Keri Wehlander, author and hymn lyricist, pours water symbolizing God as the fountain of living water into a font at the Joint Day Liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Anglicans and Lutherans took a pause on June 21 from their respective annual conventions to flow together for a day of worship that celebrated their six-year-old Full Communion relationship and was centered on the theme and imagery of water.
Since the date was National Aboriginal Day, indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land was acknowledged throughout and leaders of major Canadian denominations re-committed their churches to a covenant of support for natives.
“It is a day to be gentle with one another, to share in the bread broken and the wine poured,” said Rev. Richard Leggett, a member of the joint Anglican-Lutheran commission implementing the Full Communion agreement.
About 800 combined delegates gathered at small table groups in the Winnipeg Convention Centre to celebrate a eucharist featuring Bible readings that focused on the miracle of water – God’s creation in Genesis, a vision of “the river of the water of life” from Revelation, Jesus’ asking a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink and telling her of the water of eternal life through faith in him.
Table discussions wrestled with environmental questions about water in its many forms, uses and abuses by humanity. The Kairos social-justice church coalition provided study material that urged the conservation and protection of water and asked people to work against its commercialization. “Support the idea that water is a sacred gift and should be available to all … If you live in an area where tap water is safe, consider saying no to bottled water,” read the Kairos paper in part.
At one table, Lutheran and Anglican participants debated whether Canadian authorities should ban the sale of water to the United States, or whether Canadians had a responsibility to help their neighbor. Groups also discussed measures individuals are taking to combat pollution and global warming and what part governments should play.
The day also included a theological address from Sallie McFague of the Vancouver School of Theology, who said churches “must take public stands on issues that affect the well-being of creation and its inhabitants.” Christians need to avoid mindless consumption and follow “a life of limitation, of cruciform living in solidarity with the oppressed.”
Lutherans and Anglicans took communion, sang and prayed together, and discussed what they knew – or didn’t know – about each other’s churches. “It was good to remember our joint communion and what it entails,” said Lutheran Trina Frank. “It’s great fun to get to know new people,” said Archdeacon Bill Clarke, an Anglican.
When asked his impressions of the day, Anglican C. Martin Hendy responded, “impressive, important, essential.” He was glad to get to know his Lutheran counterparts, but also felt the aboriginal ceremony seemed “tacked-on” at the end of the day and Ms. McFague’s presentation was too long. Dean Louise Peters, an Anglican, by contrast, loved Ms. McFague’s talks and “loved that the day was in the context of the eucharist.” Rev. Lynne Moore, a Lutheran, said she is still trying to sort out environmental issues in her life and finds it “hard to connect that to the Gospel,” but the day gave her food for thought.