Ecumenically Collaborative

ELCIC participation in 2024 Synod of the Canadian District of the Moravian Church’s Northern Province 

From June 7-9, Millwoods Community (Moravian) Church hosted the 2024 Synod of the Canadian District of the Moravian Church’s Northern Province.

The Canadian District consists of six congregations located in Alberta: four in Edmonton, and another two in Calgary. Other Canadian Moravian congregations – one based out of Toronto (Eastern Province) and others in Newfoundland and Labrador (England) – belong to different territories.  

The Synod assembly in Edmonton was an opportunity for the 35 voting delegates in attendance (roughly five-to-six per congregation) and visitors to engage in general business, worship, fellowship and the creative process of ‘Reimagining the Church’ – an interactive group experience led by Rev. Zach Dease, a Moravian pastor from the United States. 

“Much like we would have at our typical Synod or National Conventions, they had a parliamentarian, a secretary, a board and elections for board members… much like our council,” said ELCIC Deacon Faith Nostbakken, who is one of three serving as the tri-chair of the Lutheran Anglican Moravian Commission.

Although she recalled the actual business side of the gathering as being “fairly light,” Deacon Nostbakken was thoroughly impressed with the decision made by the assembly to give voice to ecumenical partners on matters of business. 

“One piece that they voted on was to give voice and vote to that of their ecumenical representatives from their full communion partners,” she shared. “That was passed, but it does still have to be ratified. I wasn’t able to vote back in June, but going forward I would be able to. Them taking that step to give voice and vote to their full communion partners is really positive and welcoming to observers like myself and Rev. Susan Climo from Toronto, where the other Moravian congregation is.”

The Moravians joined into a full communion partnership with the ELCIC and Anglican Church of Canada at the 2024 Special Assembly in Calgary last summer. That moment, according to Deacon Nostbakken, was one of both excitement and relief.  

“For me, it was exciting,” she said. “This brought about a national sensitivity of sorts to the regional expression of the church, and for the ELCIC and ACC being willing to say that this matters enough for us to adopt it at a national level was huge.” 

Deacon Nostbakken has been ecumenically involved for a number of years, so learning from other churches is a significant part of her calling within the ELCIC. 

“It’s exciting to me that we can find ways to not only share what we have in common, but also learn from the ways other churches express their faith, engage in worship and live out their mission. It’s not only important that we bring them into our full communion idea, but also that we keep our ears open to how they do church, and even though they are small, we can still learn from them. It’s not about how big or how small we are; it’s about our vision of living the gospel and being open to what we can learn from even the small partners in our community and celebrating that.”

“It is also important as an expression of how we can witness to the world that we are Christians operating together, rather than in our own silos,” Deacon Nostbakken added. “I think that’s a statement that we make when we say we have three full communion partners – what else might happen? We already do things in joint congregations with United Churches, for example, maybe it’s just another step in further dialogue, ecumenically? The more we do, the more we open our hearts and our minds to do more. In that way, it’s an important step.”

Rev. Dease’s Reimagining the Church presentation divided delegates into groups to look at identifying ways that individual congregations could become more engaged within their respective communities and explore some of the gifts and needs locally. 

“It was great to see them so encouraged to bring back some of this information to their congregations on being actively involved in ministry within their communities,” Deacon Nostbakken concluded. “Because sometimes, we get so focused on our own little corners, right down to our own congregation, that it seems we may forget what’s beyond our walls. And that’s not the healthiest expression of what it means to be church. Any and every time we can be ecumenically collaborative, it’s a healthier expression of church.”