Anglicans, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Ukrainian Catholics across the civil province of Saskatchewan can expect to be worshipping and ministering together in a wide range of new ways after the recent signing of an ecumenical covenant.
The LAURC Covenant, signed by the heads of 10 dioceses and other church bodies of these four denominations in Saskatchewan, and released Thursday, April 2, pledges them to shared life together under five broad headings: prayer, study, action, social life and ecumenical leadership. They commit to six practices, including an annual “service of reconciliation” with participants from all churches; joint justice-related initiatives; and meetings with Indigenous elders and communities aimed at responding to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The agreement also encourages churches to consider a list of 23 other ways they might cooperate, ranging from shared services to clergy swaps, prison ministry, chaplaincy and evangelism.
The Rev. Scott Sharman, the Anglican Church of Canada’s animator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, said the covenant was possibly the only one of its kind and might serve as an example for others to follow.
“As far as I am aware, nothing quite like it—in terms of the range of different churches involved, the geographical scope, and the extent of cooperation and commitment it includes—exists anywhere else in the world,” he said.
“It is a wonderful sign of what it can look like when presently separated churches and denominations, even with their continuing differences and divergences in place, seek to find ways to try to work and witness as Church together as fully as possible. I believe it puts forward a model which could be followed elsewhere in Canada, and, God willing, could inspire fresh ecumenical inspiration and energy.”
Michael Hawkins, bishop of Saskatchewan (which covers, roughly, the northern half of the civil province), and one of the covenant’s signatories, says the 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. Saskatchewan remains a pioneer in ecumenism.”
This week’s agreement builds on a covenant between the Anglican diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Regina made in 2011. Bishops from all four denominations have also been meeting quarterly in Saskatchewan for a number of years. In 2017, an Anglican parish in Qu’Appelle invited a nearby Roman Catholic congregation to worship in its church, after the Roman Catholic congregation found it was unable to afford repairs in its own church.
Hawkins said the covenant was a sign of hope in a difficult period for the church and its members, with worship services suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time when we are all experiencing the tragic, though temporary, loss of the outward and visible communion and fellowship of the body of Christ, this Covenant is an encouragement and sign to all the faithful,” he said.
The agreement, he said, was reached after the bishops met online twice in March, and was signed by them digitally.
The covenant was signed by bishops and archbishops of the Anglican diocese of Saskatchewan; Missinippi, in the Anglican diocese of Saskatchewan; the Anglican diocese of Qu’Appelle; the Anglican diocese of Saskatoon; the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Saskatoon; the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Regina; the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas; the Roman Catholic diocese of Saskatoon; the Roman Catholic diocese of Prince Albert; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s synod of Saskatchewan.