A spirited group of approximately 600 convention delegates, worship participants and visitors gathered at historic downtown St. Mary's Cathedral for the opening worship service.
By the 8 p.m. starting point of the service, begun at the majestic font located at the back of the sanctuary, the flowing talents of American Doctor of Music, Dr. Mark Mummert shone through as the last pew was filled to the closing notes of Simon Preston's "Allelujas."
Perched high atop the sprawling baptismal font, ELCIC National Bishop Raymond Schultz welcomed the assembly as a group of local actors began filling the font full of water, dressed in various local "street attire"- "bag lady," "squeegee girl" and "boy in t-shirt." The impact of having entered into the downtown cathedral with a local "security guard" checking entrants and then witnessing what appeared to be a peaceful yet also at least somewhat aggressive appearance by the "street" actors, was lost on few worshippers. An unnamed worshipper proclaimed, "this is real; life worship in downtown Winnipeg, I actually thought they (the actors) really just walked in off the street when they heard the wonderful organ music playing!"
A blending of the French language with English highlighted the liturgy. Prayers were offered in Chinese, Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, German—some of the languages of the ELCIC.
Greetings and welcome from the pulpit were made by host Fr. Michael Koryluk, rector of St. Mary's Cathedral, who told the gathering to "please be at home… tonight this is your place of worship… in reality it is all of ours."
Bishop Schultz's sermon called on (ELCIC) Lutherans to revisit their calling as a national church. "Twenty years ago when this church first gathered in Winnipeg to form itself," he remarked, "we wanted to express our Canadian identity…a "Made in Canada" church!" He suggested that "back then, we were in mission for ourselves. We had a blank canvas to work from…we come back to that canvas and it is now filled with graffiti."
Pointing to Scripture, the Bishop noted how Jesus "was crucified because He gave up power. Jesus did not see the world as dangerous, but as a place where suffering occurs and evil can take hold where the will to dominate is so strong, whether religious or secular.
Jesus chose the way of God…of obedience, not power or glory or control. Any other path…might not have led to the cross…and we (today) are going (along) with Him as individuals and as a country." Like Paul, who did not develop compassion for the world until he was transformed by Jesus, so we look to Jesus to teach us compassion. And so we are not in mission for ourselves any longer, but a church in mission for others.*
A wide range of gifts representing the diversity of the Canadian synods, from breads and wines, amethyst and canola oil, blueberries, maple syrup and sauerkraut, grains, potash and Saskatoon berry pie, tar sands oil, cow ear tags, gold and diamond and smoked salmon were processed in with the communion bread and wine.
The congregation was sent with a call to be witnesses to the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, as well as "Winnipeg, Montreal, Vancouver, on farms in Saskatchewan, the ranches of Alberta…to the Rockies, Niagara Falls, the North, Gaspe, Vancouver Island, the Bay of Fundy, in Halifax… throughout this land…and even to the end of the earth." Sending songs, Mummert's own version of "Now, Lord, You Let" and "Rise, Shine, You People" followed by the postlude, drew a rousing ovation from those still remaining in the sanctuary.