A gift indeed! In a golden opportunity, in June, five of the islands six ministers, priests, and pastors gathered together to discuss Christian Unity. The lack of unity and intolerance for each other has been truly an embarrassment to Christians all over the world.
The meeting and discussion were held at the Commons at a Gabriola Ecumenical Society (GES) educational night. It was a full house with parishioners of all representative churches. It was necessary to define ecumenicism, which can be said to be a co-operation between different denominations and to accept our differences. This is exactly what happened this June night.
It was with fascination that we listened to what the ministers had to say. The questions were, of course, slanted toward Christian unity.
Two questions that took priority were:
- Is working toward Christian unity a priority for your faith community here on Gabriola Island?
- If it is, do you have any ideas that might lead us toward Christian unity?
Pastor Alice Verstraete of Church on the Rock, Rev. Gai Burns of the United Church, Rev. Barbara Huston of the Anglican Church and Pastor Bud of Calvary Chapel all felt that tolerance, understanding and community were part of Christian life and of caring, and that the past and present separation among Christians was difficult to accept from a Christian standpoint Father Derek of Our Lady of Victory Mission Catholic Church (represented by a parishioner) felt that salvation was his main calling for his parish. Pope Benedict, in his initial address to the world at large, emphasized the necessity and importance of working toward Christian unity.
Several ways were suggested to go about familiarizing ourselves with each others way of praying and praising God. One was that the ministers should rotate in the months with a 5th Sunday.
Other suggestions included visiting each others services or gatherings, coming to ecumenical meetings, making certain that we all, at least, participate in the World Day of Prayer, having joint prayer wheels, social functions or pastoral care, working for a common social interest, facilitating visits of other denominations to each others services, or holding a retreat with a theme common to us all. It was evident that most felt they didnt want to give up the time spent at their own services and they might feel uncomfortable at anothers. It was understood that each faith community continue to worship in their own tradition. This in no way diminished the common wish of caring for each other. And, it was emphasized that no one way of worshipping was right for every one and that this was acceptable.
It was hoped that there would be concrete follow-up to these feelings and suggestions. Coffee and cookies followed and the discussion continued among all present. It had indeed been a rare opportunity to hear and talk with the representatives of five churches and with each other.