“I wonder whether Jesus’ call for Christian unity isn’t an invitation to focus on what unites rather than divides us, in order to see that everyone brings something valuable to God’s kingdom.” So said Kathy Koop, pastor of Winnipeg First Mennonite Church, in reflecting on a recent ecumenical gathering.
On May 9, 2018, “Behold! I do a new thing: Emerging perspectives in ministry” took place at Charleswood United Church in Winnipeg. Using “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19), as a springboard, a hundred participants, including more than twenty Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Brethren pastors, came together for resourcing and fellowship.
Organized by representatives from United, Lutheran and Anglican churches, along with Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), and the United Centre for Theological Studies (University of Winnipeg), the event included 17 “Ted Talk” reflections on ministry practice.
Erik Parker, a Lutheran pastor and blogger, spoke of the cultural commute between the generations, and wondered whether the church, as it is now, may be the church God is calling it to be.
Vincent Solomon, priest at Epiphany Indigenous Anglican Church, reflected on church spaces where culture and images are honoured, enabling participants to “see themselves” in worship.
CMU Professor Sheila Klassen-Wiebe expressed how the Letter of James improvises on the teachings of Jesus and challenges the church to imagine new ways of following. Another CMU prof, Karl Koop, spoke on the Christian community’s historical encounter with the living Word and Spirit.
Jamie Howison, priest from St. Benedict's Table, recalled how Robert Webber’s concept of the “ancient future” inspired him to be part of starting a new Anglican church.
Lynell Bergen, pastor at Hope Mennonite in Winnipeg, reflected on a church visioning process in which members drew a timeline of impactful events in the life of the congregation and accompanied these with stories of encounters with faith and with one another.
Throughout the day, participants spoke of their yearning for this kind of ecumenical interaction.
Donna Peters Small of Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship said that relationships of this kind reflect God’s yearning for “estranged” children to reunite.
Michael Pahl, pastor of Morden Mennonite, noted that, in contrast to much polarization and division in in churches, there is another movement of God's Spirit, one that breaks through barriers, and moves people toward God’s promised shalom of wholeness and harmony among all people.
Gordon Zerbe, a CMU prof, reflected on the power of “ecumenical gift exchange,” and how “we can find much in common with people who don’t share our ecclesial label.”
Within the day’s reflections and conversations, common threads emerged. Congregations in all denominations are dealing with shifting understandings of what the church is becoming. The vitality of ecumenical relationships, a desire for new perspectives and a shared longing for renewed ministry offered hope to everyone that day.
To watch videos of the 17 speakers, visit commonword.ca/go/1555.