By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
A new covenant among the leaders of the Lutheran, Anglican, Ukrainian and Roman Catholic churches in the province was announced April 2, 2020 by the bishops of Saskatchewan.
“It is our hope that the signing and release of this covenant will be a source of encouragement at this difficult moment in time, and a life-giving enrichment of our churches moving forward,” states a message from the bishops to their churches about the new covenant.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, “The LAURC Covenant” (LAURC = Lutheran, Anglican, Ukrainian, Roman Catholic) was not signed in a face-to-face meeting, but was finalized in an electronic meeting. The new covenant bears the signatures of:
- Bishop Bryan Bayda, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon
- Archbishop Donald Bolen, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina
- Archbishop Murray Chatlain, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas
- Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon
- Bishop Adam Halkett, Bishop of Missinippi, Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan
- Bishop Robert Hardwick, Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle
- Bishop Christopher Harper, Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon
- Bishop Sid Haugen, Saskatchewan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
- Bishop Michael Hawkins, Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan
- Bishop Albert Thévenot, Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert
From The Catholic Register April 10, 2020: interview “Ecumenical covenant a message of hope)
The expanded covenant grows out of a covenantal relationship that the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina entered into in 2011, the message notes.
“For many years, the Anglican, Lutheran, Ukrainian and Roman Catholic bishops have met, twice a year, to share concerns and build relations. Two years ago we began working on a draft of an expanded covenant that would include all of our churches in Saskatchewan, with the help of an expanded implementation committee with all of our churches represented,” wrote the bishops.
“The COVID-19 pandemic prevented an in-person meeting in mid-March, but we met through electronic means to finalize the covenant which we now rejoice in signing and making public. This is an historic event in the life of our churches. We hope and pray that this covenant brings as much joy to our people as it does to us as your bishops.”
The original covenant text was signed on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina on Jan. 23, 2011 by Bishop Gregory Kerr-Wilson (now the Anglican Bishop of Calgary) and Archbishop Daniel Bohan, who died in 2016.
Ecumenical covenants have been an important catalyst for local ecumenical communities, explains Nicholas Jesson, Ecumenical Officer for the Archdiocese of Regina. “There are many covenants between congregations or parishes of various traditions. There are a number of examples of covenants between Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses, and a few that include Lutheran synods. The acronyms ARC, LRC, and LARC are frequently used for these. The LAURC Covenant in Saskatchewan appears to be the first covenant including an Eastern Catholic eparchy.”
An ecumenical covenant is not intended to be an exclusive relationship, he adds. “It is hoped that our churches will continue to foster close relations with all faith communities in their neighbourhoods, and that where appropriate these will blossom into a renewed covenantal relationship. Our covenant is intended to be a witness to the unity we already share in Christ and to our commitment to work together to give this visible expression.”
“Among the many ways that churches have found to express our growth in communion, covenants have a particular place. Beyond the most basic sense as a mutual agreement or contract, the biblical understanding of covenant is of a relationship initiated by God; a promise to which God remains faithful despite the failures and transgressions of the people. A covenant serves to sustain and nurture an established ecumenical partnership. It requires a fundamental commitment to working, praying, and acting together in response to God’s call, yet it is not the final stage of life in communion. We engage in this covenant as a pledge of faithfulness and in hope of the full visible unity to which we are called.” – The LAURC Covenant.
The expanded covenant includes commitments from the bishops to hold a prayer service together each year, ideally in the Pentecost season, with the bishops present; to regularly remember one another’s churches, leaders and relationships in intercessions; to join together on justice-related initiatives, locally or in the developing world; to find ways to work and pray together in times of great need; to together hold meetings with First Nations and Métis elders and communities as part of responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action; and to maintain communication.
Noting the many proposed ecumenical initiatives listed in the covenant document, the bishops said in the message to their churches: “our hope is that our communities in their local settings might begin with one or two joint actions that would enliven their parishes and congregations.”
The list of suggested activities proposed for congregations of the four traditions to share together includes:
- Shared services, Bible study, and other activities in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
- Common services in Advent and Lent.
- Visiting each other’s churches, particularly to share in Sunday worship, while respecting the different disciplines of our churches. This would provide opportunities for experiencing each other’s eucharistic life, thereby serving both to deepen our communion and our desire for full communion.
- Joint non-eucharistic worship, including faith-sharing celebrations, pilgrimages, processions of witness (e.g. on Good Friday), and shared public liturgies on significant occasions.
- Making a public profession of faith together, perhaps by renewing baptismal promises at Pentecost each year.
- Create new traditions together.
- Shared witness in the name of Christ to people in particular spiritual need, including those who have lapsed from regular attendance at worship.
- Parish welcome and support for interchurch couples and families.
- Clergy sharing in the pastoral care of interchurch families (including marriage preparation).
- Encouraging the inclusion of witnesses from other churches at baptisms and confirmations, particularly in the case of candidates from interchurch families.
- Bishops acting together whenever possible: for example, issuing joint statements on current public pastoral concerns.
- Inviting ordained and lay observers to attend each other’s synodal and collegial gatherings and conferences.
- Consulting one another as fully as possible when providing pastoral care to people who may have a continuing pastoral relationship with another church.
- Clergy acting together whenever possible: for example, holding occasional study days; arranging a joint component in our programs for baptism, confirmation, and marriage preparation.
- Youth leadership: possibility of a joint youth group forming or occasional jointly-organized events with our youth.
- Occasional workshops on aspects of the liturgy which would allow us to learn liturgical best practices from each other (e.g. welcoming/greeting, music, lectors, servers, those preparing intercessory prayers).
- Meetings of those with parallel ministries: pastors; deacons; lay leadership/lay ministry; musicians; healing ministry; bereavement; church councils/vestries/parish councils.
- Exploration of common texts – for example, the study of Scripture, or study of our agreed statements, e.g. Growing Together in Unity and Mission or From Conflict to Communion.
- Social occasions following joint liturgical events, to offer opportunities for fellowship.
- Fostering friendly relations and regular communication between neighbouring Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Ukrainian Catholic parishes and their clergy; encouragement to enter into parish covenants and hold annual events together.
- Justice issues – speaking out together on areas of common concern where we can act together: prison ministry; relations with First Nations communities; healing ministry, chaplaincies, nursing homes.
- Preparation for mission: coming together to identify specific concerns in the community and to provide gracious outreach, joining together to bring relief and Christ’s healing.
- Joint participation in evangelism, shared training of lay people for evangelism, and the development of new ways of gathering faith communities.
“This Covenant is in part the fruit of a long history of ecumenism in Saskatchewan and of the extraordinary good will, support honesty and friendship that exists between the bishops,” notes Bishop Michael Hawkins from the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan (which has about the same boundaries as the Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert). “Saskatchewan remains a pioneer in ecumenism.”
In their message announcing the expanded covenant, the bishops recalled the great suffering, disruption and isolation that many are experiencing at present because of COVID-19. “We bring all those negatively-impacted by the pandemic before the cross of Christ. And we join the whole Christian community of Saskatchewan in calling down God’s grace as we prepare to celebrate the redemptive death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” wrote the bishops.
“As we sign this covenant, we pray: God and Father of us all, we give thanks for the spiritual unity which is already ours as believers in the one Lord and members of the one Body. We pray that this spiritual unity may, by your grace, increasingly become a visible unity, so that your Church in every place may demonstrate the healing and reconciling power of the gospel and be an instrument of your peace in the life of the world, to the praise and glory of your name. Amen.” – (Prayer by Frank Colquhoun. New Parish Prayers, Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 0 340 27237 6)