Principal Maylanne Maybee writes:
January 18 to 25 marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The word “ecumenical” is derived from a Greek word which means “the whole inhabited world”. Its original use referred to the Roman Empire, but the vision has since expanded as a search for the visible unity of the Church and the “whole inhabited earth”.
Our “Second Friday” theme on January 11 was about Ecumenical Connections, with presentations by Michele Barr, a Lutheran diaconal minister and leader of worship and music, and Virginia Platt, a seasoned (Anglican) activist in ecumenical social justice work. I was inspired by their stories of associating with different Christian traditions, and by the way in which their presentations complemented each other. Michelle’s was a story of finding resonance, diversity, and commonality with other Christians through music. Virginia’s was finding strength in numbers and vision when striving for social change through a boycott in the 1970s of Nestlé products to end the aggressive promotion of infant formula in developing countries.
Their message seemed to be that when working and worshipping with other Christians, we should be open to and prepared for surprises!
My own ecumenical experience has been mostly through social action as the eco-justice coordinator for the Anglican Church of Canada, but there was a musical and liturgical connection too. As a theology student in England I sang with an Eastern Orthodox choir (Russian and Greek) and participated week by week in the Divine Liturgy. Upon reflection, it had an important influence on my vocational decision to seek the diaconate. Seeing and hearing an Orthodox deacon chanting the gospel and the prayers Sunday by Sunday gave visible substance to that role and stirred my imagination.
As Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies, I find myself engaged in a different kind of ecumenical endeavour relating to diaconal ministry. My appreciation for the polity and culture of the United Church has deepened considerably since I started here –the sensitivity to the language of inclusivity and justice, the tolerance, even encouragement, of doctrinal flexibility in a changing world, the lusty singing and creative approach to worship.
I had the opportunity on Sunday to enjoy these gifts while attending and preaching at the covenanting of Karen Tjaden, a CCS grad, as diaconal minister at Crossroads United Pastoral Charge in Carman. Not exactly “the whole inhabited world”, but a corner of my world, enlarged and enriched by gathering, singing, and celebrating with fellow Christians. Thank you Michelle and Virginia and Karen for being open and preparing me for surprises!