Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ecumenical Service

In 2005 Saskatchewan celebrated its 100th anniversary. The local Celebrate Saskatchewan committee approached ministerial about planning an ecumenical service to help mark the event. Ministerial agreed and a tradition was started.

The next year, ministerial was asked if it would host an ecumenical service on the Sunday of Community Days. Based on the response the year before at the Celebrate Saskatchewan service, we agreed. We don't wait to be asked any more. The ecumenical service is now part of the Community Days.

I love the ecumenical spirit in Biggar, both on ministerial and among the people. There is a sense of eagerness as we move toward one of our ecumenical events. It is amazing how we can come together to praise God. There is a sensitivity to our different ways of expressing our theology and our praise of God. This year our liturgy planning committee had representatives from the Anglican , the Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Associated Gospel and the Seventh Day Adventist Churches. There is no discord in the planning with each of us being sensitive to the other without going overboard. Interesting enough this year we pulled in a lot of more traditional style resources from the Church of England and the ELCIC, although I offered a variety of samples. It is a real joy to work with people whose main aim is to praise God while fostering a sense of unity - especially after all the shenanigans going on in Anglican land.

Music is one of the resources we use to draw us together. We have a wonderful lead musician in the Roman Catholic music director. Her energy and enthusiasm as well as her knowledge of the local musical talent make our music ministry truly ecumenical. We sing a broad spectrum of pieces with a number of talented musicians.

This year was another wonderful service. It has me thinking about Mark Harris' recent post.

"Then BabyBlue wrote a note to that blog entry. You can read it HERE: She asks, "And what of charity for all, malice toward none? What if we all just agree to separate for a period?" Again, in the midst of all the mutterings, a gentle reality check. Early on in the development of the Covenant idea the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, one of our two representatives on that group, suggested to the bishops that perhaps we ought to consider a time out. She said, "I suggest that we enter a five-year period of fasting from full participation in the Anglican Communion to give us all time to think and to listen more carefully to one another. I think we should engage in prayerful non-participation in global meetings (in Lambeth, in the Anglican Consultative Council, in other Communion committee meetings) or, if invited to do so, send observers who could comment, if asked, on the matter under discussion. We should continue on the local level to send money and people wherever they are wanted. (This is not about taking our marbles and going home.) We need to remain wholly engaged in the mission of the church, as closely tied as we are allowed to the See of Canterbury and to the Anglican Communion as a whole. But we should absent ourselves from positions of leadership, stepping out of the room, so that the discussions of the Anglican Communion about itself can go on without spending any more time on our situation which has preoccupied it."

This past week I was with a good friend and suggested the same. Now this is not exactly what BabyBlue was asking for, but at least the idea that the Episcopal Church might "fast from full participation" was working at something of the same hope - that we might "step out of the room." Perhaps across the great divide we can do more than Dave Walker suggests, politely chuck used vegetables and rotten eggs at one another.

I do not believe BabyBlue's remedy is the answer, but there may be some other possibilities. More importantly, her remark triggers a conversation that we ought to take to heart. Are there ways to admit the separations and live with them for a while?"

At first when I heard this idea put forward, I was hesitant. Is not separation a sign of defeat? But as I reflect on what is suggested and my own experiences with the local ministerial, I begin to see some real value. I think that one of the reasons we are able to work so well on ministerial is our ability to separate ourselves. We can listen respectfully to each other and work together well because we are not trying to prove we are right by proving the other wrong. We are able to see our focus in fostering a sense of God's presence in our community and finding ways to help people express it and give thanks for it without falling into too much disagreement. We are able to let go and let others express themselves without censoring or critizing what they have said because we respect that they have the right to their beliefs.

The speaker today, by virtue of being our newest member, was the Seventh Day Adventist member. We worked together as a planning group to chose a theme and readings for our worship. He then put together his talk without further input from us. I may not have agreed with all that he said, although there wasn't much to disagree with, but I respect what he had to say because I know it comes from his faith and from his heart. Even had I found major disagreement with what he preached I would not have made an issue about it because I can respect his understanding of the scripture and the interpretation for how it should be lived out in our lives.

I think that this is all possible because I am not emeshed with him. I can hold myself separate. Maybe Anglicans worldwide to need to stand separate from each other in order to come together in common service to God. That separation will give us the chance to focus on other more important service to God such as feeding the hungry, and healing the sick, and working with God to bring about the kingdom. Maybe in that work we can find the unity that is so lacking right now.

I truly wish it could be done without separation for I believe we each have much to offer. But I begin to see that it is not possible to do so right now. There is too much history between us. Each of us feels we have too much at stake in what is happening. My experience with the ecumenical community here gives me hope that if we can separate and then work together on what is really important without our various polarizations coming into play, we might be able to work more fully together in the things that really matter - discernment of God's will for the restoration of creation and acting upon that discernment, each of us with our own understandings and skills without constantly trying to prove how right we are in our understandings and how wrong the other is. Maybe we could then truly celebrate our diversity and the wondrous gifts that God has given us, using those gifts to draw us together in praise and service.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

1 comment:

Malcolm+ said...

My issue with a five year fast from full participation in the Communion is that it means those who are seeking to overthrow the notion of provincial autonomy will be given a free hand to do it.

The analogy that will make sense to you and your other Canadian readers is the present situation in Ottawa. The Liberal Party's decision to, as it were, fast from doing their job has resulted in according the Harper government the absolute unfettered freedom to do what it wants.

The difference, of course, is that the proposed North American Anglican fast isn't motivated by the sort of craven cowardice which apparently motivates Dr. Do-Nothing Dion.

None the less, ceding the field and allowing the Akinolists a free hand to recreate Anglicanism into the intolerant, puritanical and vicious little sect they desire is bad eccelssiology and bad ecclesiastical politics.