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Ecumenical service provides light in winter’s darkness

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Members of the Community Prayer Planning Team, which is organizing an ecumenical service at St. Stephen's Anglican Church on Nov. 17, are shown.
Front row: Pastor Sara Jane Schmidt (River East Mennonite Brethren Church), Diane Skalenda (Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church), Edith Treller and Rev. Dawn Ballantine-Dickson (John Black United Church), and Sharon Gray (St. Stephen's Anglican Church).
Back row: Liz Gauthier and Rev. Marc Whitehead (North Kildonan United Church), Pastor Jack Dyck (Springfield Heights Mennonite Church), and Rev. Diane Guilford (St. Stephen's).
Missing: Courtenay Reedman (Grace Lutheran Church) and Dan Nighswander (Jubilee Mennonite Church).

PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON Enlarge Image

Members of the Community Prayer Planning Team, which is organizing an ecumenical service at St. Stephen's Anglican Church on Nov. 17, are shown. Front row: Pastor Sara Jane Schmidt (River East Mennonite Brethren Church), Diane Skalenda (Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church), Edith Treller and Rev. Dawn Ballantine-Dickson (John Black United Church), and Sharon Gray (St. Stephen's Anglican Church). Back row: Liz Gauthier and Rev. Marc Whitehead (North Kildonan United Church), Pastor Jack Dyck (Springfield Heights Mennonite Church), and Rev. Diane Guilford (St. Stephen's). Missing: Courtenay Reedman (Grace Lutheran Church) and Dan Nighswander (Jubilee Mennonite Church). Photo Store

An upcoming service will bring Christians of all different stripes together.

The ecumenical community prayer service "A Winter Blessing: Healing Through the Darkness" is slated for Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. The service, which is sponsored by United, Lutheran, Mennonite, Catholic, and Anglican churches in northeast Winnipeg, will take place at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church at 220 Helmsdale Ave. in East Kildonan.

The event, which was first held in 2005, is being planned by church leaders and laypeople alike.

Liz Gauthier, who attends North Kildonan United Church, said she appreciates the opportunity to meet with members of other churches.

"As a person who goes to services, for me, it’s a time for reflection and being with other people in the community — enjoying that fellowship and a time of inspiration," Gauthier noted.

River East Mennonite Brethren Church pastor Sara Jane Schmidt said the service isn’t about comparing and contrasting elements of each congregation’s faith, but is about celebrating and finding hope together.

"It’s a very participatory service. There will be dialogue between those leading and the congregation. There will be visuals, readings, prayers, times of silence, songs, poetry," Schmidt said. "The focus is that even in the dark and cold of winter, there are blessings to be found."

Schmidt said members of the community prayer planning team are able to share challenges of how their particular denominations are viewed, such as United congregants being frustrated that they aren’t always perceived as a Christian group.

"The focus of the group has been to break down barriers between denominations and foster a community of Christian co-operation," Schmidt said. "We all brought about our baggage about our reputations, such as we perceive them to be in the larger Christian communities."

This marks the first year North Kildonan United Church is involved in the service, and Rev. Marc Whitehead appreciates the opportunity to be involved.

"One of the huge benefits has simply been working ecumenically," Whitehead said. "There’s lots of commonality between traditions, and lots of openness to working together within this community. It wasn’t a new discovery, but it was really good to have it reaffirmed.

"The existing group was so open to welcoming us and embracing some of the ideas that we brought forward, (it) was really cool. There was no sense of any reluctance on the part of the existing group to be open to the new."

Those of all faiths are welcome at the service, and Rev. Diane Guilford of St. Stephen’s said it’s a good opportunity for those who have slipped away from their respective faiths to get involved with a sense of anonymity without obligation.

There will be fellowship and refreshments following the service.

For more information on the service, contact Diane Skalenda of Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church at skalenda@mymts.net or 204-668-6012.

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