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Expression of ecumenical collaboration just beginning in Ukraine

   

October 19, 2005
-by Dan Dyck

 


An inter-church Palm Sunday parade in Kherson, Ukraine, culminated at a platform from which the pastors and priests of local churches offered a blessing to God. Representatives from the Baptists, Mennonites, Orthodox, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Presbyterians, and the Greek Catholic church took part.

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Winnipeg, Man.— Ecumenical collaboration is a relatively new notion in Ukraine.

Cliff Dueck, a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker in Kherson, Ukraine, hints at the tension between various church groups when he asks, “Pray for unity amongst the different members of Christ's body.”

Dueck (Steinbach MC, Man.), who has been in Ukraine since 1998 has managed to find ways in which to collaborate with other groups despite the tensions. He works with a group of pastors from other churches to produce a television program called “From the pages of the most important book”, which he notes is “only three words” in Russian.

“This half-hour program gives news about the activities of the churches of our city and features a sermon from one of the pastors. Last Thursday they showed a skit performed by our youth and I preached on the topic of the first man Adam and the last man Christ,” writes Dueck in ministry report.

Another symbol of collaboration was an inter-church Palm Sunday parade this past Easter. Five thousand Christians from different churches and denominations gathered together and under police escort marched two city blocks down a four lane roadway through the city. At the end the crowd gathered around a platform from which the pastors and priests of local churches congratulated the participants, gave a short word of encouragement and offered a prayer of blessing to God. “For those that attended it served to strengthen their faith and help bring unity. We plan to continue this event and make it an annual event in our city,” wrote Dueck, noting that representatives from the Baptists, Mennonites, Orthodox, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Presbyterians, and the Greek Catholic church took part.

Closer to his own community Dueck notes that “We have seen some wonderful things happen in the last while.”

On the last Saturday of each month, he hosts a youth gathering of nearly 60 that includes times of worship, games, and teaching. A wiener roast caps of the event in the evening. “This is an exiting ministry and many youth are starting to take a more active interest in this program. Our hope and prayer is that they will also come closer to making a decision for Christ,” says Dueck in his report.

A sports ministry is another way to get young people involved in positive activity, while opening doors for conversation about faith. A friend, Kolya, a member of the Chernobaevka church where Dueck served during his first two years in Ukraine, has begun a sports ministry. On Saturdays he comes to play soccer with the boys. He also ministers half-time in his village not far from Chernobaevka and half-time in the Dueck’s church. Kolya holds a master’s degree in sports. “He is very dedicated and often the time needed to travel from his house to our place is up to 2 hours in one direction. Please pray for him and his family. The results of his part-time ministry in our community have been very positive,” notes Dueck.

In addition to youth and ecumenical work, Dueck also helps support Bible study groups, Sunday school, and worship services in his congregation. Complicating factors as he schedules his time include fixing his computer – a necessary tool in sharing information and publicizing various events and activities among his peers and his flock. He is joyful about a new assistant, Timothy, who has joined him in his work.

“Timothy is an established servant and served as an elder in one of the churches in Kherson and is presently working on his Master’s of Theology... he has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Programming. While we have decided to first determine his strengths and weaknesses before assigning him to specific tasks I already told him that he will be asked to tune my computer and fix the bugs,” Dueck states wryly.

Dueck lives in Kherson with his wife Natasha and 2-year-old daughter Margarita, and is grateful for both financial and prayer support in his ministry. He and his family will return home to Manitoba this Christmas to be with family and do some itineration. While here, they will also anticipate the safe arrival of their second child.