Ecumenism director aims for unity in faith

 — May 14, 200514 mai 2005

Since taking over in January as director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Jan Bigland-Pritchard has been kept busy. The centre has just been host to a shared ministry conference that she describes as “a wonderful event, and extremely gratifying in terms of the number that attended.”

This has been a homecoming for Bigland-Pritchard, who grew up in Saskatoon, completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology at the U of S and a master of divinity at the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad.

She enrolled in graduate work in Durham, England, where an intended two years turned into 27. “I met an Englishman and got married. Interestingly, he is an English Mennonite — rare breed there.”

The couple moved to London, where she pursued a doctorate and taught a class in world religions through the Open University, “perhaps the first long distance education program.”

She also worked part time on the Church Times, the Church of England’s foremost newspaper, and was a research officer for the Bishop of Stepney.

However, what she really wanted to do was theological education in the church context.

“I was delighted to land a job as tutor of ethics and world religion for Wilson Carlisle College in Sheffield, a Church of England training college for lay evangelists who work in a variety of settings.”

Eventually she was asked to teach a class on working ecumenically.

“That was the first time I became engaged in thinking about ecumenism, though I have always been interested in other churches and denominations and, of course, marrying an English Mennonite gave rise to lots of theological arguments over the kitchen table.”

From Sheffield, the Bigland-Pritchards moved on to Bristol, where Jan taught ecumenism and world religion studies at Wesley College, a Methodist theological institution.

“Though I loved the theological teaching, I found myself envying these students who would be going out into active church ministry. I had been a lay reader in my church since the age of 19, and now I felt a call to ordination.

“I also sensed it was time to return to Canada. The time seemed right; my father’s health was failing and my husband, Mark, an environmental engineer whose specialty is sustainable energy and environmental building design, had just finished his PhD in strawbuilding techniques.”

Bigland-Pritchard contacted the Anglican Bishop of Saskatoon regarding teaching opportunities; he countered with a query about Jan considering ordination and parish service.

“I threw my hat in the ring and was delighted to be accepted. We came to Saskatoon last summer to look at churches. It was during that time that I became aware of the vacancy with the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.”

Bigland-Pritchard says she sees the centre as a hub for a network of people with a long-standing and active co-operation in inter- church understanding.

“Saskatoon is a leader — one of the most ecumenically connected places in the country, maybe even in the world. The way the heads of the denominations all come together here is a real blessing.”

The centre facilitates a Pastor Appreciation Day at Queen’s House, which recently saw “clergy of every stripe meeting together to worship God. When we eat together, laugh together and pray together, important things happen.”

The centre also sponsors a writer’s group, which produces bulletin inserts throughout the year. Every six weeks, the heads of most church denominations come together to pray, talk and share things of common concern to the church community.

The centre also holds an annual Summer Ecumenism Institute, a conference for professionals and volunteers who work in ecumenical settings.

A highlight activity this year is the Centennial Service, which will be held at Circle Drive Alliance Church Sunday at 2:30 p.m. to honour Saskatchewan’s 100th anniversary and the history of the Christian faith in Saskatoon.

Bigland-Pritchard says the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism is one of only two such centres in Canada. The other is in Montreal. Its new director, Stuart Brown, is a specialist in Muslim/Christian dialogue. He will visit Saskatoon in October.

What would Jan Bigland-Pritchard like to accomplish as director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism?

“I certainly would like to educate people about ecumenism. Most people confuse it with inter-faith dialogue. They are separate projects. Ecumenism is a project within the household of the Christian church that works for unity and reconciliation within the Body of Christ. Inter-faith dialogue is about respecting and seeking to understand people of differing religions, something incredibly important in today’s geo-political climate.”

Bigland-Pritchard would also like to expand the number of churches that actively sponsor the centre, and encourage the co- operation of less active churches.

She divides her time between the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism and the River Valley Anglican parish, where she serves Maymont, Borden and Rosthern.

Posted: May 14, 2005 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Christian unity, Prairie Centre for Ecumenism
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, Prairie Centre for Ecumenism

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