Remembrance Day service and the worship-in-the-park service held
Labor Day weekend. Planning for a Mardi Gras activity before Lent is in the works
presently. Lent traditionally ends with an ecumenical Way of the Cross and sunrise service
on Easter Sunday which have been regular features in Huntington for more than a decade.

Topics in the series of “Thursday Talks” at UQAM included:
January 23, “Judaism” with Pierre Toth of the Dorsheiemet Hebrew congregation; 6
February, “Spirituality in Business” with Robert Dutton of Rona Hardware; 13
February — “Fidelity Takes Two” with evangelical pastor Yves Alarie and his
wife, Kathleen; 20 February — “Catholicism Among Quebec Native Peoples” with
Sylvain Rivard of Terres en vue; 20 March — “Spirituality and Psychology” with
Carmelite priest Yvan Marcil. This series of talks is part of the activities organized by
the biblical and pastoral service of the University of Quebec in Montreal: tel.: (514)
987-3000, ext. 6597 or on the web: [].


A Christian Unity Retreat was held at Villa Madonna Retreat House,
January 21-22, 2002 on the theme: “We are Earthen Vessels, Carrying God’s
Treasure.” The retreat in the St. John area was facilitated by Bishop William Hockin
of the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton.

Talented people from various churches came together for “Sounds
of Christmas,” an ecumenical Christmas concert held at St. Mary’s Parish in
Newcastle-Miramichi December 15. Singers included the Jubilate Men’s Choir from Saint Paul
and Saint Mary’s Anglican parishes and Blair Baisley from Boom Road Pentecostal Church.
All proceeds for the event were for the Saint Mary’s Restoration Fund. Following the
concert a social was held in the parish centre.

The First Habitat for Humanity home in the Fredericton area was
dedicated in a ceremony on December 21. Monsignor Brian Sheehan, pastor of St. Dunstan’s
Parish, performed the dedication and house blessing. The house was built by more than 100
volunteers who freely donated their skills for hundreds of hours of work. All materials
for the house were either donated or provided at cost or below and local churches, service
groups and individuals contributed both time and money to the project. Habitat for
Humanity, an international organization, is an independent, charitable, faith-based
housing program dedicated to the elimination of poverty housing by building homes in
partnership with families in need. The Fredericton Region chapter was founded in March
2000 and construction on the home began in May 2002. For more information on Habitat for
Humanity, see the Canadian website at []
or contact one of the three New Brunswick affiliate offices: Fredericton Region, (506)
474-1520, email: []; St. John (506) 632-9312, email:
[]; Website: [] or Moncton Area/Region de Moncton (506)
384-4663, Email: [].

Posted: Mar. 31, 2003 • Permanent link:
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