The ACC-UCC National Dialogue was given as a high priority the task of addressing shared ministry issues. During our time together we have visited various shared ministries, spoken with those involved including military chaplains, interviewed faculty at theological schools across Canada, and attended the most recent Collaborative Ministries Conference in Saskatoon facilitated by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.
We were informed that a regional conference had been held annually for many years in Grande Prairie, Alberta, sponsored by the Anglican, United, Evangelical Lutheran, and Presbyterian Churches. Judicatories of these four denominations initiated and attended these events. In an effort to aid shared ministries through some of their unique difficulties a Shared Ministries Resource Kit was compiled and completed for distribution at the January 1999 event. It included the following introduction:
With the decline of church membership particularly in remote isolated areas of Canada, but now also in urban centres, the idea of Shared Ministry has evolved. The tiny congregations from different denominations worship together and together may be able to continue as a community of faith in an alternate form. Because of the different theological, legal and statistical requirements of each denomination, this process is not so simple as it might at first seem. Therefore, those with experience in this dimension of ministry have put together this information package to help interested Christians explore the possibilities of shared ministry.
With this document and military chaplaincy materials the Dialogue members prepared the first draft of a larger ecumenical handbook. The group edited this until a final draft had been developed.
At this time the Dialogue members proposed that Lutherans and Presbyterians be invited to a common table with Anglican and United Church people to discuss shared ministry issues. There would be overlap with the Dialogue and theological conceptions or misconceptions might be uncovered that would need further discussion.
In November 2006 a National Ecumenical Shared Ministries Working Group was formed involving the Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Churches in Canada. The members were to collect and disseminate resources about Ecumenical Shared Ministries. Using the material the Dialogue presented to them, they made more revisions, primarily by the addition of Lutheran and Presbyterian definitions. Each church examined its laws to see if there could be a way to create a category of “Ecumenical Shared Ministries” that would be treated as pastoral exceptions, working with guidelines developed by the task group. A formal Ecumenical Shared Ministries Handbook is now available through each of these denominational national offices and their websites, as well as the Moravian Church in Canada in Calgary and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon.
- That our churches be proactive in considering Ecumenical Shared Ministry as a positive choice, both for congregations and for outreach and mission projects in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Ecumenical Military Chaplaincy
“Serving as a military chaplain for the last twenty years has truly taught me the meaning of ecumenical and interfaith work. As a United Church minister serving rural and city churches, I thought I was quite forward thinking. I was part of a ministerial; I ventured to ‘interfaith-events’; I read and tried to understand the perspectives of others. Working in the ecumenical environment of the Canadian Forces chaplaincy pushes you to another level of understanding. The understanding of ecumenism moves from something that you do, to something you live, and something that rests at the foundation of every facet of your ministry. Let me try to explain with an example.
“Although ideal, it is not always possible on training or deployed operations to provide both a Protestant and Roman Catholic chaplain to officiate at weekly worship services. As a chaplain deployed to Kosovo, I was the only chaplain covering a large territory; I was the one who led four worship services each Sunday in different units living across the war-torn land. I led worship for the soldiers of all denominations with whom I lived and visited on a daily basis. We became friends, confidantes, and part of each other’s lives. Like any parish minister, I learned the names of their family members, their concerns; we laughed and prayed together. Not all were from my UCC tradition, but when it came to Sunday, we all worshipped together. I think in this there is a vision of what Christ would have expected of a community of faith. Those who work and live together also pray and serve together without boundaries. There was no going our separate ways on Sunday because we worshipped in different Christian churches. The gathering of different denominations together also created great discussion, which deepened all our understanding of our faith.
“This ‘worshipping together’ is mirrored in Canada where all Protestant denominations share a chapel and we come together for special services on induction of new chaplains, for instance, in a service that includes our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ as well as Muslim and Jewish chaplains. What I want to emphasize is that the tradition has to learn to stand beside the service that is required of a chaplain.
“I want to stress, too, that it is important to be grounded in and understand one’s own faith tradition. This, I believe, is the only true way we can enter into an ecumenical form of ministry. Only in understanding where we come from and ‘feeling comfortable in our own skin’ can we enter in a non-threatening way a workplace with others who have a different perspective than we do.”
— Lt. Col. Laurelle Callaghan