28 Mar

An Experience of Communion

Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson
Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson. Photo: LWF/C.Kästner

By Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson

I just returned to Canada after four days at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland. Four days of deliberation, of exploration, of consideration concerning the ever elusive answer to the question: “What does it mean to be ‘A Communion of Churches’?”

We came from the seven corners of the communion of the Lutheran World Federation, although one participant was missing for reasons beyond her control. But absence, too, is a kind of presence – mourned, unsettling, and so profound.

Each day began with prayer in the historic chapel at Bossey, which was once a winery.  This was most fitting: both that we began with prayer, and that it took place in such a locale: where grapes were crushed, the many made one, a place of fermentation, of aging, of the mystery of being poured out for the life of the world.

Actually, the day did not begin at the chapel, but at breakfast, and the delight of looking upon the mountains proclaiming the glory of the Lord.  Eating together, we discovered anew, is a kind of being together that is nourishing in more ways than one first imagined.  So, in fact our day began in being fed, and in being “food” for one another.

Each day we moved from breakfast to the chapel to the seminar room.  Here, papers were delivered, questions were asked, and answers were wagered, knowing all the while that each answer is itself a question, a being drawn deeper into the mystery of faith. 

The papers, of course, reflected both the specificity of the regions and the personalities of their representatives – a coming together of context and catholicity.  This time was incredibly rich. 

Martin Junge set the scene, addressing this theme that has announced itself in the life of the church. 

As the days progressed, each participant reflected on her or his corner of the communion.  I felt honoured to learn from those who know and experience the world differently than I do.  I felt humbled to have been heard so carefully by these same colleagues. This was all masterfully shepherded by staff of the Department for Theology and Public Witness at the LWF.

After the presentations we began the hard work of initiating a process of preparing a document for the communion to ponder. Here is where the science of synthesis and the art of give and take came to the fore. Slowly we mapped out a process, which will unfold in the coming year. More conversations via email and Skype meetings will lead to a statement that will further explore what it means to be a communion.

But hopefully, behind the document we prepare readers will discern the communion we experienced as we shared stories of hope, of worry, of confusion, of God’s grace – ever present in the shape of the sacred cross around which we gather, holding hands in prayerful attention to the wonder that there is no Easter without Lent, nor Lent without Easter. 

Communion, then, was experienced in this gathering as an event more than a concept; not so much a meeting of like-minds as a soulful grappling together. 

Together we asked after the Risen Lord who meets us as the Crucified, and so asks us to be theologians of the cross: to be a people listening to those without voice, to be a body attending to those broken, and so to be community always anxious to be on the way.

Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson is Assistant Dean and Associate professor of Systematic Theology at the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Canada.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.