In an indication that the Essentials Movement has both come of age and become an established part of the Anglican landscape, more than 1,000 Anglicans took part in worship and workshops, as well as listening to speakers at a dozen different gatherings from coast to coast.
Using a different model than the initial Essentials gathering in 1994, which brought Anglicans from Barnabas Ministries, Anglican Renewal Ministries and the Prayer Book Society of Canada together in Montreal, Essentials Day ’98 was meant to build regional strength in the movement of orthodox Anglicans.
It is an interesting coalition. At the same table at the Toronto Essentials meeting, Anglo-Catholics from prayer book parishes discussed the Toronto Blessing with charismatic Anglicans from Barnabas Ministries.
The two groups have little in common in terms of worship style. But, as Bishop Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan reminded them, they have in common a belief in Jesus Christ, whose authority is absolute and stands at the heart of the Christian Gospel.
This stands, said Bishop Burton, in opposition to a post-modernism that has infected even parts of the church. “The principal reason that the Essentials movement has caused offence in many quarters,” he said, “is that it has made the scandalous claim that there are universal revealed truths, that are not just true for me, but are true for everybody.”
The bishop said it is possible the Essentials agreement reached in Montreal could have been improved, but the principal objection “seems to have been that we should want to articulate anything at all.”
One of the difficulties Bishop Burton found in discussions between Christians in the current environment is that while people might be using the same language, they mean different things.
That is because there is no longer a central core of beliefs for some. So conversations between Anglicans from different theological perspectives can “leave us feeling alienated from one another.”
Rev. George Sinclair of Ottawa, chair of the Essentials Council, said the Essentials Day was a success, considering that it was run on a “shoestring budget,” and put on entirely with volunteer support. It was the first time the Essentials movement had co-ordinated regional events to be held on a single day. But, as it turned out, weather forced the cancellation of one event and several others are planned.
Essentials will have a presence later this month at General Synod in Montreal, Mr. Sinclair said. As well as having a table in the display area, the group is hosting members of the House of Bishops at a luncheon.
One of the new wrinkles Essentials has for this General Synod will be Encouragement ’98 on May 20 and 21, an event that will invite delegates to General Synod to join in prayer, praise and reflection before synod begins.
March Essentials Day gatherings were also held on Vancouver Island (five), in Montreal, Belleville, Guelph, North Bay, Calgary and Halifax. Meetings are planned later in Fredericton, Ottawa and Saskatoon.
In Guelph, 150 braved the worst snowstorm of the season to hear Rev. Michael Pountney, Principal of Wycliffe College in Toronto, speak, to take part in eight workshops, and to join in the eucharist with celebrant Rt. Rev. Ralph Spence, Bishop of the Diocese of Niagara.
Peter Parent, treasurer of the Niagara Essentials group from St. Elizabeth, Burlington, Ont., said the bad weather caused 27 pre-registered people to miss the event. But 20 more showed up at the door.
The Essentials gathering is the fourth such annual event for Diocese of Niagara Anglicans, and Mr. Parent says it has fostered a growing sense of fellowship beyond parish boundaries.