Nicholas Ayres Jesson


Nicholas Jesson describes his ecumenical and inter-religious commitments as a "gospel imperative" which he has identified through diverse lifetime experiences and a family that derives from at least four denominations.

Nicholas originally comes from Winnipeg. He has completed a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies at the University of Manitoba and St. Paul's College. His MA thesis was on ecumenical ecclesiology from a Roman Catholic perspective. He has experience in lay ministry as a student campus minister, co-ordinator of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg summer camping retreat for young adults, and an interim youth co-ordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. He was the Director of the Saskatoon Centre for Ecumenism from 1994 to 1999. He also served as the ecumenical officer for the Diocese of Saskatoon during the same period. He is active in local, regional and national ecumenical projects.

Nicholas has participated in the World Council of Churches' Assembly at Canberra, Australia (February 1991); the Canadian Council of Churches' Triennial Assemblies (May 1991 & June 1997); the Summer Ecumenical Institutes (Montréal 1996,  Calgary 1997 & Saskatoon 1999); the Association of Interchurch Families conference (Edmonton, 2001) and the North American Academy of Ecumenists annual conferences (1996 to 2002).

Nicholas has presented or facilitated numerous workshops around Saskatchewan and elsewhere, including: the Saskatoon Lay Formation program; the Prince Albert Vita Nova (lay formation) program; the Saskatoon Foundations (adult religious education) program; study days for the Roman Catholic dioceses of Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Regina, Winnipeg, St. Boniface, Edmonton and Calgary; conferences for the Western Diocesan & Eparchial Coordinators of Ecumenism; and the national Summer Ecumenical Institute. Nicholas has been a writer for the Growing Together ecumenical bulletin insert series, has published four articles on ecumenical concerns, and assisted in writing a Justification by Faith study guide for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

With the assistance of local planning committees, Nicholas organized the Summer Ecumenical Institutes in 1997 (Calgary) and 1999 (Saskatoon) and the Western Diocesan & Eparchial Coordinators of Ecumenism (ecumenical officers) conference in 1998 (St. Peter's Abbey, Muenster) and 1999 (Saskatoon), as well as bi-annual workshops for parish ecumenical co-ordinators across the Saskatoon region.

Since 1995, Nicholas has developed and maintained an internet website. Originally intended for the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, between 2003 and 2007 it served as a shared website with the Centre canadien d'œcuménisme in Montréal. At that time its title was changed to "Ecumenism in Canada / Œcuménisme au Canada." In late 2012 the PCE also withdrew from the website. The site continues under Nicholas' sole leadership. Average monthly usage is around 10,000 users, from throughout the world.

In the fall of 1999, Nicholas left the PCE to begin studies leading to a PhD in theology at the University of St. Michael's College, Toronto School of Theology. Nicholas' particular interest is in the area of Evangelical-Catholic dialogue, or the prospects thereof. You can read more on his interests below.

In August 2001, Nick married Amanda Currie, a graduate of Knox College, Toronto School of Theology. Knox is one of three theological schools of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Amanda and Nick share a common passion for practical ecumenism. Together they attended the July 2003 Second World Gathering of Interchurch Families near Rome, Italy.

Nick and Amanda moved to Saskatoon when Amanda was called to St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon in December 2003. Nick continues to work on his doctoral thesis from a distance. Returning to Saskatoon has given Nick an opportunity to re-engage with the ecumenical community in Western Canada.

In September 2004, Nick began teaching as a sessional lecturer at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan. He continues his studies towards the PhD and involvement in numerous other ecumenical endeavours.

Current research

If you are interested, you can also read a description of Nicholas' research goals. This is a statement submitted to the Toronto School of Theology at the time of admission to the PhD programme. It has been revised with some input from faculty mentors.

"Ecclesiological themes in Evangelical-Catholic conversations"

In my MA in religious studies (U of Manitoba, 1995) I prepared a thesis exploring the Roman Catholic dialogue with other Christian churches since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). I explored the ecumenically contemporary issues of baptism, eucharist, and ministry as they were reflected in a series of bilateral and multilateral dialogues with official church bodies and agencies. I paid particular attention to the understandings of community and "church" that were reflected in these dialogues and in official Roman Catholic theological documents. From this study I was able to point towards a developing consensus amongst the Christian churches on the nature of the church as a "communion of churches," and further to indicate the relevance of this concept for the quest for Christian unity.

In my doctoral dissertation I will continue this study with a concentration upon the emerging dialogue between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. Evangelicals are a diverse collection of Protestant churches, characterised by a conviction that faith in Jesus as Lord and saviour is central. Evangelicals also are known for their emphasis on the personal experience of conversion, on the authority of Scripture, and on the importance of personal witness to the Gospel. Despite the apparent difficulties of dialogue between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, there have been numerous tentative attempts to express a consensus on basic convictions. An important official dialogue has been established between the World Evangelical Fellowship (now the World Evangelical Alliance) and the Vatican. Interestingly, the focus of the current stage of this dialogue is "the nature of the church as communion". My doctoral dissertation will address the basic gulf between the two traditions and their respective understandings of the nature of community and faith.

Amongst the faculty complement at St. Michael's College and the Toronto School of Theology, I have the opportunity to study with a number of theologians of international stature who have extensive experience in ecumenical dialogue. Of particular importance for my dissertation is Dr. George Vandervelde (Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, an affiliate of the Toronto School of Theology) who is the Evangelical co-chair of the above mentioned Evangelical – Vatican dialogue. My academic supervisor is Dr. Margaret O'Gara, participant in a number of dialogues in Canada and the USA, as well as the international Lutheran-Catholic dialogue.

Selected conference presentations

Papers on ecumenical themes

The following papers have been written as part of the doctoral coursework that Nicholas has pursued since 1999. The papers are available for your consideration. Perhaps some day elements of these papers will be prepared for publication elsewhere. Your comments will be greatly appreciated.