Walking together in new ways

In our journey together as Anglicans and United Church we have been learning about “institutional culture” and how it shaped us in patterns of norms, values, practices, beliefs, and assumptions; often despite ourselves and despite the intentions of our church bodies. Of course, these very aspects of our institutional cultures, guide our behaviour and provide a frame of reference for interpreting the meaning of our communities. While I was not a part of the first-year struggles in joining the institutional cultures of Montreal Diocesan Theological College (Dio) and United Theological College (UTC), I am certain it was a difficult time as new frames of reference were being created in order to reshape patterns for a mutually agreeable ministry of theological educational. Not easy, especially when there is also a grieving process for our UTC faculty and students at a loss of “our own college home.” The move into Dio also reminds me of what it is like when a person (whom you know fairly well) moves into your house. As hospitable as you might truly be and as grateful as the new resident might be, there needs to be a reshaping of household patterns and assumptions. Welcoming a new resident who becomes a part of the family already resident, calls for basic “give and take” and recognition that the culture of the house will change. In celebrating our ecumenical, institutional venture, we allow ourselves to be reshaped by the other, their institutional patterns, and engage in the opportunities new relationships offer.

The ecumenical spirit of our common discipleship to Christ Jesus allows us to appreciate that our institutions had different ways and means. Walking together makes us more than companions on the road, it partners us in caring for the other, accommodating their steps, and recognising that we ourselves are in a process of adapting to new ways of walking. Sometimes we’re amazed: “You can walk in those shoes?” “Aren’t you too hot wearing that?” And sometimes protective: “Be careful where you are going, I may not catch you the next time.” Reshaping institutional culture is a process of self-discovery as much as agreements and technicalities. Yet in the ecumenical spirit, we recognise the fundamentals of a shared institutional culture of common ideas, values, and standards. We wish to be disciples engaging in ministry as taught, demonstrated, and revealed by Jesus. We wish to offer praise and thanksgiving to an omnipresent God whose Holy Spirit empowers us to realise “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I rejoice at the great distance Anglicans and United Church students, faculty, and board members have come since the beginning of discussions, the working out of formal agreements, and the “moving in.” I pray the Holy Spirit guides us in realising “ecumenical” as we reshape our patterns and define our new institution’s culture; may we act with grace towards each other’s culture of norms, values, practices, beliefs and assumptions (the items which researchers identify as the elements determining a collective shaping of institutional patterns for determining the meaning of events and actions). In the process we will explore, attempt, revise, and rethink, but at the same time evolve individually and as an institution, that is as a college for theological study based in ecumenism.

Jesus’ prayer that his disciples “might be one” focusses what ecumenism implies when we evolve our institutional cultures to become one. That word, “ecumenism,”, readily claimed by many, comes from the Greek “oikoumene” which means “the whole inhabited world.” It is only through being one, in oikoumene that we will realise our mission to establish God’s Reign here and now, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Being “one” in the education for ministry, so that we serve the Gospel and evolve those patterns which will bring God’s intentions for “the whole inhabited world” into the life or our Christian communities. Less defined by denominational affiliation and instead more fully identified as disciples of Jesus who in this place are honing our skills and discerning our gifts so we might be able partners with God for “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Pastor Eric Dyck, Acting Principal

This message was written by Pastor Eric Dyck for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.