Celebrating Six Years of Full Communion, close to 1,000 members of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada (ELCIC) gathered for a "day-long Eucharist" on the longest day of the year, June 21, 2007. The theme for the service, planned by the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission was "The river of life, the everlasting wellspring, the fountain of resurrection." The joyful celebration took place at the Winnipeg Convention Centre and coincided with the Eleventh Biennial National Convention of the ELCIC and the 38th General Synod of the ACC.
As participants found their assigned tables in the large hall, the room was ritually smudged by aboriginal elder, Barbara Shoomski. Arthur Anderson explained the importance of the ceremony in changing and enlivening the atmosphere with the offering of prayer: " God please change my attitude with my brothers and sisters as we follow the sacred way".
Large four way screens over a central raised platform displayed images of the success of the past six years of full communion: formal liturgies, casual discussions, meals, sharing Eucharist, conversations and children’s crafts.
The congregation was encouraged to "be gentle with one another as we share bread and wine". Presiding Ministers were Archbishop Andrew Hutchinson and National Bishop Raymond Schultz, assisted by Sr. Monica Denk, Pastor Ilze Kulens-Ewart and Dr. Richard Leggett. A gathering song led to the first of several table discussions; the first encouraged Anglicans and Evangelical Lutherans to get to know each other and each other’s churches better. Many discovered common joys and challenges, and communication flowed.
In a thanksgiving for Baptism, the font was filled with water from four directions to symbolize water of life, healing, transformation and wholeness. The meditation was written by Sr. Priscilla Soloman, CSJ and printed in KAIROS, Water: A Sacred Gift.
The sung Kyrie was taken from Evangelical Lutheran Worship and led to the liturgy of the word.
A second table group discussion addressed the sacredness of water and its meaning to individuals, families and the global community. The groups read aloud and discussed the importance of KAIROS Water Declaration: "I agree with the following declaration and commit myself to upholding its principles: Water is a sacred gift and connects all life; Access to clean water is a basic human right; The value of the earth’s fresh water to the common good takes priority over any possible commercial value; Fresh water is a shared legacy, a public trust and a collective responsibility."
Dr. Sallie McFague, Distinguished Theologian in Residence, Vancouver School of Theology, addressed the congregation on "Global Warming: A Theological Problem".
The music for the celebration was coordinated by Mark Sedio who not only supported enthusiastic singing of hymns with his confident and hospitable keyboard arrangements but also wrote "Agnieu de Dieu". A number of other musicians added their skill to communion hymns.
The hymn of the day was a new work from Keri Wehlander, chosen from many entries and debuted at the celebration. Wehlander admitted she had previously heard the hymn sung only in a small group and found the experience of hearing her lyrics ringing forth in the large convention hall "thrilling!" She added praise for Sedio’s interpretation. "Part of my joy was how wonderfully he animated it."
Sharing lunch together became a natural part of worship and conversation continued unabated at all tables. After the Profession of Faith, members of table groups were asked to offer prayer for the church, the well-being of creation, peace and justice in the world, the poor, all who suffer, for our congregations and any special concerns. Prayers of the Assembly were offered in Spanish, Cantonese, Cree, French, German Ugandan and Inuktituk.
A further table reflection on water was offered through the reading of KAIROS "Water: More Valuable that Gold".
The Exchange of Peace was an important moment for all participants who were building new friendships. An offering was taken in aid of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund of the ACC and the Global Hunger and Development Appeal of the ELCIC.
Communion was offered under both denominations and received with particular joy, born out by the singing of "Sent Forth by God’s Blessing": "Your grace shall incite us, your love shall unite us to work for your kingdom and answer your call."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 174,555 baptized members in 620 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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