Christian traditions offer unique gifts

 — May 13, 200613 mai 2006

Each year the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism holds a conference to promote education and understanding among Christians of various denominations. This year, the institute is being replaced by an inter-church retreat that will focus on worship. The theme is Gifts to Each Other: Exploring Our Treasures of Worship and Prayer.

“It’s one of those things you dream up in the bathtub and wonder if people will respond,” says Rev. Jan Bigland-Pritchard, director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.

“While the core elements of Christian corporate worship and private prayer are common to all Christian churches, over the years our different traditions have developed treasures of worship and private devotion that are distinctive of each tradition. However, when we come to worship together in an ecumenical setting, worship tends to be planed down. As a result, we don’t get to see the richness of how other people worship in their own church.”

Bigland-Pritchard wondered what would happen if three very different church traditions were to present a unique piece of their worship at the retreat gathering.

With that in mind, she invited three presenters: Fr. Andre Lalach, Ukrainian Catholic chaplain on the University of Saskatchewan campus; Vern Ratzlaff and Anita Jantz from the Mennonite Church; and Gary Waugh and Robin Schmidt, father and daughter and both ordained ministers pastoring at Courts of Praise Foursquare Gospel Church.

“Each will present a piece of worship from their own tradition,” Bigland-Pritchard says. “They will introduce it, we will use it in worship together and then have a chance to reflect on it and ask questions. The representatives will also share one treasure of private prayer discipline from their tradition that we can use in our private meditation time.”

Bigland-Pritchard says she is delighted to have participation from traditions outside “the usual suspects.”

“Much of ecumenism to this point has involved the PLURA churches like Presbyterians, Lutheran, United Church, Roman Catholic and Anglican. Christianity is so diverse in this city; it’s wonderful to have these other traditions willing and eager to participate.”

The three-day retreat will be held at Queen’s House Retreat & Renewal Centre from May 25-27. The facility can accommodate up to 45 residential attendees; people staying off-site are also welcome, she said.

The format will include informational sessions, group discussions, corporate worship and time for personal meditation and prayer.

“The whole idea of retreat is to have time dedicated to developing our relationship with God,” says Bigland-Pritchard. “It is like taking a vacation with God to meditate, study scripture, pray, journal, and perhaps simply rest.

“In our busy lives, we are pulled in so many directions. We need to study Jesus’ own pattern in ministry: He went out preaching, teaching and healing, but then He said: ‘Come ye apart and rest a while.’ He and his disciples retreated to a quiet place to pray to God and be recharged for the work ahead.

“In Christianity, we are always balancing the outer life of ministry with the inner life of communion with God, which is essential. Otherwise, what we’re doing is like trying to run a car without gas.”

In the past, ecumenical summer conferences have drawn attendees from all over Western Canada and some as far away as the Maritimes and West Virginia.

“I hope people will experience peace and refreshment. I hope they will take away a deeper understanding of the three church traditions presented, and an awareness of the gifts they may want to use to enrich their own spiritual life. In so doing, I hope they will develop a deeper understanding of God’s love for us.

“So often in ecumenical matters, because we feel our own church denomination developed as a result of something that went wrong in the larger Christian church, we lament that. We must keep in mind that God is a god who brings good out of evil. I believe he has allowed particular emphases to developed within the different Christian groups. For instance, the United Church is a passionate witness for social justice which comes out of its Wesleyan roots. Pentecostals recognize the power of the Holy Spirit. Mennonites remind us of the importance of peace. Roman Catholics understand the beauty of colour and symbolism in worship.

“There was a time when we stayed in our corners and celebrated our own gifts. Today, many are prepared to cross barriers and de- emphasize their own particular gifts for the sake of church unity as they see it. I think inter-church movements for Christian unity and reconciliation have matured to the point where we are now going to other church groups and saying: ‘We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Tell us about your church traditions.'”

Posted: May 13, 2006 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Saskatoon, Summer Ecumenical Institute
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