President's Report 1998
Presented at the Annual Meeting, February 23, 1999.
In my files only recently I found a copy of the CCCA Mission Statement. It reads: 'The Christian Council of the Capital Area is called together to demonstrate the unifying love of God in Jesus Christ to all in the National Capital Area.' It is always a challenge as to how we can do this ‘to all’ but among ourselves this ‘unifying love’ is a reality clearly sensed as we meet together each month. We have come to genuinely appreciate each other and the varied Christian traditions we represent.
We have keenly felt the loss of Ed Bell whose sudden death in September shocked us all. Ed served as our treasurer for enough years that we had to amend the constitution to keep him in that position legally. We miss his quiet, steady presence.
Neil Hunter left us in November to take up a pastoral position in Perth. Neil was invaluable not only in representing his Baptist denomination but in keeping us informed from his perspective as Carleton University Chaplain. We will miss the organisational skills he exhibited in planning some important events in the Council’s life the last few years.
Gary Morton, vice chair of the Council when he took an early retirement from the Presbyterian ministry, did not have the long history of Ed and Neil. In a few years, however, we came to really value his wisdom and experience and the voice he brought to the table.
Our 1997 Annual General Meeting was held at All Saints, Westboro in April. Peter Schonenbach who had just left the Council to take a position with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke to us of twenty-five years of ecumenism in Ottawa.
We begin our twenty-eighth year as a Council grateful for the contribution of our veteran members but seeking for some (hopefully younger than ourselves) who will be as committed to ecumenical endeavours as they are.
1) Standing Committees:
Most of the Council’s work is carried on by its standing committees whose membership is flexible, with various individuals joining as the need arises.
a) Ecumenism Committee:
The event every year where ecumenism is celebrated is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The service for January 1998 was held at St. Joseph’s Church on Laurier Ave. and took the form of a Taizé worship service. Jim Lee and Suzanne Savoie did most of the planning for this service.
Jacques Faucher joined our Council in the spring of 1998 and brings many years of experience with ecumenical activities in the Capital Area. Jacques agreed to chair the ecumenism committee in the fall and was immediately involved with Suzanne Savoie in planning the first Week of Prayer Service sponsored by the CCCA to be held in Hull in January 1999. Jim Lee was also involved in planning that service.
The Council decided that unity in our various churches is often more fragile between those with liberal and conservative positions on issues and theological viewpoints than it is between our denominations. With this in mind, we identified the Hon. David Kilgour, Minster of State for Latin America and Africa as the appropriate speaker.
Much discussion has begun regarding an appropriate way of celebrating this event in the Year 2000.
Several members of Council attended the L’Arche Community celebration with Jean Vanier at the Basilica in May.
b) Inter-Faith Committee:
The members of this committee are Bern Barrett, Yvon Vanasse, Suzanne Savoie and Jim Lee, all of whom are members of the Capital Region Inter-Faith Council (CRIC). Bern Barrett serves as chair.
As well as its regular meetings which the committee reports on to us, CRIC and the CCCA sponsored an inter-faith event, ‘Faith in the Classroom: A Question of Values’ in November with Peter Evans as the speaker.
A Circle of Prayer for Peace was held in December.
c) Justice, Peace, Creation and Social Concerns Committee:
Ruby Elver is the chair of this committee but in many ways this is really a committee of the whole since most Council members have concerns to be shared from time to time.
Faith Partners continues their weekly silent vigil at the Human Rights monument in support of the poor. We received their report ‘People First’ for the People’s Hearings on Poverty.
On request, we supplied some material to the anti-gambling coalition and some Council members attended an anti-gambling rally.
d) Membership Committee:
Suzanne Savoie has sole responsibility for this committee.
Major Douglas Speakman has joined the Council this year to represent the Salvation Army.
We have still been unable to interest the Orthodox churches in attendance and have not yet been sent replacements for the Baptist, Presbyterian and Society of Friends members we lost this year.
e) Publicity Committee:
Don Friesen was committee chair until he took on the position of treasurer in the late fall. He still manages the web site and prepared and sent the posters we all received for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and for this meeting.
2) Advisory Committees and Liaisons:
There are ecumenical events in the region to which we as a Council are related through our individual members. Ed Bell regularly reported to us on the Lay School of Theology. Ruby Elver and Barbara Faught informed us of the activities of the Women’s Inter-Church Council and Suzanne Savoie of the work of the AIqonquin College Chaplaincy.
3) Christian Festival Discussion:
The question of whether there would be a Christian Festival in Ottawa in 2001 was discussed throughout the year with a negative decision being made finally in November.
After meeting with the National Coalition for Christian Festivals and a few other individuals in September it became apparent to the Council that the responsibility for a Festival would belong to a local leadership. The question was whether such leadership could be found.
An exploratory committee was formed under the leadership of Bart Beglo. The six individuals who met three times contacted several Orthodox and evangelical community leaders to see if there would be support for a Festival. We did not find any enthusiasm for such a project and regretfully we had to conclude a Festival was not possible.
The exploratory committee recommended to the CCCA that through our Ecumenical Committee we pursue some way to mark the joint Easter-Pentecost season in the year 2001 (April 15–June 3).
In closing, I wish to thank all the Board members for their interest in and commitment to the work of the Council. Doug Heard is an invaluable secretary and Don Friesen’s willingness to step in to the position of treasurer so promptly, while typical of Don, is much appreciated. I believe that the Council members do seek to honour Jesus’ prayer that we who follow him ‘may all be one’ (John 17: 21).