Church ‘renovation’ theme of study series

 — Feb. 21, 200921 févr. 2009

The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism is sponsoring an ecumenical Lenten study of reforms that shape the Christian church of the 21st century.

Nick Jesson, one of the presenters, describes the series as “a forward look so we can understand where the church came from and how we are building it for the future.”

The study on the five Monday evenings during Lent will follow the theme This Old House: The Renovation of the Christian Church in the 20th Century.

Fellow presenter Sandra Beardsall says, “The idea for the series came out of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism’s special anniversary year celebrations. One piece of the anniversary is the 50th anniversary of the calling of the Second Vatican Council by Pope John XXIII. The idea was conceived to look at the themes that came out of the council along with themes in Western Christianity in the 20th Century to see how they helped to shape and reshape the church as we know it today.”

Jesson adds: “In each session, we will look at Vatican II documents and other documents from the World Council of Churches to discuss how churches are starting to look at things with new eyes.”

The exercise is doubly ecumenical in that the Lenten evenings will be held in an Anglican church and the presenters are from differing religious perspectives. Beardsall is a United Church of Canada professor of church history and ecumenics at St. Andrew’s College; Jesson is Roman Catholic, teaching as a sessional lecturer in religious studies at St. Thomas More College and working on his doctorate in theology at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. Together, they will explore how Christians together have renovated the Christian house and influenced one another in the process.

The first session on March 2 is entitled Checking the Blueprints — Listening anew to the Word of God in Scripture.

“This,” says Beardsall, “is about how churches have learned to listen to God’s Word in new ways in the 20th century and the role of scripture and tradition in looking at where we are and how we make decisions as Christians.”

She says one thing that has united the church is the use of a revised common lexionary which enables Christians around the world to hear the same Scripture text each Sunday.

March 9 focuses on Firming Up the Foundation — Rethinking the nature and mission of the church.

“In the ’60s and beyond, there was a re-thinking of what it means to be church,” Jesson says. “How do we define the parameters? Have we broken down divided opinions? Every question comes back to: What is the church and what is the new understanding of the Christian community?”

Moving the Walls — Re-imagining the life of worship is the topic for March 16. Here the presenters will discuss worship and liturgy, a primary thrust of Vatican II.

“There have been changes in many other denominations, too,” Jesson says. “Evangelical churches, for instance, talk about the worship wars over changing music.

“Overall, the emerging ecumenical vision for worship has brought many of our traditions closer to each other. In 1982, we saw the baptism and Eucharist document. There are still some areas of division, but Catholic and Protestant worship looks more alike now.”

The March 23 topic of Barn-raising Together — Searching for Christian unity addresses the search for better unity among Christians.

“Christian unity is an area where Saskatoon has a great deal of experience,” says Beardsall. “Parishes and congregations have been working together for years in various ways like shared ministry and study opportunities, and dialogue.

“This series is not the first time worship has been done with various ecumenical groups. It happens frequently here, thanks in large part to the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.”

The final subject in the series is Meeting the Neighours — Inter-religious relations on March 30.

Jesson says there was significant movement in the late 20th century to determine how best to meet “the neighbours” of other religious denominations and faiths.

“The beginning of the ecumenical movement shows the earliest impetus was in missionary evangelism efforts,” he says. “As the 20th century progressed and there were more encounters with neighbours, the emphasis was shifted more to learning from them.”

Beardsall and Jesson say the series will not take the form of academic exercises or long lectures, but rather be interactive times for study, reflection, and shared dialogue.

Each session begins at 6:45 p.m. with worship at 7 p.m. and the study at 7:15 p.m. The series is being held in Haslam Hall at St. James’ Anglican Church, 12th Street at Dufferin Avenue. There is no cost.

Posted: Feb. 21, 2009 • Permanent link:
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