WATROUS, Sask. — What happened in the 16th century that fragmented the western Christian church, and what has taken place in the past 50 years that is now mending these 500-year-old fractures? This was the central question addressed in a series of five sessions bringing together Lutherans, Anglicans and Roman Catholics in Watrous this past Lent. The series entitled “Together in Christ” (available online) was produced for parish study by a Canadian Lutheran-Catholic working group.
Through 12-minute video presentations, participant guides containing prayers, discussion questions and biblical texts, the group of between 15 - 21 participants from the three churches learned and prayed together, dispelled misunderstandings and false judgments, and grew in mutual understanding and appreciation of one another’s traditions.
“Yes, we all know one another in this small community, but we don’t necessarily discuss our respective faith traditions and practises,” said one participant. “This is so enriching.”
The sessions “helped me to gain new knowledge about the history of dialogue that has gone on in the past 50 years,” said Adeline Reihl, a lifelong Lutheran. “I also acknowledge that communication has not always filtered down (to the people) as it should have to explain what these dialogues contain. This then prevents the average parishioner to move forward in their impressions of the other churches.”
“For me it was exciting to see us come together for a common goal, to acknowledge, understand, appreciate and respect each other,” according to Lynn Tarasoff, a Roman Catholic.
“It is exciting to learn so much more about Lutheran and Catholic practises and traditions, moving from past misinterpretations to a more united future, said Anglican parishioner Linda Leslie. “This 500th anniversary of the Reformation is truly a time for finding and rediscovering our common faith instead of only focusing on differences.”
Julie Davies, a Catholic married to her Anglican husband, found that the sessions fostered a very open and accepting environment. “There was no blaming each other for the divisions but instead I learned so much about our various traditions.”
Joan Hanson, a Lutheran, concurs: “I have come away with an appreciation for how much has been achieved over the past 50 years through the various councils and conferences/dialogues to reconcile our differences and to move us closer together. It was so informative and I have enjoyed the dialogue at our local level, the sharing of opinions and the realization how very similar we are.”
The greatest discovery — or rather, rediscovery — is that we are already truly united in our common faith in God through the person of Jesus Christ, that baptism has joined us together in a divine covenant with both God and with one another, and that we are justified by that faith alone. The differences that keep us apart are caused by humans, not by God.
By way of marking this lenten journey together, the Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans of Watrous celebrated Good Friday together in the Catholic parish of St. Ann’s in a worship service that drew its prayers, hymns and litanies from all three traditions. The group is committed to continued learning together, and is now considering one of the Anglican-Catholic documents as the basis for future study.