“The Spirit is doing a new thing in Burlington,” said Bishop Susan Bell about the merger of St. Elizabeth’s Anglican Church and Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
With the support of their bishops and councils, the two congregations voted to enter into a merger agreement, and to begin their shared ministry together as of May 1. The site of the Holy Cross church has been chosen as the location for the merged church, called the Burlington Anglican Lutheran Church until they discern their new name.
“As a former pastor of Holy Cross in Burlington, it has been my great joy to see this merger process take place,” observed Bishop Michael Pryse, who served the parish in the late eighties. “I thank and applaud the Holy Cross and St. Elizabeth’s leadership teams who have so carefully advanced and shepherded this journey of discovery and have accomplished that which we might have barely imagined 35 years ago; thanks be to God!”
The idea for a shared ministry was rooted in 2019, when Colin Cameron, the pastor of Holy Cross, initiated a conversation with Canon Susan Wells, then the priest-in-charge of St. Elizabeth. The two churches had a working relationship for several years, through the East Burlington Seniors’ Luncheon project which was spearheaded by the late Canon Jean Archbell. At this point, the Holy Cross community was wanting to explore what future God might be imagining for them, one that would offer sustainability within a missional and discipleship framework. As it turns out, St. Elizabeth’s was having similar conversations.
“The St. Elizabeth’s community realized many years ago that sustainability for ministry was going to be an issue. So the Possibilities Committee was convened by the vestry in 2015 to research options and adaptations that would allow us to continue to support our members, our community, and our mission.” said Ross Noble, a warden at St. Elizabeth’s. “Finding a partner in our community like the people at Holy Cross, with common goals, aspirations, and compassion was exciting.”
The possibility for Anglican and Lutheran churches to do so arises from The Waterloo Declaration which established a full communion relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
After a year of intentional conversations and relationship building, facilitated by Canon Christyn Perkons, director of congregational support and development, focused on shared beliefs and values as well as differences in culture, practices. and polity, the two churches sought to test out the waters by worshipping together. A combined worship team brought together liturgy and music, sharing the best of both traditions with worship alternating between locations weekly in Advent 2021. What started as a 4-week pilot was so successful that they eagerly continued worshipping together on Zoom and in-person.
The leadership teams looked for areas of commonality. “It became very clear that there was so much in common, such as our love towards the people in Burlington (and beyond), enjoyment we get from worship and music, and a vision of growth in our community,” observed Noble.
“Trying to go through this process when we were physically closed was a challenge,” said Cameron. “Canon Christyn did an amazing job of gathering us together and helping us build relationships that were at first entirely online. It was tough, it was slow, and in the end, it was quite rewarding.”
“By early 2022, momentum for a shared future was building, and the leadership teams set out a timeline that would allow for the development of merger guidelines and community consultation,” said Canon Perkons.
“The members of Holy Cross are quite excited about the merger,” observed Cameron. “We’ve come to genuinely love our siblings in Christ whom we’ve met from St. Elizabeth’s, and we’ve been blessed so many times through our coming together.”
As the two congregations lean into their shared life on Lakeshore Road, Colin Cameron will serve as the first incumbent of the newly merged church with support from Michael Coren during the month of May.
“Drawing on the strengths of two traditions, we have a bright future in front of us – one where the Light of Christ shines brightly to lead us into and through the unknown as followers of God’s will,” said Cameron.