President's Report 2004
Presented at the Annual General Meeting, May 5, 2005
Arising from the Ottawa Council of Churches established in 1948, and constituted in 1971 with the main purpose ‘To give visible expression to the unity of all Christian believers and congregations, of whatever tradition and denomination, who confess that Jesus Christ is the Saviour and Lord according to the Scriptures,’ the Christian Council of the Capital Area reports continued faithfulness, witness and work in the year of grace of 2004.
‘My peace I give to you’ is the promise with which the year began for many of our communities. These words of our Saviour and Lord from John 14: 27 were the basis of the Service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, composed by the women of Syria. Many ecumenical services of worship were held throughout the region – a Baptist preacher in a Roman Catholic sanctuary accompanied by a Salvation Army band is but one wonderful example.
The CCCA itself sponsored a service on Sunday, January 18, generously hosted by Rideau Park United Church and ably led by the Rev. Lillian Roberts with representative local clergy, at which Dr. Pierre Allard spoke about Restorative Justice. The Council noted with appreciation the initiative of Archbishop Marcel Gervais to organise a service at Notre Dame Cathedral—as it was scheduled for the evening of Sunday, January 18, joint advertisements were placed in the Ottawa Citizen inviting the community to join in celebrating Christian Unity at both services, ‘A time of mutual encouragement and corporate witness, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic together.’
An equally meaningful gathering in 2004 for the Council occurred in April around the theme ‘Can We Be One? Christian Leaders Reflecting On Christian Unity’. Over 40 individuals joined the Council to hear Bishop Peter Coffin (Anglican), Don Friesen (Mennonite), Archbishop Marcel Gervais (Roman Catholic) and Norma McCord (United Church) speak to how they viewed the current state of ecumenism in Ottawa today, and how the CCCA could assist their Christian community in ecumenical experience and witness.
Two of the many points made were that as Christians we need to make more visible to the community the unity we do share in faith and work, and that the increasing importance of interfaith relationships in Canada is itself an imperative toward Christian unity. Among the suggestions made were the need for more explicitly ecumenical events throughout the year to build upon the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and also the need for some publication that would celebrate the ecumenical witness and work already undertaken and enjoyed. There was a significant reaffirmation of ecumenism and of the work of the Christian Council of the Capital Area.
The CCCA met ten times during 2004, the first Thursday of every month with the exceptions only of July and August. Every meeting began with prayer and a time of meditation guided by personal reflections by members of the Council and thoughts from sources as various as ‘Blessing: The Art and The Practice’ by molecular biologist David Spangler, ‘Book of Multi-Faith Prayers’ published by the Ecumenical Study Commission for Education in the Province of Ontario, and the Pentecost message of the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.
The members of the Council met to ensure there is a continuing witness to Christian unity in the capital region, but also to share information and perspectives. We celebrated the continuing work of the Women’s Inter-Church Council, the Ottawa Lay School of Theology, the Pastoral Care Team Training Programme. We celebrated the emerging work of the Algonquin College Chaplaincy as they moved towards their first staff person, and the Multifaith Housing Initiative as it moved towards the purchase of its first property.
We discussed issues as diverse as the release of the film ‘The Passion of Christ’ and its particular theology, the surprising popularity of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Museum of Civilisation, and the need to affirm the practice and right of the Church in Canada to offer sanctuary to refugees.
We considered documents that ranged from the recently released Windsor Report of the Anglican communion, and the joint Lutheran/Roman Catholic Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification on the occasion of its fifth anniversary, and we revisited the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document of the World Council of Churches on the thirtieth anniversary of its first draft.
We heard from Gordon Lorimer of Habitat For Humanity about the new plan to build 50 homes in the next five years and how the churches are being invited to become members of the ‘Faith Guild’, to comprise of 100 members, each of whom commit to $1000 for five years.
Reaching beyond our meetings, the Council wrote to the CRTC to support the application of Radio Ville Marie to transmit in the region, and wrote also to the Mayor and City Councillors of the City of Ottawa expressing regret at how the annual city budget discussions had been framed in such a divisive and negative way.
Various members of the Council were interviewed for an article in the Ottawa Citizen ‘Putting Aside Religious Differences’ of October 17.
The CCCA was represented at an interfaith meeting between the Dali Lama and the Prime Minister of Canada, and at a 60th anniversary celebration of the Canadian Council of Churches held at Southminster United Church.
With the assistance of our representative on Interfaith Ottawa, a comprehensive map of all houses of worship in the City of Ottawa was composed.
Desiring to grow in relationship with a new organisation that is bringing together many new-line and independent churches, individual members of the Council attended some of the new monthly gatherings of church leaders sponsored by Mission Ottawa/Outaouais.
During the year 2004 the Council enjoyed representation from the Anglican, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, Salvation Army, Society of Friends and United communities, as well as representatives from Faith Partners and the Women’s Inter-Church Council.
It was with gratitude that the Council welcomed new representatives, Gordon Smith (the Greek Orthodox community) and Jane McCaig (the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa), even as with regret we said adieu to Nabih (Coptic Orthodox) and Pauline (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Gatineau).
I record my appreciation for the company and encouragement of each member of the Council this year past, and particularly for the work of the Council Executive which included Don Friesen (Secretary), Peter Harkness (Treasurer), Barbara Faught (Past President) and Garth Bulmer (Vice President).
Finally on behalf of the whole Council I thank each of the sponsoring churches and the Archdiocese of Ottawa of the Roman Catholic Church additionally for offering a wonderful meeting space each month.
The Reverend Andrew Johnston