Resurrection now

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Resurrection now
Masters students graduate from the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Institute at the Château de Bossey, Switzerland, last June. Photo: Grégoire de Fombelle/WCC

Resurrection is a way of life.

During this special season of the church year, many priests and pastors have asked this question of their hearers: “What has the Good News of the resurrection meant for you?”

To answer, let me share with you an important, personal post-Easter experience.

To give perspective, I need to go back to 1967, the year of Canada’s centennial. I had completed my master’s level theological studies at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary in preparation for ministry, but wanted broader experience. I was accepted at the World Council of Churches Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies in Bossey, near Geneva, Switzerland with the help of Canon Hugh (Jim) Puxley of Toronto.

I found myself among a community of perhaps 55-60 international, multi-cultural students during an exciting era of ecumenical church life. We had just begun to feel the impact of Vatican II and expanded relations with Eastern Orthodox Christianity. As I look at our class picture today, I’m struck by the diversity of that group. We were living in historic, formative times.

This young and rather naïve Canadian—with a town and country, southern Ontario background—found himself among contemporaries who had just emerged from both sides of World War II and of the early years of the Cold War. We were living in the era of post-colonialism. No question, it was the Christian church that had brought us together and I could hardly grasp the variety and complexity of believers with whom I now co-existed. They came from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Australasia and formed a community I had never known previously.

After 1968 we dispersed to the four corners of the earth and many of us began careers in ministry.

Fast-forward fifty-plus years and arrive at 2020, when about 15 of us were re-discovering each other after a long pause. We began to plan a new face-to-face gathering of Bossey alumni once Covid-19 would permit it.

This past year we have gotten to renew relationships by means of scheduled Zoom visits, and I am convinced that we have gotten to know a lot more about each other—a half-century on—than would have been possible without this virtual preparation. It has been a real treat to re-discover former classmates and learn about where their lives have led them. One who was a Jesuit met a Lutheran woman from northern Germany at Bossey. They married in 1969 and are celebrating 52 years together.

These are but a few persons who have recovered for me many amazing memories. I could also bring to mind other names from Australia, Swaziland, Sri Lanka or India if opportunity permitted.

So in response to the question, “What is the Good News of the resurrection for me today?”, I would not hesitate to bring up my rediscovery of old Bossey Christian friends. This experience has given me feelings of surprise and deep satisfaction—emotions perhaps not so different, in their own way, from those that many early followers of Jesus would have had upon realizing that he had risen.

What wonderful, personal understandings of Jesus expressed through contemporary, experienced Christian witnesses! I am reconnected to a vital spiritual community. Both these individuals and the Bossey community as a whole form a seed-bed to help me value ever-emerging expressions of the original resurrection.

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Wayne Holst
Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for 25 years. He taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and co-ordinates adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.

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