Regional news

 — Dec. 31, 200531 déc. 2005


The Greater Edmonton Alliance (GEA), while working on campaigns to improve wages for the working poor and to defend affordable housing is also busy building relationships in order to gain the necessary strength to become the voice of the voiceless. Since its founding in May 2005, about forty institutions, including churches, religious congregations, social agencies and labour unions have joined the broad-based organization, which aims to use the combined power of member groups to lobby government and business to further social causes. The alliance identifies and trains leaders and creates a new culture of relationships inside institutions — between diverse individuals and also between diverse institutions. Said the Revd Christopher New, pastor of the Edmonton Moravian Church, “It is through those one-to-one relationships that we discern what actions we need to take on behalf of our city, on behalf of making our communities a better place to live.” (Western Catholic Reporter)

On 1 October a daylong ecumenical social justice event for high school youth brought together some forty young people representing a variety of Christian denominations in Saskatoon. Using the theme “Where is the Love?” they explored water issues at the local, national and global level. The gathering was held at the Refinery Arts and Spirit Centre next to St James’s Anglican Church in Saskatoon. Organized by a committee of representatives from local Anglican, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic organizations, sponsors included the youth ministries office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon; KAIROS, an ecumenical justice and peace organization and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. Speakers and activities raised awareness about issues surrounding safe and affordable access to clean water around the world. Organizers hoped that youth would take this information back to their parishes and communities and take action. Participants had an opportunity to sign a postcard asking Prime Minister Paul Martin to work for justice on water issues, both nationally and internationally. At the end of the workshop youth decided what personal action they could take, whether by telling others about the issue, working personally to conserve water, or lobbying politicians. (Prairie Messenger)


The Lutheran-Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee (LARC) hosted a day of reflection for clergy and pastoral workers on 20 October 2005 under the theme “Come Away With Me and Pray: A day of prayer with icons.” The annual event took place at Queen of Peace Croatian Spirituality Centre in Oakville. Activities included presentations and small group discussions on praying with icons and worship together. Fr Myroslaw Tataryn facilitated this year’s reflection. He is a former professor at St Thomas More College and now vice- president and academic dean of St Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario. LARC has been organizing a Day of Reflection for Clergy and Pastoral Workers annually since 1996. (The Catholic Register)

A group of twenty-five religious leaders in and around the city have decided to establish a Toronto Area Interfaith Council from the full range of world religions active in Canada’s largest city. It will work with the city government and other agencies to represent the interests of the city’s faithful. The idea started when many of the leaders gathered in the summer of 2004 to organize a 20th anniversary celebration for the Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square. The faith leaders at that event felt there needed to be more opportunities for religious communities in Toronto to assume a public role. The Toronto bedroom community of Brampton has had the Brampton Multifaith Council since 1992, and that body was instrumental in co-ordinating a response to 9/11. Among the Toronto religions represented in preliminary organizing meetings have been Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, Bahá’í, Jewish and Scientology. The Christian traditions at the table include Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church of Canada and the Society of Friends (or Quakers). The group will operate independently of the city, but will seek a dialogue with the mayor and city council. Organizers expect to present a fully formed body and plan to council early in 2006. (The Catholic Register)

The second installment of Celebrate Us brought together Presbyterians, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Muslims and Hindus at Malvern’s Wickford Trail Park in Scarborough for a family day in August 2005. Revd Wayne Kleinsteuber, minister of Malvern Presbyterian Church and a member of the planning committee said, “Events like this are breaking down the barriers between ethnic and religious groups.” More than 1,000 people enjoyed the all- afternoon affair which featured a barbecue, games for kids, local musical entertainment and ethnic dancers. Participants experienced the Muslim call to prayer and readings from the Koran, and were also led in prayer by Kleinsteuber, who asked God to “spread love, peace and joy between people.” Corporate sponsors were in attendance, as were Toronto police and the Muslim Welfare Association. Don Meredith, minister with the Grace Christian Life Centre in Scarborough and chair of the Greater Toronto Area Christian Alliance, has been an active and outspoken proponent of ending violence by building strong communities. “It’s about working with residents, building on the positive and taking away hopelessness,” he said. “We need to bring people out of their homes and take back the streets. And we need to show people that churches care.” (Presbyterian Record)

The talks in the Interfaith Educational Series held at Scarboro Missions in Toronto featured “Understanding of Mormon Tradition” by Don Harris on Tuesday 1 November 2005, “Learning about Peterborough’s Multifaith Spirituality Centre” by Rabbi Jordan Cohen on 8 November and “Experiencing a Multi-faith Prayer Service” by J.W. Windland on 15 November. (The Catholic Register)

The congregation of Knox Presbyterian Church in Wallaceburg, Ontario, is working ecumenically to answer the question: How do we love others? Small inter-denominational teams organized by the church have traveled to Bixby, Oklahoma, to help construct a church/training center for aboriginals and to New York where they combined work in the soup kitchens and food banks with evangelism on the streets of Harlem. The convener of Knox’ Mission and Outreach Committee accepted the position of sponsorship coordinator for two Christian schools and two orphanages in Haiti and is part of a team of four women (Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and United) who provide photos and updates on these orphaned children to their sponsor families. Families at Knox support twelve orphans. Thirteen women from several churches meet once a week as the Stitchers of Hope to sew clothes, diapers and bed sheets for the Haitian children. People in the community donate money and fabric. As evidenced by these multi-denominational mission projects, ecumenism is alive and well in this region of south western Ontario. (Presbyterian Record)


The Montreal Presbytery of the United Church of Canada presented a two-day workshop on the theme “Restless Gods and Restless Churches: Contributing to the Religious Renaissance in Montreal” on 2-3 December 2005. The guest speaker was Professor Reginald Bibby, sociologist at the University of Lethbridge and a leading expert on religious trends. (Montreal Presbytery of the United Church of Canada)

The Concordia University Peace and Conflict Resolution Academic Series has planned a series of three symposium events for Fall 2005 and Winter 2006 under the general title of “Building Bridges Together.” The first event, which took place on 16 November 2005, was entitled “Building Bridges: How Does the Public Intellectual Serve or Hinder Interfaith Encounters?” The keynote address was by Dr Bruce Grelle, a Comparative Ethicist, California State University. A panel discussion followed with Paul Allen, Theology, Concordia; Dr Barry Levy, Faculty of Religion, McGill University; and Elle Hummel, Multi-faith Chaplaincy, Concordia. The next two events will take place on 17 January and 15 March 2006. The theme for Symposium #2 is Education and Religion: Responding to the Conflict” with keynote speaker Dr Solange Lefevbre, of the Centre d’étude des religions, Université de Montréal. A panel discussion follows with Richard Foltz, Religion, Concordia; Ayaz Naseem, Education, Concordia, and Harvey Shepherd, free-lance author. Symposium #3’s theme is “Interfaith Encounters: Challenging Assumptions about Diversity and Community” with keynote speaker Dr Gregory Baum, McGill University and a panel discussion with Dr Stuart Brown, Canadian Centre for Ecumenism; Lori Beaman, Sociology, Concordia, and Dr Howard Joseph, Religion, Concordia. The series addresses issues of peace building and management of deep-rooted conflict in local and international arenas. All events are free and open to the public. (

The annual gathering of the Quebec Ecumenical Network (Réseau œcuménique du Québec — ROQ) took place on 12 October 2005 at St Francis of Assisi Church in St Lambert. The conference explored various Christian musical traditions under the theme “Singing God’s Song Through Time and Space.” An evening session was added for the first time to ensure that people who worked had a chance to take part in the event. After an opening worship service and lunch, participants attended three workshops. Revd Dr Barry Mack, Minister of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, St Lambert, traced a history of liturgical music from its beginnings to today. Particularly interesting to learn was the manner in which reformation music (psalms) changed with different reformers. Revd Jody Medicoff, Priest, St Barnabas Anglican Church, St Lambert gave participants practical experience in preparing music for liturgy. She inspired the groups to brainstorm and think of using hymns in new and innovative ways. Father Mike Shaw, Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Montreal, traced the history of sacred music, emphasizing current modern trends. He was concerned that music should represent the culture of the people in the congregation and had us listen to excerpts of music styles from CDs. After a plentiful meal, the group adjourned to the church nave to take part in the evening session. Steve Gilson, Director of Music, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Lisa Lapointe, Director of Music, St Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church led the group in prayerful singing. Thierry Layani, leader of the Taizé group “Vigilia” finished the evening with prayer in the style of Taizé. (CCE)

A conference on the theme: “40 Years after Nostra Aetate: Accomplishments and Challenges of the Relations between Christians and Jews” took place on 2 November at the Theological Training Institute in Montreal. Issued on 28 October 1965 during the final session of Vatican Council II, the declaration of Nostra Aetate on the Church and non-Christian religions marked a turning point in relations between Christians and Jews, breaking with six centuries of a “teaching of disdain.” The conference discussed the progress achieved in the matter of interreligious exchanges and the challenges that still await us. Believers were able to share reflections and questions. Among the speakers and respondents were Revd John Pawlikowski, Dr Adèle Reinhartz, Revd John Walsh, Dr Gerald Caron, Rabbi Howard Joseph and Rabbi Leigh Lerner. The meeting was organized by the Jewish Christian Dialogue in Montreal. (Translated from Proximo)

Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte attended the 13 October celebration of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Westmount. He became the first Montreal bishop to enter a Quebec synagogue and pray with the Jewish community. His participation served to mark the 40th anniversary of the Vatican document Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), which helped improve Catholic-Jewish relations. This Second Vatican Council document, promulgated on 28 October 1965, condemns anti-Semitism, recognized the covenant of God with the Jewish people and repudiates the claim that the Jews, as a people, were responsible for Christ’s death. The text also affirms that the roots of Christianity are found in the Jewish faith and that the New Covenant of God through Jesus Christ does not replace or nullify the First Covenant with Abraham. “I know that the declaration found in Nostra Aetate did not resolve all our issues,” said the cardinal, but it did “open a window of opportunity, and it did bring the hope of growing closer together in mutual appreciation and respect, along with the possibility for reconciliation. I wish … that we would establish more and more between us the solidarities that will permit us to work together for the promotion and the defence of human rights, life and justice,” he said. (Montreal Catholic Times)


McKim House of l’Arche Saint John-NewDawn, welcomed its first resident on 7 June, and another moved in on 2 July. L’Arche is a 40-year old world-wide ecumenical faith-based organization established by Jean Vanier. McKim House, a former rectory of the Paroisse St François-de-Sales near Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Saint John, was a gift from the Diocese of Saint John to New Dawn as a home for developmentally disabled people. Bishop J. Faber MacDonald of the diocese blessed the two-story wood frame structure during the official June 2004 opening and Revd Dan Kirkegaard, a United Church minister, became director in December 2004. Revd Kirkegaard said more residents would move to McKim House as soon as possible. He added that the public is invited to the L’Arche monthly gathering on the third Sunday of every month from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at St John’s (Stone) Church and to the monthly meeting for community prayer on the third Wednesday evening of each month between 7 and 8 p.m. at the chapel of the St Joseph’s Convent. “We would love to have people come and take part and get to know us a little bit,” he said. (The New Freeman)

The Atlantic School of Theology (AST) in Halifax, has a new president who is hiring new faculty and developing several new initiatives. Canon Eric Beresford in January will mark his one-year anniversary as president. Enrolment at the school which draws its student body from the Maritime provinces, is up. In July, Sr Joan Campbell of the Congregation of Saint Martha joined AST as a professor New Testament studies. Another recent addition in pastoral theology, the Revd Nancy Cocks of the Presbyterian Church, is a former faculty member of Vancouver School of Theology and also served at the Iona Community in Scotland. This fall AST started a project called the Best Practices Institute, a new way of offering continuing education. Research done by AST found that what clergy want in continuing education is “an experience that allows them to think theologically about issues in their practice. They want to do it with other people and build up connections because the problem of isolation for clergy is very real, especially for rural clergy,” said Mr Beresford. The first session ran for two days, 29-30 September and covered pastoral counselling during crisis and trauma. Participants will return in January for a one-day interim event to give feedback, then in June will write a ” best practices” manual for trauma counselling within a Maritimes context. Future suggestions for “best practices” courses are improving preaching skills and dealing with complex topics. Another new initiative for AST was the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs in partnership with St Mary’s University in Halifax. (Anglican Journal)

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