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Interfaith Experience

By Breanne Massey
Columbia Valley Pioneer Staff

Master of Divinity student Matteo Carboni was impressed with the harmonious relationship of the Windermere Valley Shared Ministry.

Seven students from St. Andrew’s College at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) visited the Christ Church Trinity on Sunday, April 19, to experience an ecumenical shared ministry, which consists of devotees from the Christ Anglican and United Church communities.

“Shared ministry is more common in both the United Church and Anglican Church,” said Matteo, who is Anglican. “In a class situation, you learn a lot of theory from books, but coming into a situation like this one where you’re meeting real people (practising), all of a sudden, it becomes very real. We learned about the struggles and the joys of doing this … what I’ve gained from coming out here is that I want to participate in something like this.”

United Church minister, Sandra Beardsall, who teaches church history and ecumenics at St. Andrew’s College at the U of S, wanted her students to participate in a shared ministry experience.

“We’ve talked about these shared ministry congregations, how they’re formed and what some of the challenges are in abstract, but I thought it would be good for (my students) to see people who live their lives in this way,” said Beardsall, “for some real world experience.”

The Christ Church Anglican and the United Church came together to create an interfaith community known as the Christ Church Trinity in 1998, but it still “thrives” in the community, according to Rev. Laura Hermakin.

“We have this incredible gift of having this class,” said Ms. Hermakin about the visiting Saskatchewan ecumenical studies class. “Sandra might not put it this way and would probably blush, but she’s the international guru as it were on shared ministries, which means churches that have come together from differ ent denominations to worship together rather than continue to be separate — it’s a big deal.”

Beardsall and her husband, Bill Richards — an Anglican priest and a professor of New Testament language and literature from the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad at the U of S — practise what they preach.

“Even in their marriage; they live this ecumenical shared ministry,” explained Ms. Hermakin, “which is neat.”

But the spirit of unity spanned more than the couple’s interfaith relation-ship and the ecumenical class that brought students into the heart of the Columbia Valley.

Master of Divinity student Eva Biederman, 30, who is a United Church follower, was pleased to gain a broader sense of the interfaith community at the Windermere Valley Shared Ministry by participating on this trip and seeing theory put into practice.

“We’ve been learning about numbers going down in congregations and (it’s) a great idea to have different traditions join one another for worship,” Eva explained. “I was speaking to someone (at lunch) about how, economically, it’s better to share the cost of one building together and you’re also learning about the ‘so-called’ other.”

She noted the challenges of a shared ministry were worth the effort of helping religious followers break down antiquated belief systems.

“I think (religion) is fairly emotionally charged,” she added. “People have a lot of memories and traditions that people hold really dear to their hearts; and sometimes those (beliefs) are challenged by some- body who worships in a different way so that can make it difficult to agree on things, but I think we have to keep talking to people, learning about them and become friends. It creates more understanding and (this) has been an awesome experience.”

— Story and photo courtesy The Columbia Valley Pioneer, Invermere, B.C.

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