Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 24, 2000
Churches journey toward unity
Presbyterians, United, RCs hold unique 'church hop'
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
What's the difference between a United Church minister, a Presbyterian minister and a Catholic priest?
If you're looking for a faith-debasing punchline or a long list of differences to fuel even more tensions between the faiths, don't bother.
The only thing that mattered when almost 300 people gathered at Good Shepherd Church Jan. 16, was the similarities among the churches.
"Love one another," was the unanimous message each of the west-side Church leaders poured out to their congregation on the bleak and snow-driven Sunday evening.
"Isn't it ironic that on the worst night of weather into the third millennium, it is so warm in here?" asked the Rev. John Henry Weinlick, the minister of Gilchrist United Church.
"We do things differently, but what we all have is a love and a faith in Jesus Christ."
"We have differences, but we have a common faith and that is our tie in God," said the Rev. John Rhoad, minister of Callingwood Road Presbyterian Church. "This is a very wonderful gathering of love."
"(Jesus) laid down his life for us and we should lay down our lives for each other," said Father Len Gartner of Good Shepherd Catholic Church. "Let us love on another for love is from God."
Dubbed the Jubilee Journey, the event was a gathering of the churches to celebrate the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which kicks off Jan. 23. It was hosted by the three churches and is one in a series of events the churches have participated in together.
At Christmas the churches handed out cider and bulletins with the Mass and service schedules of area churches to shoppers at a local grocery store. They also participate in a pulpit exchange where Gartner, Rhoad or Weinlick each give a homily, sermon or reflection at the others' churches.
The gathering was an opportunity to not only break religious barriers, but also to break bread. Families gathered at Gilchrist, which is housed at Terra Losa Community Centre, to listen to the story of the growth of the United Church. It was followed by a sharing of appetizers.
Then it was on to Good Shepherd where a brief history of the Catholic faith preceded a sit-down spaghetti feast. When the stomachs were fed, it was off to the sanctuary for a spiritual feeding with a service celebrated by the three Church leaders, Sister Connie Piska and seminarian Michael Mireau, who is interning at Good Shepherd.
"When we say unity, it doesn't mean we all have to be the same," Piska said. "But we have to be respectful of each other."
The event wrapped up at Callingwood Road where the now smaller crowd of about 200 gathered to hear Rhoad speak of the journey of the Presbyterian Church to the present day. It was followed by dessert tables full of sweetbreads, cookies, butter tarts and chocolate cake.
"When we planned it, we started off by saying 'Let's have a church hop,'" said Piska, pastoral associate at Good Shepherd. "But it turned into a progressive meal and prayer."
The success of the first Jubilee Journey opens doors for an annual event, said Piska and Dave Kastelic, chair of Good Shepherd's pastoral council.
"When I first heard that we were going to do this, I wondered if it would work," Kastelic said about his skepticism of attracting such a large crowd. "But to quote a famous movie, 'If you cook it, they will come.'"
Karen Keeler grew up in the United Church, her husband Al came from endless generations of Catholics.
"When we got married (15 years ago) our parents were fighting about which Church we would be married in," Karen Keeler said.
"This is nice that our generation can do this. It's nice that kids will be able to do it. It won't even be called an ecumenical thing by that time. It'll be something natural."
Kastelic thinks on the same wavelength as Keeler. He realizes that some of the generation before him continue to fiercely argue the "right and wrong religion" debate, but he sees a calmer and more respectful future between the churches.
"I think my generation is so much more open to receiving other churches," he said. "Our kids won't even think twice about it.
"In celebrating the jubilee, we were called to be more ecumenical. That's what we've really focused on."