The Canadian Council of Churches hosted a panel of young ecumenists to focus on interfaith relations between different denominations of Christianity Photo by Jesse Hair

Breaking down Christian barriers

By  Bianca Reátegui, Youth Speak News
  • November 28, 2014

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - Young ecumenist Anupama Ranawana has strengthened her faith through learning about other Christian denominations. 

On Nov. 18, Ranawana was one of three young ecumenists on a panel titled “Listening for the Future,” hosted by the Canadian Council of Churches at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre. The panel focused on inter-Christian relations and what the future holds. 

Ranawana is a Catholic student at Newman Theological College in Edmonton. She says ecumenism — promoting Christian unity — has a personal meaning for her. 

“It’s something I care about because there’s such a strength in learning from others,” she said. “My Catholic faith has become more rich and more beautiful simply by the encounter with someone else’s faith, in the same Christ, and in the same God.” 

Ranawana notes that ecumenism can aid youth on their faith journey by making them more grounded in their beliefs and ideas about God. 

“I find it increasingly in my work with young people, especially with young adults, that… understanding that there’s a bigger world outside of the Catholic Church that embraces that same love (of Christ) is important and gives them a kind of confidence in their faith,” she said. “I think what it also does is it pushes them to feel more educated in their faith, to know more about themselves.” 

She firmly believes in the importance of faith leaders in the lives of young Christians, particularly in the guidance they can offer in navigating through the diversity of the Christian tradition. 

“We rarely think about how easy it is to get lost as a young person. When I first went to university, I was 17, I was really, really young, and I didn’t have enough people who were like, ‘Yeah, I went through this,’ and ‘Yeah, I was worried about this, too’… and that caused me to have a lot of depression in my faith. And I came up and met (people from) other Christian denominations, and they were so different from the Catholic faith, and I was too young to understand that there was beauty in that difference. 

“Now as an older person, I can see that and I can understand that, so being a companion for a young person is very important,” said Ranawana. “We don’t do enough to mentor that and to encourage the great intellectualism that comes from a young person’s mind.” 

Another young ecumenist, Anthony Elenbaas, is pastor of youth outreach and discipleship at Emmanuel Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton, Ont. He believes ecumenism cannot be achieved when people are overwhelmed with the fear of declining church attendance. 

“One of the things that blocks eyes that might hear, and eyes that might see is the fear that’s so prevalent in so many of our denominations,” Elenbaas said. “Anxieties run high as members are leaving us and we face these very real realities of decline.” 

Despite that fear, youth are not absent from the Church, he said. 

“I had a very refreshing conversation with another young person in my denomination who said, ‘I’m just tired of this rhetoric of our-youth-are-leaving’ because we’re here. Present and accounted for. We’re not as numerous as maybe we once were, but how can we start to have these conversations without the fear and anxiety?” 

Ecumenism, he said, must be approached “from a rooted place, understanding that Christ is still Lord of His Church, (and that) He still has a purpose for it.” 

(Reátegui, 16, is a Grade 12 student at Holy Name of Mary Secondary School in Brampton, Ont.) 

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