ECUMENICAL FORMATION — Leaders at the inaugural Prairie Centre for Ecumenism ecumenical formation program this summer at Queen’s House, from left: Bishop Allan Grundahl (retired) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; Nicholas Jesson, Ecumenical Officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon; Dr. Gordon Jensen, chair of Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon; Dr. Darren Dahl, director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism; Dr. Catherine Clifford of St. Paul University in Ottawa; Dr. Sandra Beardsall of St. Andrew College in Saskatoon; Bishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon; and Rev. Richard Vandervaart team ministry leader at Living Hope Christian Reformed Church, Sarnia, Ont. (Jesson photo)
Ecumenical formation program launched
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — A unique ecumenical studies and formation program was launched this summer by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism in Saskatoon.
The first weeklong intensive session of the three-year formation program was held June 24-27 at Queen’s House in Saskatoon, with 27 participants delving into the theology, history and practice of ecumenism.
“There really is no other program like it active anywhere in North America,” says Dr. Darren Dahl, director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.
Dahl notes that the three-year formation program will be held one week each year, with new students joining returning participants in a cycle of study aimed at deepening understanding and commitment to the call to Christian reconciliation and unity.
Upon completing the three-year cycle, participants will receive a certificate from St. Andrew’s College, a theological college operated by the United Church of Canada on the University of Saskatchewan campus.
The first class included participants with a range of backgrounds and representing a variety of Christian denominations.
Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen is enthusiastic about the initiative. “The creation of an in-depth ecumenical formation program is an extremely significant development for the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, and will deepen understanding and commitment to Christian unity,” Bolen says.
“With the launch of this program, the Prairie Centre is taking a major step toward the formation of ecumenical leaders for the future, not just for our region, but potentially for a participants from far and wide, given the lack of such programs elsewhere and their urgent need.”
The new program is a ground-breaking, major initiative for the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, agrees the centre’s director.
“It is really the first time that the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism has tried to do something with ecumenical education in a sustained, structural way, rather than just workshops or seminars here and there,” says Dahl.
The emphasis of the new program is formation, says Nicholas Jesson, ecumenical officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. “There is also a study component with assigned reading, and a writing assignment after each year’s program.”
“As far as we know, this program is unique. There are two similar ecumenical studies programs for Catholics offered in Washington, D.C., and in Rome but there is no other program that brings together lay and clergy from all the Christian churches,” says Jesson.
In addition to Dahl, who facilitated an integration unit, instructors for the inaugural year of the program were Bishop Donald Bolen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon for Mapping Ecumenism; Dr. Catherine Clifford of St. Paul University, Ottawa, for Principles of Ecumenical Theology; Dr. Sandra Beardsall of St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon for History of Ecumenism; Rev. Dr. William Richards of the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad in Saskatoon for Biblical Foundations of Ecumenism; and Rev. Richard Vandervaart, team ministry leader at Living Hope Christian Reformed Church, Sarnia, Ont., for Spiritual Ecumenism.
Rev. Amanda Currie of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon was chaplain for the program, which included prayer and worship, a public panel discussion on Openings to the Future: Ecumenical Signs of Hope, as well as an opportunity to participate in a social evening to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.
Participants will complete their first year of studies with a unit of self-directed study at home in their local ecumenical context.
The second and third years of the program will include themes such as: ecumenical dialogues (theory, attitudes, methods as well as discussion of actual dialogues); the practice of ecumenism in common witness and mission; ecumenical covenants; ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue; cultural issues in ecumenical dialogue and common ministry; the practice of ecumenical courtesy; ecumenical leadership; inter-church families; challenging issues (eucharistic sharing, sexuality and gender, papacy and petrine ministry); ecumenism and social justice; and religious freedom.
For more information, visit www.pcecumenism.ca.