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Christians called to be ambassadors of reconciliation

By Ramon Gonzalez

Western Catholic Reporter


SHERWOOD PARK, Alta. (CCN) — Christians are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation, said Paulist Father Thomas Ryan and Episcopal Canon William Derby, mission leaders for the 25th annual Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission.

The pair took turns giving the sermon at an evening service at Sherwood Park United Church Oct. 6.

Christians have a ministry of reconciliation that begins in our inner lives and spreads to family, friends, colleagues, church and the world, they said.

“In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said the members of the church in Corinth were ambassadors for Christ,” Derby said. “Their ambassadorial portfolio was simple and clear. They were called to be reconcilers.”

Ryan is a Paulist priest who is the author of many books and has served as director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism. He is currently director of the Paulist North-American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

Derby, who returned to New York City in 2010 after serving congregations in Montreal, Mexico and Vancouver, is currently rector of an Episcopal church in East Harlem, serving the congregation in both English and Spanish.

Both Ryan and Derby spoke at the mission’s first event 25 years ago and were brought back to mark the anniversary.

Unity is of the very nature of the church of Christ, Derby said. “When our churches are physically close to one another but remain effectively in solitude, we have not yet grasped the full meaning of the word ‘reconciliation.’ ”

Nevertheless, there are promising glimpses of reconciliation, especially in Strathcona County, where Christians have been working together for 25 years, the Episcopal leader said.

“Each of us and all of our churches has been given a ministry of reconciliation.”

This is not a specialized ministry to be carried out by a committee or special officers of the church. “Each of us is an ambassador for Christ.”

Ryan said a nation’s ambassadors need to know about the people, language and culture of the country to which they are posted. The same applies to relationships with other churches.

“They are not different countries but they are different cultures,” replied Derby. “I suggest that openness to other cultures is what characterizes an effective and an observant ambassador.”

Ryan said an ambassador for Christ looks for ways to bring healing.

“If you have a member of your family who has stopped going to church, look for an opportunity to open a conversation.” Or, if you are active in a local ministerial association and one of your colleagues misses some meetings, you reach out to that person not in anger but with kindness, he advised.

Ryan said Christians can give no testimony more powerful than living out the good news of reconciliation.

Our bodies are important to our spiritual lives

SHERWOOD PARK, Alta. (CCN) — Christians need help in coming to a higher appreciation of the role of their bodies in their spiritual lives, says Rev. Thomas Ryan, CSP. One practice that can help is yoga.

Ryan said contrary to common opinion, yoga is not a religion but a science, philosophy and spiritual practice.

“Yoga for me is just one possible way for Christians to come to feel more comfortable in their body and learn how to go to God through their bodies.”

Ryan spoke during a workshop Oct. 6 that was part of the Strathcona County Ecumenical Mission.

Yoga was developed to help people meditate better, Ryan said. After doing yoga, a person feels more relaxed, grounded and centred.

The stretching and deep breathing of yoga is one way to release tension and stress from one’s body so that one is able to pray, he said.

Christianity places a high value on the person as embodied, but most Christians do not give their bodies a role in their spiritual practice, he said.

“We need some help here.” In Hinduism, although the body has no importance after death, during one’s life, Hindus ascribe a significant role to it, Ryan said. — Ramon Gonzalez

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