Mennonite Pastors and Scholars Involved in Ecumenical Gathering
"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 First Mennonite Church, in reflecting on a recent ecumenical gathering. On May 9, "Behold! I do a New Thing—Emerging Perspectives in Ministry" took place at the Charleswood United Church. Using Isaiah 43:19, "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" as a springboard, the day saw one hundred participants, including more than 20 Mennonite Church Manitoba and MB pastors, come together for resourcing and fellowship.
This event, organized by representatives from United, Lutheran and Anglican churches, along with Canadian Mennonite University and the United Centre for Theological Studies (University of Winnipeg), included 17 'Ted Talk' reflections on ministry practice. Lutheran pastor and blogger Erik Parker spoke of the cultural commute between the generations, and wondered whether the church we are now, may be the church God is calling us to be. Vincent Solomon, Priest at Epiphany Indigenous Anglican, 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. CMU Professor 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, reflected on a church visioning process in which members drew a timeline of impacting events in the life of their congregation and accompanied these with stories of their encounters with faith and with one another.
Throughout the day, participants spoke of their yearning for this kind of ecumenical interaction. Donna Peters Small, from Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship, said that relationships of this kind reflect God's yearning for 'estranged' children to reunite. Michael Pahl, Pastor at Morden Mennonite, noted that in contrast to much polarization and division in our churches, we are witnessing another movement of God's Spirit, one that breaks through our barriers, and moves us toward God's promised shalom of wholeness and harmony among all people. CMU Professor Gordon Zerbe 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. Professor Koop summed up the event well, saying, "Gatherings like this need to happen more often."