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Leaders of four denominational regions met by videoconference in March to approve the agreement. Pictured here are (top row, l-r): Don Bolen, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Regina and Mark Hagemoen, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Saskatoon; Michael Hawkins, bishop of the Anglican diocese of Saskatchewan; Chris Harper, bishop of the Anglican diocese of Saskatoon; (second row, l-r): Rob Hardwick, bishop of the Anglican diocese of Qu’Appelle; Sid Haugen, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s synod of Saskatchewan; Albert Thévenot, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Prince Albert; (bottom row): Bryan Bayda, bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Saskatoon.

By Alison Bradish

“Unlike Pontius Pilate who washed his hands I am thankful that the leaders of these denominations and this eparchy have not washed their hands. They’ve struggled with the difficult questions and in struggling with the questions we’ve come to love one another.”

Those were the words Bishop Robert Hardwick of the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle used to describe the relationship between 10 bishops representing Anglican, Lutheran, Ukrainian and Roman Catholic dioceses in Saskatchewan.

The close relationships built between the bishops resulted in the April 2, 2020 signing of the LAURC Covenant, a document outlining how churches can and should work together. The covenant contains suggestions about creating partnerships in the spheres of prayer, study, action, social life and ecumenical leadership. 

 “Ecumenical relations build on what we hold in common,” says Archbishop Don Bolen about the covenant.  “What binds Christians together is the profound faith that Christ is incarnate among us that God took flesh out of love for us, and Jesus gave himself fully in his dying, and in his rising. And in the sending of his Holy Spirit we find life.  That is entirely common ground.  As we approach the celebration of Easter, though we do have differences, that common faith is very much at the forefront.”

Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon says he see the covenant as an expression of the Trinity, “We reverence the Trinity a great deal in the East, we bless ourselves three times, etc. and I think this points to [the fact that our] individual identity is never lost but enhanced,” Bayda explains.

He uses marriage as an example to further explain of how the covenant does not erase one’s individualism but enhances it, “They see more fully who that person is.  Baptism does that as well. Your identification as a baptized person is fulfilled, sharing in Christ’s [role as priest, prophet, and king], and so it’s very much an enhancement when we have a covenant like this where each of the individual denominations and churches, they are enhanced in who they are without losing their individual identity”

Bayda explains the document is not so much obligatory for parishes, but prescriptive as it is not a decree.  “As a covenant it’s an invitation to respond, “says Bayda.   

Bishop Sid Haugen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Synod of Saskatchewan says in his experience churches have known they should work together but at times recommendations are not implemented.

“What I am hopeful about with this covenant is that it really invites people on the ground to do something even if it is a simple thing, to just start to pray together or work together and see where that goes,” says Haugen.

Six practical commitments are outlined in the LAURC document and 23 recommendations about how to implement the covenant.  Practical commitments include holding a prayer service each year in a different church, remembering the other churches and leaders during intercessions on Sunday, and finding ways to work and pray together in times of great need or emergency.

Recommendations include creating new traditions together, joint youth groups, social events and fostering regular communication between parishes and clergy.  

“For me the relationship among the bishops right now is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever seen or had...to be able to see bishops walking together is profound, it really is.  That’s one of the reasons why this whole experience right now is a message of hope and especially in this covenant not only to Saskatchewan, but it can be a mark for the rest of the church,” said Bishop Christopher Harper of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon.

“We are definitely trying to do what we can,” says Bolen. “We’ve tried to make this covenant tangible, practical, realistic. It is built on decades of ecumenical friendship.”

Bolen hopes the covenant will grow and expand to include other ecclesial communities in the future. “We aren’t setting a boundary around us.  We want to collaborate and work closely together with Christians of other communities as well,” he says.

The signing of the LAURC builds and expands the covenant signed in 2011 between the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle and the Archdiocese of Regina.  

The full text of the LAURC Covenant can be accessed here

Page URL: http://archregina.sk.ca/news/2020/04/07/laurc-covenant-friendship-encouragement-and-invitation-respond