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Iwai focuses on ecumenical shared ministries

By Kate O’Gorman

07/29/2015

SASKATOON — The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE) in Saskatoon recently hosted the Canadian Forum on Inter-Church Dialogues, co-sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches and the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism. The forum was held June 22 - 23 at Queen’s House of Retreats, in conjunction with a Program in Ecumenical Studies and Formation (see related articles, this issue).

Featuring keynote speakers Dr. Donna Geernaert, SC, and Dr. Timothy George, the forum also featured a panel discussion and workshops.

Rev. Nobuko Iwai, a United Church minister, presented one of the workshops, focusing on ecumenical shared ministries.

Participants explored both blessings and issues that coincide with local engagement in ecumenical shared ministries. The workshop was also an opportunity to explore ecumenism as it is experienced “on the ground,” as well as to share resources.

The workshop addressed basic questions such as, “What is ecumenical shared ministry and what does it look like on the ground?”

Ecumenical shared ministry is defined as “any combination of denominations sharing a program, mission, ministry or building. An ecumenical shared ministry is people worshipping and serving God in a unified way while still maintaining their denominational identity and connections.”

The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to share stories and explore lived realities of ecumenical shared ministry.

Among resources highlighted during the workshop was the Ecumenical Shared Ministry Handbook, issued in 2011, a document born out of an Ecumenical Shared Ministries Task Force in which Iwai played a role.

The task force is a collaborative body of Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, United Church and Presbyterian churches of Canada. The handbook helps clarify the nuances of what ecumenical shared ministry entails, and how those engaged in such ministry can do so effectively and appropriately.

Another resource highlighted was the recently published book by Rev. Bernard de Margerie, In God’s Reconciling Grace: Prayer and Reflection Texts for Christian Reconciliation and Unity. The book was offered to Christian churches across denominational lines to be used within the context of worship and prayer, and lends itself to ecumenical shared ministry, the gathering heard.

Issues surrounding liturgy, common mission and prayer were discussed as places of both unity and division. However, as the workshop continued, the theme of friendship as the context for ecumenical sharing came to the forefront — a theme in which the entire forum was rooted.

As one participant commented, opportunities for shared ministry are “key as we journey along Jesus’ path.”

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