Prairie Centre for Ecumenism’s grant grows

 — Oct. 8, 20118 oct. 2011

The Rev. Eric Dyck, chaplain-general of the Canadian Priory of the Order of Saint Lazarus was in Saskatoon recently to confirm a financial grant the order is giving to the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism’s Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau.

The Order of St. Lazarus, or, more correctly, the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem, is a very ancient international order of knights and dames that was originally formed at the time of the Crusades. Its earliest roots are found in the hospitals of Jerusalem in the third and fourth centuries, which were established to care for dying knights and Crusaders.

“A chain of hospices were set up by the order along the Crusade route,” Dyck says, “and hospitals were built in Jerusalem to care for the dying. That most often meant care of lepers, because the crusading Europeans were very prone to contracting leprosy when they reached the Middle East. The Order of Saint Lazarus eventually became focused on leprosy and went on to establish leprosaria in Europe. We still fund leprosaria in India today, but in the modern setting, the Canadian Grand Priory interprets the care of the dying as support of palliative care in Canada.”

The other focus of the Order of Saint Lazarus is ecumenism.

Dyck says there are about 350 to 400 Order of Saint Lazarus members of various ranks in Canada. The Grand Priory of Canada (the Canadian entity of the Order) is divided into commanderies, each fulfilling the mission of the order in their area.

There is currently no commandary in Saskatchewan, but the work of the Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau, a project of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, caught the attention of the Grand Priory of Canada.

“The chairperson of the Ecumenical Commission of the Grand Priory of Canada, Maj. Ruth Stokes, and I discussed the venture,” Dyck says, “and we agreed that the work the Shared Ministries Bureau is doing will be more and more needed in the future. It is addressing something that is looming on the religious horizon – promoting Christian unity and cooperation. That struck us as being something the order wanted to support.”

The Order of Saint Lazarus has contributed financially to the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism since its inception, and gave an initial grant toward its establishment. That support was followed by an annual oblation or gift of $3,000 per year. Now the order has increased the grant to $5,000 and is considering pledging similar ongoing funding.

All of this is very much appreciated, says Margaret Wist, project worker with the Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau. “The grant will help us continue what we believe is a very necessary work.”

The Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau was formed in 2005 when church leaders began requesting that the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism become a repository for information and documents concerning ecumenical shared missions in Canada.

“About the same time, a national task force composed of representatives from the Anglican, United, Presbyterian and Evangelical Lutheran churches met to write an Ecumenical Shared Ministry handbook for people going into ESM situations,” Wist says.

“Ecumenical Shared Ministry (ESM) happens when two or more Christian denominations share a building, programming, worship, clergy or any arrangement thereof. It is happening more and more frequently, particularly in rural areas, as a way of maintaining a Christian presence in the community.

“Deliberate shared ministries are also happening in cities. In Regina, for instance, there is a church with two sanctuaries that is shared by three denominations. It is known as Living Spirit Centre.”

Wist says a positive spinoff from these ministry sharing is that sometimes they build a facility that becomes a community centre and, in the process, the ministry becomes community focused.

“The Shared Ministry Bureau sees the grant from the Order of Saint Lazarus as an encouragement to continue our mandate of collecting and mounting current information about ESMs on our website, to be a repository of information on ESMs in Canada, to provide educational opportunities for people working in or for ESMs, to establish an ESM practitioners’ network and to act as a resource or consultant to new or forming ESMs.

“There are currently 83 existing shared ministries in Canada, but I believe they are going to become more and more common,” Wist observes. “That’s why the Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau exists.”

Dyck says the official cheque from the Order of Saint Lazarus to the Ecumenical Shared Ministries Bureau will be presented in Toronto in May of 2012. Wist will travel to Toronto to accept the gift and serve as a guest speaker at the presentation luncheon.

For more information on the Order of Saint Lazarus, visit www.stlazarus. ca. To learn more about the Ecumenical Shared Ministry Bureau, check out or use drop down menu on the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism’s website.

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