Leaders at the opening celebration for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 21 at St. John Anglican Cathedral in Saskatoon included (from left): Gisele Bauche, Dean Scott Pittendrigh, Anglican Bishop David Irving, Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and Darren Dahl, executive director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism. (photo by Kiply Yaworski)
SASKATOON — The 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity opened Jan. 21 in Saskatoon with a prayer service at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Cathedral.
Anglican Bishop David Irving welcomed all those in attendance, and Dr. Darren Dahl, executive director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, provided an overview of the week being celebrated Jan. 21 - 28 in Saskatoon. The 2018 theme is “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power” (Ex 15:6).
Worship leaders also included Dean Scott Pittendrigh and Gisele Bauche, with Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon as homilist.
Having recently arrived in Saskatoon, Hagemoen noted the impact of coming into a Christian faith community that is a beacon of ecumenism. “I continue to be impressed, and I must say challenged, by the tremendous way in which the call to unity in our one Lord Jesus Christ is a real vibrant theme, theological and practical, amongst the Christian communities here in Saskatoon.”
In his homily, Hagemoen explored the theme of an unknown future for ecumenism — “a future we all know we must engage” — and of going to the peripheries in response to Christ’s call.
Scripture readings at the celebration focused on loving the alien as oneself (Leviticus 19:33-34), welcoming the stranger (Hebrews 13:1-3), and serving Christ in those in need (Matthew 25: 31-46).
It is clear that Christians are called to “go to the peripheries and share food, drink, shelter, care, comfort, fellowship, whether for the sick or those who are incarcerated: these strangers are Christ’s family,” said Hagemoen. “To unite ourselves in our concern and care for them is to do the same for Christ Jesus.”
The risk of leaving “calmness and peacefulness” to encounter the periphery is part of the missionary experience, Hagemoen noted, quoting Bishop Emeritus Denis Croteau, OMI, a former bishop of the diocese of Mackenzie Fort Smith. When speaking of the great adventure of ministering in the North, Croteau cautioned: “In the austerity and the emptiness and the silence of the North you will discover great truths and God himself, but also your devils will speak loudly in the emptiness of this place.”
Entering into a spirit of ecumenism is a similar experience, Hagemoen suggested. “Are we able to dare to enter into the austerity and the emptiness of trying to hold one another simply in relationship?” he asked. “It is in risking deepening relationship where I believe the work is really done.”