Working to be One

 — Dec. 1, 20111 déc. 2011
by Rev. Amanda Currie, minister at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon

Working to be One: A commitment to ecumenism benefits communities on the prairies

The Presbyterian Record has a series in which representatives from different presbyteries across the country write a letter to the whole church describing the ways that Christian life and mission are lived out in that presbytery. In December 2011, the Presbytery of Northern Saskatchewan was represented by the Rev. Amanda Currie, who wrote the following letter.

In the first century, when the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians about the Church as “one body with many members,” he had no idea of the differences and divisions that would come to fragment the Church so many centuries later. Paul wrote to address the particular concerns that were plaguing the early Christian communities. He pointed out that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”

It’s not difficult for us to apply the metaphor of the Church as the body to our congregations. We recognize the different gifts that are shared within our church communities – preaching, teaching, administration, music, hospitality, prayer, evangelism, and more – and we learn to value the different gifts and to acknowledge their importance for the healthy functioning of the church as a whole, as one body.

But what if this metaphor is meant to apply not only to the local congregation, but to the whole Church throughout the world? John’s Gospel indicates that it was Jesus himself who first prayed for the unity of the Church: “I ask … on behalf of those who will believe in me … that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

In its report to the 123rd General Assembly of the PCC, the Ecumenical Relations Committee included the following statement about the ecumenical task to which we are called: “We affirm one church, one faith, one Lord, sharing in worship, witness and service to the world. As part of the Church Universal, we strive to listen to and learn from one another, to break down the barriers which divide people and to promote justice and peace in the whole human family and the integrity of all creation.”

Although most congregations and ministers might agree with the ecumenical goal in theory, actual sharing in worship, witness and service with our Christian neighbours often gets pushed aside because of the busy schedules and many demands on our church leaders.

On the Canadian Prairies, the churches have a long history of working together, and the current members of the Presbytery of Northern Saskatchewan have inherited a great legacy of involvement and relationship with our Christian friends. Not only do our congregations and ministers participate in local ministerials and councils of churches, but as a presbytery we are one of seven sponsoring denominations of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon.

The purpose of the Centre is “to be an instrument for Christian reconciliation and unity … and to advance towards that unity in order that the world may believe.” Along with representatives from the Anglican, Lutheran, Mennonite, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, and United churches, Gerri Madill and Rev. Amanda Currie serve as the Presbyterian representatives on the Board of the PCE.

The PCE encourages churches to experiment with ecumenical ways of being the church such as covenant relationships between churches, shared ministries, and interchurch families. It also acts as an ecumenical facilitator – encouraging dialogue, common witness, and common mission.

A recent example of the Saskatoon churches coming together in mission was the 2010 Advent Campaign for the Good Food Junction grocery store. It may sound strange, but there is a “food desert” in the middle of Saskatoon. All the regular grocery stores have moved out to the more profitable areas of the city, and the inner city neighbourhoods have been left without a full service grocery store for the last 12 years, resulting in a significant health deficit.

A community initiative to build a co-operative grocery store with healthy, affordable food did receive provincial funding a number of years ago, but when the government changed the funding was pulled. Though many community members and non-profit organizations hoped to continue with the plan, they were having great difficulty raising the needed funds. So they reached out to the churches of Saskatoon for help, and together we responded.

Church leaders from 10 denominations, including bishops and other representative leaders, wrote and publicly signed a letter of support for the Good Food Junction project. Through announcements and notices in our churches and a YouTube video online (search for “GFJ initiative”), we encouraged the people of our churches to offer their support through prayers, practical assistance, and fundraising to equip the store.

The Advent Campaign was a great success, raising about $150,000 for the grocery store and prompting other large donations from the community. The groundbreaking took place in July 2011, and this Advent the churches will promote the project once more to make sure that the store is fully equipped when it opens in the summer of 2012. We will highlight the project through bulletin inserts and shared Advent prayers, as well as an ecumenical Christmas pageant outside City Hall.

Here on the prairies, Presbyterians are a pretty small group. We’re not big, and we’re not flashy, but we have unique gifts to offer to the wider church that are appreciated and valued by our ecumenical partners. The eye cannot say to the hand “I have no need of you.” We each have a responsibility to offer our gifts in co-operation with the one body – so that the world may believe.

Posted: Dec. 1, 2011 • Permanent link:
Categories: OpinionIn this article: Christian unity, ecumenism, Presbyterian Church in Canada
Transmis : 1 déc. 2011 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : OpinionDans cet article : Christian unity, ecumenism, Presbyterian Church in Canada

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