Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/12/2010 (3515 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They already share a building and a passion for ministry in the North End, but next Sunday, a Lutheran church and a Mennonite congregation will worship together to mark a new chapter in their relationship.
This 10:30 a.m., Jan. 9 service of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and Aberdeen Evangelical Mennonite Church at Trinity Place, 265 Flora Ave., celebrates the repair of a rift that dates back 500 years.
"Historically, it's deeply significant that something that happened in the 16th century is being cleaned up once and for all," explains Rev. Ron Penner of Aberdeen, who pastors the small Mennonite church with his wife, Ruth.
"It's ridiculous, it's terrible, what we said and did and (how we) acted in the past," says Trinity's Rev. Ron Nelson of how 16th-century Lutherans labelled Mennonites and other Anabaptists as heretics.
Last July at their meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, the Lutheran World Federation extended an apology to Mennonite World Conference, expressing regret and sorrow for persecution of Anabaptists and the succeeding theological documents that supported this persecution.
The Lutheran World Federation represents 68.9 million Lutheran Christians in 79 countries. About 1.3 million Mennonites and Brethren in Christ members belong to the Mennonite World Conference.
During the early 16th-century Protestant Reformation, Lutherans in Europe persecuted groups within the Anabaptist movement, including Mennonites, for differing beliefs and practices, including their refusal to baptize infants and to participate in war. Up to 3,000 Anabaptists were executed by Lutherans.
Some Lutheran theological documents still in use, including the Augsburg Confession, condemn Anabaptists by name for their beliefs.
Nelson says the symbolism of two denominations repairing a centuries-old dispute is significant for the entire Christian church.
"It means God is a God of love and more often, churches have acted the opposite. We've done a lot of condemning of different traditions and different languages," says Nelson of past practices. "We need to get back to love."
"I think that God is love is a good foundation statement," adds Penner. "I think it's an expression of ecumenicity."
Trinity and Aberdeen already co-operate on several events annually, such as a service on Good Friday, and some community ministries. In addition to those two small congregations, the Lutheran-owned building is also home to the First Nations Family Worship Centre, a weekly food bank and other community ministries.
"We just keep letting people in and they help us pay the bills," explains Nelson of his small congregation of 30 people that owns Trinity Place, a 10,000-square-foot building at the corner of Flora Avenue and King Street in the North End.
"We feel there is merit in being a Christian presence in this area of the city," adds Penner, whose congregation also runs an inner-city immersion program for teenagers from the suburbs and outside of Winnipeg.
The service next Sunday is intended to inform parishioners from both denominations about their shared history that stretches back five centuries, as well as celebrating the next chapter with liturgy and hymns from both traditions.
"We want to acknowledge our weaknesses and with humility accept this message of grace from the Lutheran bodies," says Penner, who sits on the board of the Mennonite World Conference.
"We will just continue what we're doing, with more awareness of the past," adds Ruth Penner.
Thought to be the first joint Lutheran-Mennonite event marking the reconciliation in Winnipeg, and among the first in Canada, the Jan. 9 Trinity Place service is important because it models openness to other traditions, explains the ecumenical officer for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
"The church isn't Mennonite and the church isn't Lutheran and it isn't United (Church of Canada) or Anglican. The church is the church," says Rev. André Lavergne, who is also the half-time minister of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Hamburg, Ont.
"Sometimes, it is helpful to see how the other half lives and (practices) Christianity, and to learn from each other."
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.