Churches celebrate ecumenical spirit

 — Oct. 8, 20058 oct. 2005

Fifteen years ago, Carol Pek felt an urgent desire to meet and talk with Christians outside her own Holy Spirit Catholic Church. That urgency would eventually spawn SESIG (South East Saskatoon Interchurch Group), sole purpose of which is to create understanding and unity among Christian churches.

Ecumenism is no stretch for Pek, who was raised in the United Church in an Amish-Mennonite community in southern Ontario.

“My best friends were Catholic, and I begged to go to a Mennonite Bible School.” Pek says. “My mother was very open to finding soul food wherever she could.”

At university, a Jewish friend challenged Pek with the question: “Why do you believe in Jesus Christ?” That precipitated a faith crisis. The more she thought about it, the more Pek understood why she wanted to be a Christian.

Pek ended up at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. About 15 years ago, she was asked to be her church’s ecumenical representative.

“I didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” she says, “until I took a workshop from Fr. Bernard de Margerie. What he had to say reinforced what had been coming to my mind time and time again over the years. That is Jesus’ prayer that we all would be one in Him.”

Pek went to her pastor. “We have to do something,” she said. “I want to talk to other Christians in the neighbourhood. How can we break down barriers and prejudices and ‘become one’ if we don’t talk together?”

Her priest encouraged her to seek out others who might be interested in such an initiative. The result was the South East Saskatoon Interchurch Group (SESIG) which celebrated its 15th anniversary this past week.

Though only a handful of churches were interested at the beginning, the group now has representatives from 18 Christian denominations. The group participates in a number of co-operative projects. Once every two years, it produces and distributes to all area mailboxes a brochure highlighting all the churches in southeast Saskatoon.

Another initiative is the annual Musicfest, held during the Week of Church Unity, in January. The churches take turns hosting the event. Each congregation is invited to provide a selection of music, a song, a reading or prayer in its particular tradition.

“We have even had liturgical dance,” Pek says. “The event has gotten so big we can only hold it in the larger churches. Attendance has been as high as 400.”

Lay and/or clergy representatives from each church meet six times a year to share what is happening in their church.

Says Elizabeth Nickel, a staff person at Lakeview Free Methodist and current chair of SESIG: “It is a way to get to know each other, to become familiar with each other’s faith practices. We share how we are each working in the community, our various outreach initiatives like Alpha, youth work, seniors groups, support groups and the like.

“One year we stepped outside our churches to study parachurch organizations like the Mennonite Central Committee and the Catholic Community Centre. On one occasion, an Anglican theologian spoke to us about Anglican liturgy and tradition. Just recently, Fr. Dennis Phaneuf from Holy Spirit Catholic talked about renewal in the church and allowing the Holy Spirit work with you and your faith community.”

Something else the group does is sing and pray together. At the start of church year — the beginning of Advent — each church shares two or three items for which they wish prayer. Each Sunday, all 18 churches are praying for one another. Some put the prayer items in the bulletin, some announce them across the pulpit, others give the requests to their prayer ministry team.

“This is very important,” says Rose Rogers from Holy Spirit Catholic, “because half the young couples in our church are from two different denominations. It makes a huge impact on them when they hear their home church being prayed for in the church they are attending.”

Rogers was the energy behind the recent 15th anniversary service. She and her husband Tom prepared a DVD for the event with footage of all the SESIG churches.

The interchurch group has not been without its difficulties, “but,” says McClure United minister Rev. Joan Brown, “we have weathered it through. The group has been a tremendous blessing to all the churches and representatives involved. We have built great friendships. Meeting and talking with each other has dispelled a lot of myths and prejudices. If it has accomplish nothing else, SESIG has created friendships between congregations.”

The next SESIG meeting will be Nov. 2 at 1:15 p.m. at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. Anyone from the southeast church neighbourhood is welcome to attend.

Posted: Oct. 8, 2005 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Christian unity, ecumenism, ministerials, Saskatoon
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Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, ecumenism, ministerials, Saskatoon

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