SEI 2009: Prairie Centre hosts Summer Ecumenical Institute

 — June 25, 200925 juin 2009

This article originally appeared in The Prairie Messenger, June 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

SASKATOON – A national Summer Ecumenical Institute was held June 2 – 5 in Saskatoon, with some 50 participants taking stock of the ecumenical movement, renewing their vision and commitment to reconciliation and unity among Christians.

Organized and hosted by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, the event featured Rev. Tom Ryan, CSP, as facilitator. Ryan is the director of the Paulist Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, based in Washington, DC. A former director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism in Montreal, Ryan examined the past, present and future of the ecumenical movement in three keynote addresses. He also explored the question of inter-religious prayer in a workshop session June 3.

Workshop sessions included an overview of the recent Roman Catholic/Anglican document, Growing Together in Unity and Mission, presented by Rev. Don Bolen; an introduction to L’Arche, an ecumenical success story, by Rev. Amy Bunce; and a description of resources for revitalizing rural ministry presented by Dr. Cam Harder of the Lutheran seminary in Saskatoon.

Sister Judy Schachtel, SMS, of Earthcare Connections, led a session on the dignity of creation and ecological spirituality, while Rev. Sandra Beardsall of St. Andrew’s College discussed shared ministries. Trends in inter-faith dialogue were explored by Adèle Brodeur, associate director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism.

Ecumenical perspectives on healing were explored in a panel discussion featuring parish nurse Deb Bauche, Rev. Cyrian Hutcheon, MD, pastor of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Saskatoon, and Rev. Larry Mitchell, an Anglican priest and North American director of the ecumenical Order of St. Luke the Physician.

The Summer Ecumenical Institute was a 25th anniversary event for the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE). The centre started in Saskatoon in 1984 under the leadership of Rev. Bernard de Margerie. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s call for the Second Vatican Council, which in turn sparked de Margerie’s own 50-year journey working for Christian reconciliation. PCE has acknowledged the three anniversaries throughout the past year.

De Margerie was recognized for his contributions at an anniversary banquet held June 4, in conjunction with the Summer Ecumenical Institute. Retired Mennonite pastor Vern Ratzlaff expressed appreciation for de Margerie’s years of work and vision. “You have shown us what our common baptism and Christian charism involve,” Ratzlaff said.

In response, de Margerie stressed the need to continue and intensify the work toward Christian reconciliation. “The journey to unity is seemingly devoid at this time of a clear and compelling goal,” he said.

“Let us encourage one another, learn to carry each other’s burdens and wash each other’s feet across denominational lines so that we may all be one for the credibility of our common mission in Christ, and for the glory of God in his reconciling grace.”

De Margerie concluded with a reflection from Ryan’s book, A Survival Guide for Ecumenically Minded Christians: “When God puts us back together again – with the aid of our willingness to co-operate – this great church will be marked by the dignity and scholarship of the Anglicans; the order and sacraments of the Roman Catholics; the warm fellowship of the Methodists; the Presbyterian desire for good preaching; and the Lutheran respect for sound theology. There will be the Baptist concern for individual salvation; the Congregational respect for the rights of the lay members; the Pentecostal reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit; and the Quaker appreciation for silence. We will find there the Mennonite sense of community; the social action of the Salvation Army; and the Reformed love of the Bible; all wrapped in the Orthodox reverence before the mystery of God.”

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