Two denominations came together here in a joint worship celebration, making real the biblical concept of one bread, one body.
The service, held at a local arena – one of few locations big enough for the thousands of worshippers expected – featured both the solemnity of an historic moment and frivolity, including a choir, shaking tambourines and maracas and two national church leaders dancing in celebration.
The Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, having both voted July 6 in favour of full communion between the two churches, came together at the Waterloo Recreation Centre to worship and sign a historic agreement. The signing of the Waterloo Declaration, the document that makes real full communion between the two denominations, was the culmination of years of dialogue.
Outgoing national Bishop Telmor Sartison, of the ELCIC, was presider and Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivered the sermon.
Archbishop Peers recalled for the assembled congregation his experience as a parish priest in a Winnipeg church 30 years ago, which shared a building with a Lutheran church.
“I think on both sides of the church, there were questions: Who are these people? Where are we going? What is going to come of this?” he said.
Now, he said, here were the two denominations 30 years later, meeting at two different places, the University of Waterloo (the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada) and Wilfrid Laurier University (the ELCIC’s national convention) yet coming together at the table. In the practical sense, he said, they had come together at the table, having shared many meals over the last few days, including a large banquet the evening before with members of both national gatherings present.
“Now, here we are at another table, at the Lord’s table,” said Archbishop Peers. “Yes, for a meal, but what a meal! A meal to remember, and into this meal comes the word of God.”
Recalling the reading of Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16, by Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, Archbishop Peers spoke of “one body and one spirit … one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all”, drawing the analogy of the two denominations coming together in one body.
Defining the word “remember” as putting members back together (re-member), Archbishop Peers said that the two churches’ forging closer ties was like a re-membering or a reforming what had been dismembered.
“It is the restoration of our wholeness,” he said.
Following the official signing of the Waterloo Declaration, the congregation broke out in applause and trumpets played as Bishop Sartison and Archbishop Peers walked around the raised altar area, the latter raising his arms in a triumphant gesture.
After the service, the two church leaders sang the closing hymn, “We are marching in the light of God” as they danced around the arena’s ice surface, with television cameras and newspaper photographers struggling to catch the joyful moment.
- Joint synod service: on ice, with a twist
(anglican.ca website news story)
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