President's Report 2008
Presented at the Annual General meeting, March 26, 2009
'We take our lead from Jesus, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.' (Message Bible, Ephesians 4: 15–16)
The Christian Council of the Capital Area is a small group of denominational representatives who meet monthly to share together, to learn from each other, to explore opportunities for ecumenical engagement and witness to God's call for the whole church to seek to be the Body of Christ. During the past year there has been an effort to rekindle a compelling vision for the work of the Council. A day with facilitator Mary Ann Lopoukhine had the CCCA re-examining its purpose and focus. The insights of that gathering are a window into the current challenges and dreams of the CCCA. The conversation is captured in the statement that the Christian Council of the Capital Area has at the same time a DREAM and CHALLENGE: To create a sense of renewal of the CCCA—to ensure we are doing enough currently to pass on the 'dream' of ecumenical action.
Those engaged in ecumenical engagement through the CCCA identified the following reasons for their involvement:
- The command of Christ—a personal responsibility.
- It is a noble calling—Christian unity—and this group helps bring people together.
- It provides a greater experience of Christendom than other venues.
- It is an opportunity to overcome isolation, get to know and love our Christian neighbour—and non-Christian neighbours.
- It broadens our understanding—provides inspiration that deepens our faith.
- It poses us with a challenge—how can we live together?
- It is a reflection of the Christian Festival in 1982 which created excitement about the ecumenical movement in Ottawa—we wish to remember and keep that excitement.
- To realize that the issues which divide us are often non-theological, such as language and culture, and that they can be overcome by contact and service to each other.
We wrestled with the purpose of our monthly meetings and affirmed their purpose:
- To find ways for concretely living out our witness of unity.
- To meet together and nurture relationships with one another.
- To increase visibility of Christian unity.
- To be an act of faith and hope.
- To witness to Christian unity.
- To share information and ideas.
- To provide an opportunity to think globally within the Church.
- To encourage and initiate local, grassroots action.
We asked ourselves, what should we be doing to further the witness of the Council. The following ideas were identified:
- As we have access to over 100,000 on a Sunday from our pulpits—we should FIRST find out what Christians in our communities want and need—such as from an on-line survey of needs. This would set the priorities of what we can and should be addressing.
- As more from our church bodies by way of investment—to help us coordinate our efforts. If we ask little—are we demonstrating that we are of little value?
- Plan a forum for church leaders to come together to get to know one another (such as a luncheon) followed with a specific purpose, such as to discuss how to be a consistent Christian voice in the public square. CCCA to host such luncheons 1–3 times annually simply to build good relations amongst leaders.
- Invite groups and agencies that provide services (faith-based) to highlight the purpose of the groups and celebrate their gift of service to the wider community (example, Jericho Housing).
- To find ways to communicate and celebrate at the parish level what is already happening regarding ecumenical activities. We should consider using our current distribution list—and add to it. We should try to establish one contact person per parish (not the pastor) to share news and communicate their information.
- Have a physical gathering annually event—(some suggested winter not a good season for that).
- Host a luncheon with address during Week of Christian Unity or Annual Meeting.
- Host a speaker series on current issues in our troubled society by known speakers who maintain their faith staunchly—keeping in mind need for bilingual approach.
- Design events that challenge—retreats, etc.—that are out of the usual way of doing things.
- Attend meetings and events of other groups to share information and so that they come to know CCCA.
In sharing these, I hope to provide some indication of the commitment of those who come to the table regularly. Even as we gather we acknowledge that it is becoming more difficult to have active participation from the wide spectrum of the Christian community in our region. Ecumenical conversation it seems is less of a priority in this time of pressing denominational priorities.
In response to the visioning time, the Christian Council of the Capital Area decided to experiment with a new way of marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Rather than the traditional ecumenical worship celebration, a workshop on 'Spiritual Practice for Ordinary People' was held at St. Elias on Saturday, January 24, 2009. The Council was delighted that about 90 people gathered to participate in the workshops. Our appreciation is extended to St. Elias for their hospitality and to those who offered leadership to the day. The decision has been made to explore hosting a similar format for next year.
During the Week of Prayer, there was also a breakfast meeting hosted for denominational leaders. We were honoured by those who made the time to attend and hope that it will be possible to build upon this kind of opportunity in the future.
The Christian Council of the Capital Area also tries to keep informed about the work of the Canadian Council of Churches and in May 2008 some of our members attended various sessions when they met here in Ottawa. Rev. Fred Demaray, the Chair of the Faith and Witness Committee of the CCC also shared with us the most recent publication, a study on suffering called 'The Bruised Reed.' The Canadian Council of Churches has invited the participation of our Council when they meet here in Ottawa again this May.
There are many venues through which there is an ongoing ecumenical witness in our region. Christians from various communities work together to support outreach activities through community chaplaincies, to advocate and provide housing, to support refugee families, to worship together on the World Day of Prayer, to support campus chaplains, to provide pastoral care training and a Lay School of Theology, and to share in neighbourhood concerns and celebrations. These are things to be celebrated. The Christian Council of the Capital Area gives thanks for all the ways in which Christ leads us to walk in step with each other. For its part, the Christian Council continues to offer a forum for coming together and sharing the good news of how the gospel is lived in our context as we grow in understanding and Christian love.
I conclude this year's report by wanting to acknowledge the contribution of long-serving members who have ended their terms on the CCCA. Barbara Faught, who represented the Women's Interchurch Council, and Father Jacques Faucher, who was the Ecumenical Officer for the Archdiocese of Ottawa, both left the Christian Council during the past year. Both of them had contributed greatly to the witness of ecumenical interest in our region. We extend our gratitude for their faithful service.
Rev. Lillian Roberts
Rev. Lillian Roberts