Closing worship on the final morning of the 2013 Joint Assembly of Lutherans and Anglicans from across the country was a thanksgiving for a joyful week of meeting together, a recapitulation of themes of togetherness and mission, and a ‘sending out’ for the assembled delegates—charging them “to seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness.”
Worship began with a quartet of drummers standing in the middle of the worship space, beating out an energetic rhythm as they called the worshippers back from break—ending to cheers and clapping from those assembled.
Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), called the worshippers to rise and to remove their nametags as a symbolic act of unity. “We are all one in the body of Christ.”
After an opening prayer from Bishop Johnson, a delegate read the story of Naaman and Elijah from 2 Kings 5: 1-14, followed by songs of praise led by the worship director and choir.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), preached at the closing worship.
The Primate delivered a message celebrating the coming together of the ACC and ELCIC, commending what was accomplished and learned, and sending those assembled out into the world to serve the kingdom of God. “Time to get on with proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom… Get on with caring for the poor… Get on with caring for the earth… Get on with your vocation ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’” (Micah 6:8).
As the sermon ended and lights around the lectern darkened, the voice of the worship leader sung out, followed by the sound of a rain stick. Rev. Canon Bill Cliff began the prayer petitions, accompanied by the rain stick and a drum, and pausing for sung responses of the Kyrie from the gathered worshippers.
After the passing of the peace, the offering, and offertory prayer made by assistant minister Cindy Hoppe and deacon the Rev. Helen Hunter, Bishop Johnson sang the Great Thanksgiving at the altar in preparation for the Eucharist, alternating with choruses of “Hosanna in the highest” from the choir. All assembled then joyfully sang the Lord’s Prayer in both English and French.
The bread was then broken, and as the worship leader sang “Be known to us Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread,” the worshippers joined in singing while approaching one of the many stations to receive the bread and wine.
Following the Eucharist and a prayer of thanksgiving there were remarks and prayer by Algonquin elder Annie Smith-St. Georges. Smith-St. Georges called on those assembled to rise for a moment of silence for victims of the railroad accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
The service closed with a blessing led by the National Bishop and the Primate, a closing hymn, and a dismissal by the assistant minister—“Allez afin que le monde s’aime d’avantage. Go forth for the love of the world.”
“I thought the closing worship was just wonderful,” said Murray Walter, secretary of the ELCIC, “I was optimistic at the start [of the Joint Assembly], but I would have to say I was cautiously optimistic. Any time when you bring two groups together with different traditions and histories—even though we have so much in common… I wondered how it would work.”
“My experience in talking with other delegates is that it’s been such a pleasant joy. I haven’t talked to one person that said we shouldn’t have done it,” he continued. “What I’ve been hearing from delegates is we should be doing it more often. The music was fabulous and it was very uplifting. I leave with hope and a real feeling of togetherness.”
Glen Mitchell, an Anglican from the Diocese of New Westminster in B.C. came out of the gathering feeling “Very positive. Very hopeful.”
“The fact that we met together at all is a huge step forward. But we’ve realized by being together that we have something in common.”