Annual Program offered by PCE


(Darlene Polachic- Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE) is holding its third Program of Ecumenical Studies and Formation course from June 21 to 24.   The program is offered annually as an opportunity for those involved in or hoping to work in ecumenical ministries, as well as interested lay people and clergy, to learn more about ecumenical theology.

“We will be graduating our first group of students this year,” says PCE Executive Director Darren Dahl. “Six people have completed the three-year course; three of them will be present at the graduation ceremony.” Graduates receive a Certificate in Ecumenical Studies from St. Andrew’s College and the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism.

For the past three years, students have come from across Canada to Saskatoon for the weeklong session at the end of June. In the introductory year they took courses in the history of ecumenism, the biblical foundations of ecumenism, spiritual ecumenism and the principles of ecumenical theology. These same classes are offered every year for incoming students, along with an advanced curriculum in the second and third years.

“For some, the first year program is a one-off,” Dahl says. “Students come just for that initial year of instruction. It’s a great self-contained primer in Ecumenism.” 

The second and third year advanced curriculum focuses on ecumenical dialogues, and in particular, how ecumenical thinking and the practice of ecumenism takes place in a dialogic format.

“We think about Christianity and our own unique Christian traditions in dialogue with others,” Dahl says. “The goal of the advanced program is to show students we can’t do ecumenism alone. That isn’t obvious to everyone. It’s about listening and sharing our traditions. You can’t just read a book on ecumenism, you have to be engaged with people who think differently from you.”

For the advanced curriculum, the Centre brings in two national or international scholars. This year the two are The Reverend Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan and The Reverend Dr. Michael Kinnamon.

Barnett-Cowan is the president of the Canadian Council of Churches, a national ecumenical body composed of 25 member churches. She is the former Director for Unity, Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion and holds numerous honourary doctorates.

Kinnamon is the former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States. He has lectured on ecumenism across the U.S. and overseas, particularly in India and the Middle East. He is also the author of An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices and A Light to the Nations: The Indian Presence in the Ecumenical Movement in the Twentieth Century.

While the curriculum classes are limited to registered participants, there are several events being held during the week to which the public is welcome and invited. One takes place on Tue., June 21, at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, 10 Grosvenor Crescent where Michael Kinnamon will make a presentation based on his literary works. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. with a wine and cheese reception to follow.

A panel discussion is planned for Wed., June 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Mayfair United Church, 902 33rd Street West. Panel members are Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan; Rev. Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of the United Church of Canada; and Roman Catholic Bishop Donald Bolen, a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Coffee and dessert follow.

The third public event of the week is the PCE’s gala banquet at the German Cultural Centre on Thur., June 23.

“This is our annual fundraiser event for the Centre,” Dahl says. “It is our opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate.”

Tickets for the banquet are $50, available at 306-653-1633. There will be a silent auction and the musical entertainment from Wires & Wood, a Latin/jazz ensemble. The Ecumenical Studies and Formation course graduation ceremony will also take place at the gala.

The course itself is held at Queen’s House of Retreats. Prior registration is required. To register, call the PCE at 306-653-1633. Meals are included in the price of the ticket, and meal choices can be made at the time of registration.

 In commenting on the Program for Ecumenical Studies and Formation, graduate Gerri Madill observes: “There is a ‘retreat aspect’ as we participate in daily worship services, prayers and discussions on Christian topics. Spending time with Christians genuinely interested in ecumenism enhances our learning and adds to the spirituality of the time spent together.”

“While recognizing and respecting denominational identity as an important part of diversity,” says Kate O’Gorman, “after three years of formation I understand more fully some of the ecumenical issues surrounding liturgy, authority, common mission, and prayer as being opportunities for great Christian unity.”

Says Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers, “Taking part in the PESF has solidified my commitment to ecumenical dialogue as the way to be church in the future.”