Handbook helpful for shared ministries

In towns and cities across Canada, churches are crossing denominational lines to set up shared ministries. A new handbook—jointly produced by Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United church national offices-offers help to these communities, which must negotiate their own unique future together.

“It’s like getting married,” said Archbishop John Privett (Metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon and Bishop of Kootenay), who served as consultant for the handbook. “It’s only when you’re in a relationship that you discover what your real values are.”

The Ecumenical Shared Ministries Handbook, the product of five years’ consultation by the Ecumenical Shared Ministry Task Force, draws from real church experiences to offer tips on navigating hot topics-including worship life, clergy appointments, finance, and property.

Also included is a glossary to aid communication across different dialects of Christianese. For example, among the contributing denominations there were three words for clergy housing: parsonage, rectory, and manse.

Archbishop Privett emphasizes that this resource is only meant to offer suggestions, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Churches may join together because of economic pressure or ecumenical enthusiasm. They may share a minister and keep two buildings. Their worship may be a blend of different traditions.

Though shared ministries may not be for everyone, it’s a “lively option,” for many, said Archbishop Privett. Currently six communities worship across denominational lines in his eastern British Columbia diocese. Many of them started during the 1960s, when the Anglican Church of Canada was considering union with the United Church of Canada. When the talks broke off, some churches chose to keep worshipping together.

In recent years Anglican-Lutheran partnerships have increased across Canada in informal and formal ways, thanks to the 2001 Waterloo Declaration on full communion and the public cooperation of national leaders Archbishop Fred Hiltz (Anglican Church of Canada) and National Bishop Susan Johnson (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada).

The Ecumenical Shared Ministries Task Force hopes congregations will consider more creative, cooperative ministries, using the handbook and other local resources.

“I think shared ministry is an important option for congregations,” said Archbishop Privett. “Both for congregations that may be small-in terms of seeing what the way forward-but it is also as very much a positive choice in terms of Christian witness for the future.”

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