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‘A holy time, a very hopeful time’: National consultation bolsters emerging Indigenous church

October 18, 2017 - 5:02pm

The Road to Warm Springs, the National Consultation on Indigenous Self-Determination that took place from Sept. 15-17 in Pinawa, Manitoba, was another historic milestone in the journey towards a truly Indigenous church as part of the Anglican Church of Canada.

For Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz, the consultation was the latest step in an ongoing, decades-long process—the gradual emergence of a self-determining Indigenous church.

“I think when history is written, people will look back on this consultation as having been a holy time, and a time of renewed hope in the commitment of the whole church to really affirm the desire for a self-determining Indigenous church, and to celebrate its continual emerging,” the Primate said.

That ongoing development has been marked by events of national significance, such as the appointment of Bishop Mark MacDonald as the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, the adoption of Canon XXII, the national Indigenous Ministries, and the enshrining of Sacred Circle and Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) within the structures of the church, as well as more local expressions of self-determination.

Even so, The Road to Warm Springs marked a new level of commitment by Anglicans to make the goal of an Indigenous church a reality.

“This is a gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people agreeing that self-determination is an urgent priority for the church,” Bishop MacDonald said. “That’s a very significant event.”

Renewal of the Covenant

In all, 68 people attended the consultation in Pinawa, a number that included 39 Indigenous and 29 non-Indigenous participants. Those in attendance included bishops, clergy, laity, and General Synod staff support. Co-chairs Dr. Randall Fairey (non-Indigenous) and the Rev. Norm Wesley (Indigenous) took the lead in organizing the event.

Perhaps the most symbolic element of the occasion was the renewal of the 1994 Covenant, as expressed in the Call to the Church document that emerged from the consultation.

“The 1994 Covenant was kind of the start of the journey of spiritual renewal, as it’s known in the national Indigenous circles,” Fairey said. “And this was a result of momentum over many years, the desire for which was to see if we could determine … what a self-determining Indigenous church would look like, and how it could be formed, and most important, [how it] would remain within the Anglican Church of Canada.”

Many who signed the Call to the Church had been present 23 years earlier for the signing of the Covenant. That historic connection did not go unnoticed by those attending the consultation, including Archbishop Hiltz.

“It was very moving at the closing Eucharist to see people who had signed the 1994 Covenant in that room and coming forward with tears in their eyes to sign this call to renew our commitment to the covenant, to get on with this without hesitation or further delay—the church to stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples’ desire to be self-determining,” the Primate said.

“A very profound, emotional time for them … I think they felt like they were finally being heard, and I think that was a good thing.”

Indigenous spirituality and a new apology

A major highlight of the consultation was a presentation by well-known counselor Dr. Martin Brokenleg, an Anglican Divinity School graduate and retired Vancouver School of Theology professor, who discussed the complex nature of Indigenous spirituality as defined by the intersection between traditional and Christian beliefs.

Using the example of the Lakota people, Brokenleg described a “multiplicity” of spiritualities among Indigenous people, ranging from those who exclusively practice traditional Indigenous beliefs (a very small proportion of the total, approximating one per cent), to those who practice a mixture of traditional and Christian influences, to those—often elders—who want nothing to do with the old ways and who practice a type of fundamentalist Christianity.

“Part of the problem was that they were taught that the old ways were evil, were pagan, were wrong, from the missionaries,” Fairey said. “I think the healing that’s going to be needed in the church is particularly helping the elders understand that we now believe the missionaries were wrong. And where that goes, it will be up to Fred.”

His reference to the Primate pertains to a point raised by the Rev. Norm Wesley about the confusion faced by many Indigenous communities whose elders were once taught by missionaries that they could not practice their traditional spirituality—but who now encounter a contemporary Anglican Church of Canada that has endorsed the pairing of traditional Indigenous teachings with Christian teachings, along with the use of pipes, smudging, drumming, and dancing in worship.

Wesley called for some kind of apology on the part of the church, acknowledging wrongdoing in teaching Indigenous people that their spirituality and sacred ceremonies were “evil”, and expressing sorrow for the demand that artifacts associated with traditional ceremonies be destroyed.

In his closing remarks, Archbishop Hiltz made clear that that call did not go unheard—and that he was fully prepared to make such an apology on behalf of the church.

“I don’t have any hesitation in doing that,” the Primate said. “I think it’s entirely appropriate.”

Onward to General Synod 2019

In the wake of the gathering in Pinawa, planning team members are hard at work preparing a full report on the consultation.

Participants pray together at the National Consultation on Indigenous Self-Determination. Photo by Anglican Video

The experience of The Road to Warm Springs will be a major topic of discussion at upcoming meetings of the House of Bishops, ACIP, and at the next meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) in November. Following the next Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle, a small joint working group representing Sacred Circle and CoGS is expected to prepare a report and motion that will go before General Synod in 2019.

Archbishop Hiltz noted that 2019 will mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Covenant—an anniversary that he hopes the church will honour in an impactful way.

“That synod could be quite a moment,” the Primate said. “Twenty-five years after the Covenant, what is it that we’re going to be affirming and celebrating? My hope, as I said at the end of the consultation, is that a truly Indigenous church will be celebrated by the whole church. And I think that there’s every possibility that by 2019, we’ll have the major pieces in place to be able to celebrate that.

“The building of a truly Indigenous church is not unlike the building of the church through time,” he added. “There’s never a moment when you can say ‘It’s done’ … because the church in many respects is not of our own doing. The church is ultimately built and takes shape as we allow ourselves to be shaped in the name of God.”

The Road to Warm Springs web page continues to be populated with videos and foundational documents from the gathering for all members of the Church.

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Recalling summer’s wildfire exodus in the Territory of the People

October 17, 2017 - 3:54pm

The following is the first instalment of a two-part story detailing the experience and aftermath of the B.C. summer wildfires from an Anglican perspective. Visit the Anglican Church of Canada website later this week for the conclusion.

This summer’s wildfire season was the worst-ever recorded in British Columbia’s history. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, hundreds of buildings were destroyed, and much of the province’s livestock was put at risk. As of Sept. 28, more than 100 wildfires were still burning across the province.

Much of the devastation impacted Anglicans residing within the Territory of the People. For some, the threat of the encroaching fires forced the evacuation of friends and neighbours, while others were made to flee and leave their own homes. At the height of the evacuations, many Anglican clergy and lay people provided assistance and pastoral care to evacuees.

“One way or another, every single parish in our territory was affected,” said the Very Rev. Ken Gray, currently serving as episcopal commissary during the sabbatical of Bishop Barbara Andrews.

Experience of evacuated parishes

In certain parishes, particularly 100 Mile House, Alexis Creek, and Williams Lake, residents were evacuated as the fire threatened buildings and parishioners’ homes. Meanwhile, major centres such as Kamloops and Prince George took in large numbers of evacuees.

The Revs. Kris and Keith Dobyns—who share positions serving St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in 100 Mile House and St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Williams Lake, as well as St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Alexis Creek—were among those those evacuated in July. Days after the fires began near their home in 100 Mile House, Kris received a warning from fire volunteers going door-to-door that she might have to leave.

“About 45 minutes before the evacuation, all of this black smoke started billowing in … I live downtown, and it looked pretty ominous,” she recalled. “My neighbours were out and they all decided to leave. They had ash falling in their backyards.”

Making the decision to evacuate, Dobyns packed and left a note with her name and phone number on her front door. She stayed with parishioners just outside the evacuation zone on a Sunday night before leaving early Monday morning. After meeting up with Keith, who had been away visiting their grandson in Ontario, they drove to stay with their son and his family in Abbotsford, B.C.

Two weeks later, officials re-opened 100 Mile for residents to return, and the couple returned home. But when fire threatened the surrounding areas of Elephant Hill and Canim Lake, Kris ended up leaving for Abbotsford for a few more days on the advice of Bishop Andrews.

“It was just so smoky and there had been more evacuations on both sides of us,” Dobyns said. “Our bishop was visiting to provide pastoral care and all these other evacuations had happened, and she looked at me and said, ‘You need a break.’”

During that time, members of the Canim Lake Band were themselves evacuated following a lightning strike and ended up in 100 Mile.

Partnering with the Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre—which is located next to St. Timothy’s—to help care for evacuees, Anglicans joined band members for a potluck attended by Bishop Andrews, during which they brought food and other items such as clothing.

“We have a free store at our church that can be opened at any point,” Dobyns said. “So we opened that up for people who needed clothing or blankets, because they had just had to leave in the middle of the night with no warning.”

Providing care to evacuees

In larger urban centres where many of those evacuated ended up, Anglican clergy were on the frontlines of helping evacuees.

The Rev. Isabel Healy-Morrow, regional dean for Kamloop-South Rivers, spent time at two areas set up by authorities to receive people evacuated from their homes in communities such as 100 Mile House, Clinton, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek. One was the Kamloops Powwow Grounds, where a cluster of tents and travel trailers had sprung up.

“I would go down and sit and visit with families, drink coffee with them, play with the children, and give them someone to vent their anxieties to,” Healy-Morrow said. “Those in the ranching industry were consumed with anxiety about their livestock.”

With a background in farming and ranching, Healy-Morrow was able to converse with fleeing ranchers about the evacuation of cattle and other livestock. Many horses were evacuated and taken to the Kamloops Exhibition Grounds and nearby farms.

For the evacuated people themselves, many had left quickly and been compelled to leave behind essentials such as prescriptions and clean clothing. At a second, indoor reception area, the Interior Community Savings Arena, hundreds of cots were set up, while provincial Emergency Social Services provided food, clothing, toiletries, and other benefits.

At the arena, Healy-Morrow encountered a group of First Nations elders from the coastal community of Bella Coola, who were unable to home after a Vancouver conference due to the Hanceville wildfire blocking the road from Williams Lake.

“There was no indication as to when it might be safe to travel,” she recalled. “I was able to provide a pastoral presence, hug people, [and] hand out water and snacks and pamphlets showing the location of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where evacuees were welcome to drop in and rest, pray, or talk.”

Healy-Morrow also visited evacuees who had been admitted to the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital after experiencing cardiac and breathing issues, due to the cumulative effects of stress and poor air quality resulting from smoke, ash, and particulate matter—a particular health risk for those suffering from conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“They were glad of a smile, a hug, someone to sit by their bed and talk, pray if requested, and bring them coffee and snacks,” she said.

“The pastoral presence of the clergy was appreciated by the evacuees, and it was clear that a smile and a hug went a long way to those who were frantic with anxiety over the possible loss of their homes and assets.”

Though the wildfires have subsided since their summer peak, residents in affected communities now find themselves dealing with the aftermath of the destruction.

To be continued.

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‘Rebuild My Church’: A Reflection by Archbishop Fred Hiltz on Primates’ Meeting 2017

October 12, 2017 - 7:03pm

Upon arriving in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom for the Meeting of the Primates from October 2 to 6, 2017, I was immediately struck by the massive amount of staging encasing the towers on opposite sides of The Great West Door and extending over the entire length of the Nave Roof.  The Cathedral is in the midst of a five-year £60 million restoration. Known as Cathedral Journey, it will also include the repair and restoration of the ancient Christ Church Gate and the refurbishing of several buildings on the streetscape to become a Welcome Center.  All around the grounds are a series of wonderful panels telling the story of the Cathedral’s history and treasures, ministries and music, martyrs and pilgrims.

The seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury since 597 AD, this great Cathedral is the mother church of our beloved worldwide Anglican Communion.  At the very heart of its daily life are the rhythm of Morning Prayer and Evensong in the Quire and a celebration of the Eucharist in the Crypt.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lectionary speaks a word into our day.  The Old Testament Readings for Morning Prayer last week chronicled the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, its dedication, and Solomon’s prayer that the eyes of the Lord be always open to this place and his ears to the prayers of the people. (2 Chronicles)  At one of the morning Eucharist’s we heard the story of the disciples commenting on the massiveness of the Temple – “what large stones and what large buildings”; and then Jesus’ word concerning its destruction. “Not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down”. (Mark 13)  They knew nothing of the nature of the Temple he himself would raise up through his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

As we kept the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4), the presider called to our minds how as Francis was kneeling before a crucifix in the Chapel of San Damiano, he heard the Lord speak to him saying, “Go and rebuild my Church”.  The work to which Francis was being called was a spiritual renewal of the Church, a re-building “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2: 20-21).

As I did my early morning walks around the Cathedral and throughout its ancient cloister, I thought time and again of Paul’s teaching. I thought too of Peter’s counsel.

Come to him that living stone, rejected by mortals but chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, be built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, making offerings acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2: 4-5)

While this text has always reminded me of the several dimensions of our calling in the Lord, it resonated with me in a very powerful way in this meeting of the Primates.

The first dimension is deeply personal.

“Come to him, that living stone…”

Peter’s call that we come to Christ would be echoed time and again throughout the history of the Church. Centuries later, Augustine of Hippo wrote, “My soul is like a house small for you to enter, O Lord, but I pray you to enter it.  It is in ruins but I ask you to re-make it.”

As Francis heard the call to rebuild the Church, he knew that unless he himself was re-made, he would not be able to take on such a venture. Likewise the Primates confessed that, if we are to offer spirited leadership in the Church, we must be renewed in our own personal relationship with Christ.

Accordingly we welcomed a conversation about evangelism.  We were glad to hear of the call for a Season of Intentional Discipleship across the Communion (2016-2025).  And we readily accepted the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to join him in praying between The Day of The Ascension and The Day of Pentecost (May 10-20, 2018) that “many more people come to know Jesus Christ”. Known as “Thy Kingdom Come”, this initiative though Anglican in origin and now ecumenical in appeal, has reached thousands of people in the United Kingdom and in some eighty-five other countries around the world.  Many, many people have come to faith for the first time in their lives, many others have matured in their faith, and many more have renewed their commitment to follow the way of Jesus, recognizing that it touches every aspect of their living.

As the first dimension of our calling in the Lord is deeply personal, the second is a strong reminder that to be called into a relationship with Christ is to be called into community.

“And like living stones, be yourselves built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.”

Here Peter gives us a vision of our life together in Christ as local Churches, and as Sister Churches in our worldwide Communion.  His vision calls us to recognize the many different contexts – religious, political, economic, social and cultural – in which the Churches find themselves.  It calls us to acknowledge the diversity of theological perspective within and among our Churches.  It calls us even in the midst of deep differences of conviction over any number of matters, to remain in communion with one another.

In this meeting we heard from the Primus of The Scottish Episcopal Church with respect to amendments to its Marriage Canon making provision for same sex marriage.  The following are excerpts from the Canon as amended:

“In the light of the fact that there are different understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of the Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. …No cleric shall solemnize a marriage between persons of the same sex unless said cleric shall have been nominated on behalf of the Church to the Registrar General for Scotland.”

Having heard from the Primus, there was then a re-visiting of “the consequences” for The Episcopal Church having amended its Canon in 2015, that is, that for a period of three years members of The Episcopal Church “would no longer represent the Communion in ecumenical and inter-faith bodies; should not be appointed or elected to internal standing committees and that, while participating in the internal bodies of The Anglican Communion, they would not take part in decision making on any matters of doctrine or polity”.  The Archbishop of Canterbury was convinced that the Scottish Episcopal Church now live with the same consequences, as were the majority of Primates.

With respect to these “relational consequences” many are already wondering what happens as we approach the end of those three-year periods.  What then?

A few of the Primates, including me, continue to struggle with these kinds of consequences.  I sometimes wonder if The Meeting of the Primates has in fact moved definitively beyond what Archbishop Donald Coggan intended it to be – a gathering for “leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultation”; an occasion for the Primates to act “as channels through which the voice of the member churches are heard, and real interchange of heart can take place” (Lambeth Conference 1978).

Has the meeting already seized “the enhanced authority” called for by some throughout the Communion, and are we in fact already acting on it?  Does such action as we have taken regarding “relational consequences” reflect what was envisioned as the role of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in dispute resolution as outlined in Section IV of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, the one section that has been most problematic for the majority of the Churches of the Communion in their consideration of the Covenant?

Notwithstanding these questions, I want to say unequivocally that conversations in this meeting of the Primates were characterized by a measure of respect and grace that was most encouraging.

We reaffirmed our commitment to remaining in communion, one with another.

We reaffirmed our concerns over the intent and impact of cross border interventions and vowed to honour the principles that forbid them dating back to The Council of Nicaea and reiterated time and again throughout history.

We rallied around “courtesy” and “collaboration” as principles in walking together even in the midst of tensions within the Communion.

The Primates heard a progress report from the Task Group appointed at the request of our last meeting in 2016.  Its mandate was to help us find ways to “maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationships, the re-building of trust, the healing of the legacy of hurt, recognizing the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ”.  In the spirit of that mandate, the Task Group has recommended a Season of Repentance and Renewal leading into Lambeth 2020.  That call was heartily embraced by all the Primates present.

We readily took up a suggestion that next year there be meetings of the Primates in each of the regions of the Communion – Africa; Southeast Asia and Oceania; Europe; Middle East and West Asia; Central, North, South Americas and the Caribbean.  These meetings are intended to strengthen our ties with one another, and our commitments to mutual support and encouragement in the exercise of primacy.  They will be an occasion to speak about mission across our Regions and to take counsel together in helping to shape the Lambeth Conference in 2020.  I am pleased to announce that I will host the meeting for the Americas in November 2018.

This second dimension of our calling in the Lord is all about our relationships, one with another.  In so far as they reflect the companionship of which Jesus speaks, the partnership of which Paul speaks and the communion of which Peter speaks, we will be graced and more able in responding to the third dimension of our calling in the Lord.

“Making offerings acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The Primates were generally delighted that the agenda for our meeting was shaped by our commitment to the Marks of Mission.  As our focus on Intentional Discipleship was grounded in Marks of Mission 1 and 2, so our conversations concerning the most pressing issues facing the entire human family and our common home, were grounded in Marks of Mission 3, 4, and 5.

We came to realise that Food Security is a major concern in the majority of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion.  The major factors are long-term drought, natural disasters, and corrupt regimes that starve their own people.  The poor are always at highest risk with respect to security in feeding their children.

The Anglican Alliance is doing very good work in addressing this crisis.  As a member of that Alliance, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) continues to do outstanding work by way of education and advocacy for the full realization of the internationally accepted definition of food security.  It is “the state in which all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for a healthy and active life.” (Adopted by The World Food Summit, 1996)

We were overwhelmed by the statistics associated with the global refugee crisis.  They are staggering. Sixty five million people displaced by conflict in their homelands, and 20 million by natural disasters. In the midst of much despair the Churches of our Communion are caring for those in camps making provision for the most basic of human needs.  Many are receiving refugees through Sponsorship Agreements with national governments.  They are accompanying them as they settle into a life free of the oppression they have fled. Canada is recognized as one of the most welcoming of nations and I am proud to note our own Church’s commitment to this Matthew 25 ministry.

We were confronted by the plight of millions of migrant workers throughout the world.  In recent days there has been front page coverage in a couple of our own national newspapers about the ugly truth that many migrant workers enter Canada with a work permit restricted to one employer only.  Sadly some of those employers exploit their employees, some to the point of slavery in the service of the drive for profit and gain.

We were reminded of the Church’s role in speaking up for those whose dignity and rights are violated.  Our obligation to do so is grounded in that great text from Isaiah that speaks of freedom for the captive and liberty for the oppressed (Chapter 61), the very text Jesus took as a mantra for his ministry.

We were horrified by the reports concerning the trafficking of girls and women (and boys and men too) for the world’s $32 billion sex trade.  Lured into promises of opportunity and prosperity, those who are trafficked become enslaved in nothing less than a living hell.  Their handlers and users see them as commodities to be bought and sold time and again.

It is a well documented fact that the average annual profit of a woman trafficked for sex is $280,000.  No country is exempt from this crime against humanity.  Some are known as source countries, some as transfer and some destination.  Some are all three.  Canada is one of them.   In all countries women and girls who are poor are at highest risk of being trafficked.  In Canada it is Indigenous girls.

We were encouraged by the resolved of our Communion to rid the world of this evil.  Incredible work is being done through the Anglican Family Network, the International Anglican Women’s Network and the Mother’s Union. I am pleased to see that our own Church has taken strong initiative to educate and equip us to shine a light into this deep darkness in which so many are enslaved.  In this work we are partnering with others, namely the Canadian Centre for Ending Human Trafficking, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Canadian Council of Churches, KAIROS, and the afore mentioned agencies of the Anglican Communion.

This work is grounded in our baptismal vow to respect and protect the dignity of every human being.  That vow compels us to work relentlessly in eradicating this crime against humanity.

One of the most moving of presentations at our meeting was an accounting of the number of the Churches in the Communion engaged in the work of reconciliation in the midst of civil war and schemes for systematic ethnic cleansing.  We pledged solidarity in fervent prayer for those engaged in this sacrificial and all so often life-costing ministry.

From a Canadian perspective, I raised the plight of Indigenous Peoples, subject as they have been for centuries, to government policies of forced assimilation associated with colonial expansion and empire building.  I reported that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) grounded its Report and 94 Calls to Action in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  I encouraged all the Primates to lead their Churches in following through on a call from ACC-14 to encourage all the Churches of the Communion to press the governments in their lands to endorse that Declaration.

We were humbled by the truth that throughout the world it is women who in large measure are on the frontlines of Ministries of Reconciliation. We were reminded of their critical role in spotting rising tensions, striving to de-escalate conflict, and caring for those suffering through its aftermath.  With great courage they carry the Song of Mary in their hearts, singing it not only in word, but also in deed.  And if we have ears to hear, we will all be drawn into that magnificent chorus that “casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly”(Luke 1:52).

As in meetings of the Primates in the last ten years, so in this one there was considerable attention to Climate Change and its impact from a melting Ice Cap in the North to rising sea levels in the South.  We discussed The Paris Accord and the extent to which the signatories are absolutely committed.  With regret we noted the regressive steps of the current administration in the United States of America.

With delight we noted the emergence of Justice Camps focussed on Climate Change.  With a renewed diligence we committed our Churches to the 5th Mark of Mission rooted in the sacredness of creation and the marvellous array of ecological balances with which it came into being.  Accordingly we welcomed the announcement of a “Letters for Creation project” for Creationtide in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In so far as the Primates wrestled with all these pressing issues, we recognized people of other faith traditions also share the gravest of our concerns.  We marked the launch of the Anglican Interfaith Network and pledged to encourage interfaith dialogue and collaboration in our respective contexts.

All these concerns for the human family and our common home are very much in keeping with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s renowned public commitment to ensuring “that in international for a the Anglican voice is heard”.

Conclusion

I pray this reflection offers you in some measure a sense of the very spirit, reach and hope of this meeting of the Primates and Moderators of the Churches of our beloved Communion.   From our morning in quiet in the Crypt to the final Eucharist there was a momentum, not of our making, but of the Lord’s.  He was drawing us closer to Him, closer to one another, and closer to the world.

All of us were so heartened to hear that the theme for the Lambeth Conference 2020 is “God’s Church for God’s World”.  This conference is being planned mindful of the centenary of the great Lambeth Conference of 1920.  It was a time in which the world had come through much turmoil.  That conference set out numerous initiatives for the healing of the world.  Archbishop Welby has already declared his hope that the Lambeth Conference 2020 “be a strategic meeting, setting the direction of the Anglican Communion for the coming century.”

In closing may I take you back to that sight of the towers of the west end of Canterbury Cathedral encased in staging, for restoration and renewal.  Within that maze of pipe and plastic, the stonemasons go about their work, for the most part unseen.  Their labour requires skill and precision, patience and perseverance.  For them it is inspired by a vision larger than the pile of stones with which they are working on any given day.  It is the vision of a great Cathedral, a house of prayer for all people.

As they diligently work to restore the Mother Church of our Communion, so too do a host of other people work diligently in renewing the Communion’s commitment to God’s Mission in the World.  I think particularly of those who work with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, those who work in and out of the Anglican Communion Office, and all who serve on the Standing Committees, Commissions and Networks of the Communion.  And finally, I think of the Community of St. Anselm and its work of prayer for the Church and our fidelity in Christ.  For them all I give thanks to God.

As the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Christ in Canterbury is restored with such skilled and loving care, may we persevere in rebuilding the spiritual life of the Church in each and every place where we serve as bishops, clergy and all those signed in baptism with the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To Him be glory now and ever.

The post ‘Rebuild My Church’: A Reflection by Archbishop Fred Hiltz on Primates’ Meeting 2017 appeared first on Anglican Church of Canada.

CAPA trip alters preconceptions of Canadian church

October 11, 2017 - 4:36pm

Two representatives from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), general secretary Canon Grace Kaiso and communications and finance director Elizabeth Wanjiku Gichovi, spent the latter half of September on a multi-city tour meeting members of the Anglican Church of Canada. Their two-week trip took them to the dioceses of Niagara, Edmonton, Qu’appelle, Rupert’s Land, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.

On Sept. 28, the pair visited the office of the General Synod to meet with the Primate and General Synod staff members, and to worship together with the Primate presiding and Canon Kaiso preaching. Both in his homily and at a subsequent “lunch-and-learn”, Kaiso said that meeting Anglicans across Canada had challenged many preconceived notions held by some Anglicans in Africa about the life of the Canadian church.

“The trip has been very informative,” Canon Kaiso said. “It has helped us to change a perception that is predominant in Africa that the church here [in Canada] is dying.

“We have experienced initiatives by the [Canadian] congregations and churches and dioceses that have sought to address and connect with the communities,” he said. “The beauty of this has been to see how the church has chosen to go out and meet where people are, not wait for them … We think that is a good approach.”

Elizabeth Wanjiku Gichovi, communications and finance director of CAPA, listens as Canon Kaiso speaks to General Synod staff members at Church House. Photo by Matt Gardner

One of the ways Kaiso saw the Anglican Church of Canada carrying out its ministry was through partnerships between the church and government, such as dioceses working closely with municipalities to address issues such as housing and accommodation of refugees.

In many African nations, government corruption can make such partnerships more difficult, he reflected. The question of how to translate desired changes into public policy remains an ongoing struggle for Anglicans in Africa, who are grappling with social issues arising from urbanization and political instability.

“It is becoming very difficult to engage and to contribute to nation-building, because the processes that we would use, like parliament, is biased, is not serving the common good, is a tool for serving a regime instead of serving the well-being of the people,” Kaiso said.

“They are compromised, so this is generating a culture of violence,” he added. “How does the church respond to a culture of violence, and transform it into a culture of peace? Those are the areas of challenge that we are facing.”

‘The zeal for discipleship’

Kaiso praised what he called the “zeal for discipleship” among Canadian Anglicans, noting the use of the Alpha course by many congregations to deepen Christian fellowship and the growing numbers of parishioners volunteering in lay ministry.

“We were in Edmonton and the bishop was presiding over the commissioning of almost 70 lay ministers—lay readers, we call them—which is great, which means that people who have diverse skills will now be available to the church to connect it in different areas of need around the communities.”

Deepening the faith of Anglicans in their own communities is a major priority for the church in Africa, Kaiso said, suggesting that quantity of parishioners must be matched by the quality of Christian discipleship.

“Yes, we have large congregations, but are they healthy congregations?” he asked. Encouraging Bible study and working with members of their congregations, Kaiso said, aims to help them “become effective ambassadors of Christ wherever they are—in their places of work, wherever in their communities, so that they become agents of transformation inspired by gospel values.”

Reciprocal engagement

Another area where Kaiso found himself encouraged was in the response of the Anglican Church of Canada to injustices faced by Indigenous people in Canada..

He highlighted efforts to “model what it means to relate with those that have been aggrieved because of injustices, taking steps to seek forgiveness and creating avenues for the self-determination of the people of the First Nations”, and acknowledged that African nations similarly continue to deal with the legacy of colonization.

Detailing the work of CAPA during their presentation at Church House, Kaiso and Gichovi outlined various ongoing projects, such as mobilizing communities to provide milk coolers for farmers and supporting hydroponic farming to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

They also answered questions from General Synod staff members about the situation African churches face regarding Christian-Muslim relations, refugees in countries such as Uganda, the role of CAPA in establishing South Sudan as a new province of the Anglican Communion, and issues of gender justice.

Canon Isaac Kawuki Mukasa, Africa relations co-ordinator for the Anglican Church of Canada, who has visited CAPA several times along with Global Relations Director Andrea Mann, said the the trip by Kaiso and Gichovi provided a chance for reciprocal engagement between the Canadian and African churches.

“After spending time with these two … I’ve really come to a much greater appreciation of the scope of their responsibility, and just amazed by how many people they touch with their work,” Mukasa said.

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Human Trafficking Reference Group gathers preliminary information

September 29, 2017 - 4:15pm

A meeting of a national Human Trafficking Reference Group took place on Sept. 25-26 at the offices of the General Synod in Toronto, deepening the commitment and action of the Anglican Church of Canada to support the eradication of human trafficking.

Seven Anglicans made up the reference group, which included representatives for each of the four ecclesiastical provinces. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and General Secretary Michael Thompson, along with co-chairs Andrea Mann and Ryan Weston invited members based on their involvement with vulnerable communities affected by issues such as sex trafficking and migrant justice.

Both the Primate and General Secretary attended the Human Trafficking Reference Group meeting, along with National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and three representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada active in work for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation built around the subtheme Human Beings—Not for Sale.

Those present at the meeting shared a wealth of information laying out the scope of human trafficking and how Anglicans across Canada are working to help end it.

“I think the group discerned that this was an important and serious concern, whose moment … for further church leadership and involvement had arrived,” co-chair Andrea Mann said.

“There was a sense that we as a church, or perhaps even beyond that as a Canadian society, were in a kairos moment—which is to say that the hand or the voice of the Spirit of God was breaking into the awareness of the church to learn about this egregious human rights violation in Canada, which very few people seem to know about, and to raise awareness to support both church and community-based initiatives … [towards] eradicating human trafficking and modern slavery, not only in Canada, but globally.”

Group members learned about myriad forms of trafficking detailed by speakers that included staff members from the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking.

“We realized that it’s a widespread issue and there are many forms of human trafficking, and that we are not positioned to respond to all of them,” co-chair Ryan Weston said. “So we tried to identify particular pieces that we could specifically engage in.”

Areas for potentially increased church engagement included confronting forced sexual exploitation as well as labour trafficking, which ties into the plight of migrant workers and individuals without legal status.

The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was a major focus; many Anglicans are currently participating in Sisters in Spirit vigils along with other community organizations. Group members also discussed the plight of Indigenous boys and men who, Weston said, “have been lost to their communities who are waiting and praying for them to come home.”

Ongoing Anglican responses to trafficking include participation in direct outreach programs to serve marginalized people vulnerable to or currently involved in trafficking, and education initiatives such as the Ragdoll Project, discussed by assistant parish priest John VanStone at the June meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS).

Canadian Anglicans are also active in groups such as the International Anglican Women’s Network and Ecumenical Women—who continue to travel every March to discuss gender-based violence and trafficking at annual hearings from the UN Council on the Status of Women—as well as ecumenical organizations such as KAIROS and the Canadian Council of Churches.

“I think part of the outcome [of the meeting] is a commitment to helping to spread that work, to spread the awareness of what’s happening in order to spur responsive action in communities that are impacted,” Weston said. “And all communities are impacted by it.”

Looking ahead, members of the Human Trafficking Reference Group will now summarize their two days of discussion in a report to be sent to CoGS in advance of its November meeting—after which they will consider their next steps, Mann said.

“It could be that when we begin to sort of see the emergence of a work plan framework, there’ll be some folks from the reference group either wanting to help us flesh out that work plan, or on the ground to help us get that work underway locally.”

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A Message to the Bishops, Clergy and People of the Diocese of Toronto

September 26, 2017 - 7:41pm

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

This afternoon I have informed the members of Diocesan Council that, after many months of prayerful discernment, I am asking Diocesan Synod to concur with my request for the election of a Coadjutor Bishop for the Diocese in the middle of next year. I will step down from my role as the Metropolitan of Ontario at the next Provincial Synod in October 2018 and concurrently as Bishop of Moosonee. More importantly for our Diocese, I plan to retire as Bishop of Toronto at the end of December 2018. The Bishop of Ottawa, who is the next senior bishop of the Province, is now in receipt of my letter of resignation. A Coadjutor Bishop is elected by Synod to assist the Diocesan Bishop prior to his retirement and to succeed the Diocesan Bishop immediately on the Diocesan’s retirement.

I have now served the Diocese of Toronto for over 40 years of ordained ministry. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life, and it has not been an easy or quick decision to bring it to a conclusion. By the time I retire, I will have passed my 66th birthday and have served as bishop for over 15 years, with an additional 12 years in the Bishop’s Office as the Executive Assistant and Archdeacon to my esteemed mentor and predecessor, Archbishop Terence Finlay. In each of the three parishes I served before that I have learned more and more from the people of God, how to be a faithful pastor and priest. There is so much that I am thankful to God for in this great Diocese: the tremendous richness of our diversity, the remarkably gifted clergy and strong faithfulness of our laity, the breadth of the resources we have been given, the new opportunities we are afforded to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the past decade and a half, we have done some remarkable things: developed a growing team of high capacity diocesan volunteers to work as coaches and facilitators with parishes, completed a very successful Our Faith-Our Hope: Re-imagine Church campaign to resource our ministry, intentionally focused on being missional as a diocese, increased our commitment to intercultural ministry, and renewed our witness to social justice both in our advocacy work and our direct compassionate service. There have been many changes that we have faced together, including declining numbers and closing churches. But we have also named and faced our challenges squarely in the context of our Christian faith. We have a new strategic plan, aptly named Growing in Christ, to direct us in the next few years.

I am enormously grateful to God for the privilege of serving and leading this Diocese, and especially for the opportunity to work and minister with such gifted and generous people as you. I am not retired yet. There is still much to do and I look forward to continuing to work faithfully over the next year to reach our goals.

May I ask for your prayers for our diocese, and especially for Ellen and me, as we prepare for this transition.

May God bless and keep you in his love,

The Most Reverend Colin R. Johnson
Archbishop of Toronto and Metropolitan of Ontario

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
September 21, 2017

View a PDF version of this letter.

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Youth Secretariat charts new way forward

September 19, 2017 - 7:16pm

The appointment of Sheilagh McGlynn as youth animator for the Anglican Church of Canada marks a new chapter in the church’s future in youth ministry—the earliest effects of which may be felt in the national Youth Secretariat.

Established at the 2010 General Synod in Halifax, the Youth Secretariat brings together a group of representatives from across the church to promote discussion and training in the area of youth ministry, create support networks for related projects, and encourage gatherings of young people and youth leaders. Members meet in person when required and communicate via teleconference every two months.

Core projects of the Secretariat since its creation have included Stronger Together, an annual gathering of Anglican and Lutheran youth ministers from the diocesan/synod level; the biennial Canadian Lutheran-Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering; Trailblazing, an online theological formation resource for youth ministry; and blogging on related topics through platforms such as justgeneration.ca and The Community.

Youth animator Sheilagh McGlynn

Formerly serving as justgeneration.ca facilitator, McGlynn’s current role as youth animator provides an opportunity for the Secretariat to reassess its priorities and approach to youth ministry. Reflecting that transitional stage, the Secretariat opted not to hold a Stronger Together gathering in 2017.

“We took a break for this year … It was decided that it would actually be better to spend that time with [Sheilagh] and figure out where we’re going in terms of the Secretariat,” interim chair Su McLeod said.

“Sheilagh’s coming at the ministry from a very different place,” she added. “She already has a lot of networks within the [Anglican Church of Canada] and in some places where we haven’t been able to make those connections before … What we’re hoping is that Sheilagh will help us to build some of those bridges, and to have a greater representation of the [Church] involved in national youth ministry initiatives.”

For McGlynn, whose role on the committee includes both administrative and visioning tasks, the position of youth animator offers a means to help facilitate the work of the Secretariat.

“Structurally, [members of the Secretariat] haven’t had consistent support, so I want to offer the consistent support to make that a very functional committee,” McGlynn said.

Current membership and outlook

The present Youth Secretariat are members of each ecclesiastical province.. Members include McLeod (Ontario), Mark Dunwoody (Canada), Caitlin Reilley Beck (B.C. and Yukon), and McGlynn, as well as Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund youth council representative Jessica Steele. The member’s position from Rupert’s Land is currently vacant.

Beck described the Secretariat as in a “period of transition and new development in terms of how the national church is going to support and be involved in youth ministry”, which has been accompanied by growing awareness of the need to coordinate youth ministry at a national level.

“There’s an increased energy around the various ways that youth ministry is already working in different places, and how we can share knowledge and resources and experience,” Beck said.

“That’s always been a thing that the Youth Secretariat has done, but there are always new things happening across the country … In Ottawa, there’s a really great Youth Internship Program that people are looking at. There’s interest in how we can be involved in our full communion relationship with the Lutheran church more.”

Dunwoody said the priority for the Secretariat remained serving as a forum for discussion of the state of youth ministry across Canada, connecting with diocesan representatives and bringing their stories to the wider church.

“With the change of leadership, we’re really going to be working with Sheilagh to try and form policy to try and help her, because youth ministry’s changing so quickly [in] the church of Canada in terms of how people are doing it, why they’re doing it, where they’re doing it,” he said.

One such change has been an increasing age range for the young people engaged in ministry.

“Youth ministry used to be you were certainly just working with high school[-aged youth],” Dunwoody said. “Now we’re finding people working with young adults to young children in the same area, in the same church.”

Priorities on the horizon

As they prepare for their next meeting in October, members of the Secretariat are reflecting on their biggest priorities moving forward and how to best support youth ministry across Canada.

McLeod suggested that one near-term focus might be building a greater awareness of the National Youth Project. In the past, the National Youth Project has been announced through CLAY, but the Secretariat may be considering ways to make the project “more of a national thing for people who are not involved in CLAY to still be a part of.”

The Secretariat is also exploring ideas for training that connects youth ministry with mental health. One upcoming example, in partnership with Huron College, is a conference on theology and mental health that will take place in May 2018 to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Another likely focus, Dunwoody said, will be exploring “what it means to fully integrate the Indigenous ministries, especially around young people,” and to include Indigenous peoples more in the rhythms of the church while enabling non-Indigenous Anglicans to learn from their Indigenous counterparts.

“I don’t know if they have been really represented in the past, and that’s going to be an interesting area of work of how we enable that to happen in dioceses and parishes … I think that’s going to be an area of work that Sheilagh’s going to really help us with because of her experience, especially with communities in the north and so on.”

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A Call to the Church from The National Consultation on Indigenous Self-Determination

September 17, 2017 - 8:04pm

A Call from Warm Springs

As brothers and sisters in The Lord gathered in Pinawa, MB for The National Consultation on Indigenous Self-Determination, we have grounded our work in the story of The Road to Emmaus. In an Indigenous version of the New Testament it is known as The Road to Warm Springs. Like the disciples on that road we have experienced the presence of Creator Sets Free (Jesus) among us.

On the first day we felt Him drawing alongside us in our conversations concerning the call from The Covenant of 1994 to build a truly Indigenous Anglican Church. We gave thanks for how far He has taken us on this journey and we rejoice in many significant steps along the way. We acknowledged that we still face many challenges and we pray for courage and wisdom to address them without hesitation or further delay. We were humbled by an invitation to ponder the reconciliation necessary to move forward. We were enriched by those among us who spoke from the heart of how reconciliation had transformed their lives and how they believe it could transform the life of our Church.

On the second day, like the disciples on the road to Warm Springs (Emmaus), we asked Creator Sets Free (Jesus) to stay with us. We considered a way for moving forward with self-determination for Indigenous Peoples within The Anglican Church of Canada and felt a growing unity in that way. We heard a number of stories of local indigenous ministries, some longstanding and some emerging. Our hearts burned within us as we heard how deeply rooted in the scriptures these stories are. We felt extraordinarily blessed by the presence of the Rev. Dr. Martin Brokenleg. He taught us about who Indigenous People are as Spiritual People, and he engaged us in a deeper awareness of the importance of Traditional and Christian Teaching in self-determination. We all learned much and were very grateful.

On the third day we knew Creator Sets Free (Jesus) in the opening of the scriptures and in the breaking of bread. In that sacred feast He gave himself to each of us. We also believe He gave each of us some work to do.

With eyes wide open we are looking to the future with great hope and we hereby renew our ‎commitment to The Covenant of 1994 and the vision of a truly Indigenous Anglican Church. We commit ourselves to all the work necessary to bring this vision to its full flowering.

In the spirit of our Church’s endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples we call all our bishops, clergy and all the baptized to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in their quest for self-determination.

We call our entire Church to pray that Creator‎ Sets Free (Jesus) will continue to draw near, bless us on our way and guide us in our work.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

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Anglican Indigenous Network finds resilience in shared struggles at international conference

September 15, 2017 - 4:57pm

Indigenous Anglicans from around the world recently met in southern Ontario to discuss issues affecting Indigenous people within and across national (political) borders. Climate change and intergenerational trauma were two of the main issues that came under discussion, as well as the shared striving towards self-determination for Indigenous peoples.

The conference of the Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN), which meets every two years, took place on the territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River and in Toronto from Aug. 28-Sept. 3. Delegates included Indigenous people from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, The Episcopal Church in the United States and Hawaii, the Anglican Church of Australia and Torres Strait Islands, and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Discussions in a sharing circle format underscored progress that has been made and the many challenges that still remain for Indigenous people around the world. Among the 29 delegates was a 10-person contingent from the Anglican Church of Canada, who signed the resulting communiqué on behalf of Indigenous peoples within the church.

“I think that the level of support and encouragement for each other was really at an all-time high,” National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said. “I think people were … very supported by it, very encouraged by it.”

Bishop MacDonald said delegates from other countries were “very supportive of Canada and they were very impressed [by] the Primate and his knowledge and understanding of Indigenous issues, of his engagement in the issue of self-determination … and felt that we were close to taking some important and significant steps.”

Accompanying the Canadian delegation was Melanie Delva, reconciliation animator for the Anglican Church of Canada, who was present as an observer and guest.

“I was particularly moved to be welcomed so fully as a non-Indigenous guest,” Delva said. “There are so few places where Indigenous Anglicans can get together and just be together as Indigenous peoples, so to be embraced and fully included was really touching.

“I was struck by the common themes of struggle and resilience—no matter where the presenter was coming from geographically, Indigenous peoples consistently bear the brunt of climate change and the ongoing effects of colonization.”

A particularly informative part of the meeting was hearing about the experience of Maori self-determination. Within the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, Maori have equal power and authority to the Pākehā (non-Maori) church, which includes equal votes at synods and other decision-making bodies, and equal rights to decide on the distribution of resources.

“The Maoris have been at this for a much longer time, and they are [at a] more mature development of self-determination,” Bishop MacDonald said.

“That is encouraging, but also it helps us to understand where we want to go and what we want to do in a different way. They could see that and were supportive of the way in which we’re proceeding ahead, which is to really talk about reconciliation as being a part of self-determination.”

The communiqué that followed the conference called upon the worldwide Anglican Communion to support efforts towards reconciliation and self-determination, such as representation for the AIN on the Anglican Consultative Council and for an official observer from the latter to attend the next AIN conference in Hawaii in 2019.

Delegates also urged provinces of the Anglican Communion to adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to invite their Primates to meet with the Anglican Indigenous Network.

Read the communiqué from the 2017 AIN conference.

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10th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Canada needs a legislative framework to fulfill the promise of this vital human rights instrument

September 14, 2017 - 10:10pm

The Anglican Church of Canada is a member of KAIROS, which has endorsed the following statement in recognition of one decade since the signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our church is fully committed to implementing the UN Declaration with the help of the Vision Keepers Council, established by Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz to monitor how the Anglican Church of Canada would honour its commitment to adopt and comply with the document.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a crucial framework to achieve reconciliation. Such a human rights-based approach is essential to address the racism and discrimination that has caused such profound harm to Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world. Violations include uprooting Indigenous peoples from their territories and resources, failure to honour Treaties, tearing Indigenous children from their families, and making Indigenous women, girls and two- spirited people the targets of unimaginable violence.

The adoption of the UN Declaration ten years ago today – on September 13, 2007 – was a crucial victory in the evolution of international human rights law. This historic achievement was possible because Indigenous peoples persisted for more than two decades in advancing a strong and powerful vision of self-determination, decolonization and non-discrimination.

The adoption of the Declaration was also made possible because, by the end of this process, influential states including Canada had finally come to accept the necessity and urgency of a new relationship with Indigenous peoples.

The UN General Assembly has unanimously reaffirmed the Declaration on three separate occasions, calling for full implementation at national and international levels.

Fulfilling this commitment requires meaningful and lasting changes to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices and to ensure Indigenous peoples make their own decisions about their lives and futures.

Yet, a decade after the adoption of the Declaration, Canada still lacks concrete and effective mechanisms to uphold its provisions. This is despite many positive statements from the current government committing to fully implement the Declaration.

Last month, the United Nations’ top anti-racism body, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, strongly supported Indigenous peoples in urging Canada to adopt a legislative framework and national action plan to implement the UN Declaration.

A private members bill expected to come before the House of Commons this fall for second reading – Bill C-262 introduced by MP Romeo Saganash – contains elements of such a framework. This includes: repudiation of colonialism and doctrines of superiority; affirmation that the standards set out in the UN Declaration have application in Canadian law; and review and reform of federal legislation to ensure consistency with the minimum standards set out in the UN Declaration. In addition, the Bill requires that a national action plan be developed in partnership with Indigenous peoples.

By approaching implementation of the Declaration through a legislative framework, there is greater assurance that crucial progress made will not be undone by a future government. Our organizations and Nations call on the federal government to embrace and build on the key elements of implementation already set out in Bill C-262.

We appreciate that full implementation of the Declaration requires long-term commitment and collaboration. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission repeatedly reminded us, “reconciliation is going to take hard work.”

This is the time to act. Public responses to the TRC’s Calls to Action demonstrate a profound desire among Canadians to build a just relationship between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. As the TRC itself stated, the Declaration provides the framework for doing so. However, putting this framework into place requires more than fine words. It requires concrete, effective action.

The Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Statement endorsed by:

Amnesty International Canada; Amnistie internationale Canada francophone; Assembly of First Nations; Assemblée des Premières Nations Québec-Labrador and Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador; British Columbia Assembly of First Nations; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Confederacy of Treaty 6; First Nations Summit; Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); Indigenous Bar Association; Indigenous World Association; KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; Métis Nation; MiningWatch Canada; Native Women’s Association of Canada; Nunavut Tunngavik; Oxfam Canada; Oxfam-Québec; Quebec Native Women/Femmes Autochtones du Québec; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

View a PDF version of this joint statement.

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2018 Church Calendar finds balance, beauty in meeting the holy

September 12, 2017 - 8:06pm

A longstanding tradition of the Anglican Church of Canada, the annual Canadian Church Calendar saw a major shift in approach in 2017.

That year’s calendar was a joint project between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) —the first time the two full communion partners had collaborated on the calendar. Thematically, the calendar also saw a change in focus, from church buildings to ministry and mission.

Now, incorporating feedback from last year’s calendar, the 2018 Canadian Church Calendar sees a further evolution in theme—one that General Secretary Michael Thompson believes represents a successful balance between the two aspects of church life and ministry.

“I think last year was an important first step in refocusing the calendar away from simply being about church buildings towards the mission of God,” Thompson said, but added, “I think that one of the things that we might have overdone was [the idea of] the church in action.”

“Sometimes the church is not in action. Sometimes the church is still and silent. Sometimes its action isn’t going out into the world to do something … but encountering the God who is busy caring for and inviting change in the life of the world.”

The theme of the 2018 calendar, Meeting the Holy, centres on the myriad ways that we encounter the presence of the Holy in our world through the quality of our lives, the places where we meet each other, and where we meet God.

That presence is expressed through monthly images depicting church exteriors, objects embodying the sacred, and photographs of Anglicans and Lutherans engaged in ministry and mission, which collectively illustrate the many ways each church encounters the holy.

“We meet the Holy in art,” Thompson said. “We meet the Holy in broken-heartedness. We meet the Holy in the change of day into night, as that wonderful picture of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver shows.

“We meet the Holy in the experience of children learning … We meet the Holy when a bishop goes out into the street and encounters a little child, and takes that child seriously … And sometimes we meet the Holy when we’re engaged in mission … There’s this balance between action in the world, and action in our own souls and in our own churches, that I think we found more accurately this year.”

Feedback responding to the 2017 calendar was generous and played a major role in determining how to improve the 2018 edition.

“One of the things we didn’t think through carefully enough was that these are not just devotional or inspirational calendars; they’re working calendars,” Thompson said. “I think that was the biggest mistake, was to reduce the workability of that by little things like not colouring the dates to reflect liturgical colours.”

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, he noted, “once said that the Western church has an underdeveloped theology of beauty, and I think maybe we undervalued the role of beauty in the church calendar … I think we’re closer to that goal with this calendar than we were. Beauty is part of the nature of God and of the nature of the Holy.”

Meghan Kilty, director of communications for the Anglican Church of Canada, played a key role in oversight of the calendar. One of her main responsibilities was to ensure that feedback from 2017 was implemented in a manner that met the needs of people across the church.

“We heard really clearly the feedback of people across the church, and I believe that the 2018 calendar now meets the needs of the church and the communities who use the calendar in a very practical way, like chancel guilds and others who prepare space for worship,” Kilty said.

“I’m pleased with how staff in the communications department of the General Synod came together and worked collaboratively with our partners in the ELCIC to produce a calendar that meets the needs of both churches and reflects our lives in the world.”

Trina Gallop Blank, director of communications for the ELCIC, called the 2018 calendar “a wonderful sign of the full communion relationship between our two churches … I would encourage ELCIC and ACC congregations to look for opportunities to share and utilize this resource.”

Order your copy of the 2018 Canadian Church Calendar.

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Shared spaces, interfaith activism foster understanding between Anglicans and Muslims

September 6, 2017 - 4:42pm

St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Leamington, Ont. made headlines recently with an ongoing foray into interfaith cooperation.

Following its annual picnic last September in which the church had invited Syrian refugees to attend, St. John established an arrangement with a local Muslim community to use the church’s community hall. A CBC report was shared thousands of times on social media, and the Anglican Journal later offered its own coverage.

At a time of rising Islamophobia across Canada and around the world, instances of solidarity between Christians and Muslims such as that at St. John provide counter-examples of Canadian attitudes toward Islam. The Rev. Andrew Wilson, rector at St. John, has received much positive feedback since the story on his church picked up traction.

“The response that people have actually sent to me, they said, ‘This is Canadian. This is who Canada is.’ And they say, ‘Yes, and this is who Christ is.’ So I’ve had both responses,” Wilson said.

Islamic prayer and worship within St. John Anglican church has provided an opportunity for the Anglican clergy and members of congregation to observe similarities between Muslim and Christian worship. Wilson recalled an instructive conversation with the Rev. Debbie Wilson-Safa, a deacon at St. John.

“We were going, ‘Yeah, it’s shorter than our service, it’s much more efficient.’ They open with scripture, they have prayers, they have a sermon, and then they have some more prayers, and they chant.

“Well, Anglicans chant. We used to chant a lot more. But we can do all of our prayers as a chant, and at the end of a chant, you say amen. It’s pronounced ah-meen [in Muslim worship services], but I believe it’s the same word … We’re facing east, we’re kneeling … If we didn’t have pews, we would definitely be on the floor if we kneel. So it was very, very familiar.”

Sharing and experiencing both faith traditions

Anglicans outside Leamington have likewise seen the increased understanding between Christians and Muslims that can result from growing proximity and familiarity.

Though she was recently appointed to the National Muslim-Christian Liaison Committee, the Rev. Beverly Williams finds that “the most fruitful dialogue” she has experienced has taken place in her position as executive director of Flemingdon Park Ministry in Toronto.

Offering a Christian presence in a largely Muslim community, Flemingdon Park Ministry provides care for spiritual, social, physical, and emotional needs. Half of the staff members at Flemingdon Park Ministry are Muslim.

Many Muslim residents from the neighbourhood regularly attend Christian worship services at Flemingdon Park. Williams highlighted one Muslim man in particular who enjoys sharing writings about Jesus from the Qu’ran and pointing out similarities between Christian and Muslim interpretations of Jesus—known as Isa in the Islamic tradition and revered as a great prophet.

“I have learned more from [this man in Flemingdon Park], and his devoutness and belief in Jesus to be the one who will return to redeem this world … Now, he would never call Jesus son of God,” Williams said. “But he has a firm belief that it is Jesus who has the power to return and redeem this world to God’s original intention.”

Two faiths uniting against violence

Outside of worship, the community in Flemingdon Park has seen Christians and Muslims join together to speak out against violence, as occurred after the recent shooting of a young man in nearby Thorncliffe.

“Muslims and Christians and people of no faith got together to speak about how we can work together to make this a safer neighbourhood,” Williams said. “We should be doing this, and we need to be doing this alongside of people of all faiths. It’s just about answering that call of loving your neighbour.”

“It’s about building this community and building relationships with trust and with one another,” she added. “And then that can help break down those stereotypes.”

Speaking out against violence has also helped deepen the relationship between whole Anglican and Muslim congregations in Toronto, along with representatives of other faiths.

Following the Québec City mosque attack, members of St. Anne’s Anglican Church in February joined with City Shul, a Toronto synagogue, and the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre, a local mosque, to show solidarity among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and to support the mosque by forming a “ring of peace” around the Dawah Centre.

“We’ve had a really good ongoing relationship with St. Anne’s for a while now,” assistant imam Ilyas Ally said. “It was a very natural thing to happen.”

Bringing congregations together

St. Anne’s and the Dawah Centre had also previously sponsored a Syrian refugee family together.

In October, Ally will visit St. Anne’s on Thanksgiving Sunday to deliver a shared sermon with the Rev. Gary van der Meer, the church’s pastor and incumbent, who in turn will visit the Dawah Centre the following Friday to address Muslim members of the community.

“I think that we’re on a journey of getting to know each other and befriend each other, and that the awareness in both communities that that’s actually possible and worth celebrating will grow,” van der Meer said.

Ally echoed his sentiments.

“I think it’s important for us to understand each other better, and to know that our two religions share so much in common,” the assistant imam said. “Sometimes we forget that, even though it should be quite obvious for anybody who studies world religions. But sometimes, sharing space with somebody who’s a little bit different from you can open up a lot of new understanding.”

“I know when somebody who’s not a Muslim comes to the mosque and addresses the audience, the congregation is always really appreciative to know that there are people out there in the community, even though they’re not Muslims … [who nevertheless] share a lot in common with the Muslim community, and that we can work together on shared goals.”

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Observing the Season of Creation 2017

August 30, 2017 - 7:41pm

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, Anglicans will join in prayer with Christians around the world to sustain and renew the life of the earth as we mark the annual Season of Creation.

To help observe the 2017 season, a new web page from the Anglican Church of Canada offers a complete list of related resources, information, and events. Highlights include a Season of Creation Online Prayer Service featuring National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and other world religious leaders, which will help launch the season on Sept. 1.

“I am excited to be a part of the Season of Creation—timely and prophetic action on the part of the churches,” Bishop MacDonald said. “Hopefully, it will capture minds and hearts around the globe.”

Prayer resources and a downloadable Season of Creation toolkit from the Green Churches Network are also available, while our full communion partners in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada offer additional liturgical and prayer resources.

“I think that it’s as important a time as any to be focused on what’s happening with the environment in the world, and to be really concerned about the impacts that we’re having on the environment,” Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice lead animator Ryan Weston said.

“This is the chance for us to engage in that thoughtfully and to really set aside some time to reflect on what role we can play and what we’re responsible for … For parishes, whether they’ve done it before or never done Season of Creation previously, there are a bunch of resources that are available to create opportunities for that kind of reflection and engagement around our responsibility towards the earth, and towards each other.”

Thinking globally, acting locally

The Rev. Ken Gray, secretary of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and co-chair of the Creation Matters working group, said that the push to observe the Season of Creation has been an ongoing conversation across the worldwide Anglican Communion.

At the 2009 and 2012 meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council, which took place respectively in Kingston, Jamaica and Auckland, New Zealand, representatives of different provinces were encouraged to create lections, liturgies, and even incorporate the Season of Creation into their calendars.

Gray said he was “encouraged” by the increasing global observance of the season.

“Folks are digging in deeper, learning more about science and theology and spirituality and activism,” he said. “I think it’s fair to see each of those four are becoming more widespread with regards to creation, and folks are going deeper, and spending more time and energy on producing events and resources.”

As dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, B.C., Gray is front and centre at perhaps the most intensive observance of the Season of Creation among any Anglican congregation in Canada.

For the second year in a row, St. Paul’s will be offering a four-week program of worship, education, community, activity, artistic reflection, and musical creation throughout the season.

Meanwhile, other congregations can find a variety of resources to mark the season in a manner suited to their own local environment.

“The resources are really accessible … so I think it’s easy to find what works in your own context and to have the flexibility to develop a local response to it,” Weston said.

Feedback is welcome to gauge how members of the Anglican Church of Canada are currently marking the Season of Creation and making use of available resources.

To provide feedback via email, contact Ken Gray at grayintheforest@shaw.ca.

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Praying for an end to racial violence

August 18, 2017 - 12:30pm

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia and the very real threat of more activities on the part of white supremacy movements have been a painful reminder that racialized violence is a sad reality of our time, not only in the United States, but in our own country too. The escalation of racial tension and turmoil leaves many anxious about peace in their own neighbourhoods and throughout their communities.

Racialized violence inflicts havoc in the streets and heartache in our homes. It leaves people injured – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Tragically, it leaves some families to mourn the death of their loved ones.

In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, many governors, senators and mayors across the United States have called on the President to be unequivocally clear in denouncing the principles and activities of white supremacy. Many world leaders have also called him to exercise strong leadership in this regard.

People of good will of every political stripe and every faith tradition are praying for a peaceful resolution to the crisis at hand. Let us join them in holding before God all those who govern, and negotiate an end to this violence; and all who serve and protect the public as police and emergency health services personnel. In many respects their job is none other than what the prophet said of those who would rebuild the cities laid waste by violence in his day, “You shall be the repairers of the breach, the restorer of the streets”. (Isaiah 58:12).

Let us pray too for the Church’s witness in the midst of this growing crisis. May we be united, courageous and unwavering in denouncing racialized violence of every kind and in proclaiming the God-given dignity with which “…every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”. (Ephesians 3:15)

Yours in Christ,

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

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A prayer for Barcelona

August 17, 2017 - 8:42pm

Today the world has witnessed yet another terrorist attack on innocent people. This time it was a van crashing through hundreds of people along the beautiful Las Ramblas Boulevard in Barcelona, Spain. Breaking news reported at least thirteen fatalities and more than eighty injured.

As we remember the dead, we pray for those who grieve their tragic deaths. As we remember the injured, we pray for those who will sit at their bedsides and the medical teams who will tend them. As we remember all those traumatized by this atrocity, we pray for all who minister to them.

So long as we pray for them, let us be bold in praying for those who with such malicious intent inflict such horrific suffering on others. Let us pray that they be turned from their malice, their hearts be moved and their plans thwarted.

With people of all faith traditions who condemn the terrorism that stalks our world, we gather in our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, in our homes and in our public squares, turning with one voice and one heart to God.

May our world be turned from violence to compassion, from malice to mercy, from fear to freedom.

Amen.

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

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Diocese of Fredericton donates $80,000 return to Anglican Healing Fund

August 17, 2017 - 4:44pm

Giving back to support community healing projects addressing the intergenerational impact of residential schools, the Diocese of Fredericton has donated its return from the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation to the Anglican Healing Fund.

Bishop David Edwards sent a letter in July to Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz enclosed with a cheque for $80,013.27, made out to the Anglican Healing Fund to use as they see fit. That amount represents the entirety of the return the diocese received from its payment to the Residential Schools Fund, less the portion due back to contributing parishes.

“I think it’s important [to offer support] because the Healing Fund does tremendous work in bringing about healing and reconciliation with a part of our population that we, as the Anglican Church, have been a part of causing great pain and suffering [to],” Bishop Edwards said. “So it’s actually our responsibility as the Anglican Church to do something to put that right.”

The decision to use their return to support the Anglican Healing Fund was made by the Diocesan Council at its June meeting. Council members believed it to be the most appropriate use for the money, given that the original payment was made out to help those impacted by the residential school system.

“The diocesan council felt that we’d given [the money] for a reason and this was part of the reason, so let’s give it back,” Bishop Edwards said.

“One of the reasons why we’ve been able to do this is that we’ve received some generous gifts recently,” he added. “God has been good to us and blessed us with some generous gifts, and our parishes have over the last few years met their diocesan shared ministry budget … We as a diocese have been blessed by God, and this gives us an opportunity to share that blessing.”

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has set out a goal in 2017 to replenish the Anglican Healing Fund for the next five years by raising $1 million.

Give to support the Anglican Healing Fund.

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Deacons’ conference shines light on marginalized communities

August 10, 2017 - 4:24pm

The Association of Anglican Deacons in Canada (AADC) held their triennial conference from July 27-30 in Victoria, B.C. Two overarching themes dominated the conference. The first was the plight of marginalized peoples in communities and their struggles with poverty, homelessness, addiction, mental health, and food security. The second theme, reconciliation, included some overlap with the first and brought the experience and concerns of First Nations people to the fore.

In grappling with these challenges first-hand, deacons gained a renewed sense of their own mission. The Rev. Michael Shapcott from the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, attending the AADC conference for the first time, came away struck by the scope of Anglican diaconal ministry.

“I was amazed at the diversity amongst the ministries of deacons, and the many important ways that the permanent diaconate has woven itself into the life of our church,” Shapcott said.

“Deacons are advancing the work of reconciliation. They are forging greater interfaith and ecumenical understanding. They are caring for those forced onto the social and economic margins while also advocating for social and economic justice. And as we were reminded on Sunday morning [at the closing Eucharist] … deacons have a powerful liturgical role in the worshiping life of the church.”

Addressing poverty and homelessness

A welcome and keynote address by federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May set the tone for the event with a reflection based around Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem.

Referring to a verse featured in promotion for the conference—“Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in”—May challenged the church to consider the tension between the cracks and brokenness of the human condition and God’s perfect creation, and how we might reconcile the two.

Friday saw prolonged reflection on the brokenness of the world and the role of deacons in helping to alleviate it. The morning featured a panel of speakers who had experienced homelessness—an issue that Christ Church Cathedral faced firsthand during its prolonged experience with a “tent city” of homeless residents who lived outside the church from fall 2015 to summer 2016.

The Rev. Lisa Chisholm-Smith, AADC vice-president and children and youth ministry coordinator at St. James Anglican Church in Kingston, Ont., appreciated the “candour and courage” of the panel speakers and found a slide presentation on the experience of the tent city “very moving”.

“I have been at other gatherings where the voices of people with “lived experience’ are ignored by so-called policy experts,” Chisholm-Smith said. “These panelists acknowledged that they were uncomfortable addressing a gathering of church people and in turn they challenged us to move out of our comfort zones.”

For the Rev. Cheryl Kukurudz, executive assistant to the bishop and dean in the Diocese of Brandon, listening to panelists discuss their experiences with residential school, drug addiction, poverty, and sex work “hit me hard”.

“They shared their innate wisdom that only a life of experience could bring,” she recalled. “They urged us to go to meetings and speak up for the homeless and outcast, to use our voices as deacons to stand up and change policy: to make people more important than buildings, to get housing for people without first requiring they be detoxed, to hold the government accountable in protecting the most vulnerable of our country.  We can help heal with dignity.”

“That was the panel that had me want to shout from a soapbox,” Kukurudz added. “It took such strength and courage for them to share their life stories, to a room of people who, in many ways, represents to them the trauma they have lived through.”

Moving forward on reconciliation

On the subject of reconciliation with Indigenous people, a common refrain at the gathering was the need to take concrete steps towards reconciliation. Dallas Smith, former president of the Nanwakolas Council who recently ran as a candidate for the B.C. Liberals in the provincial legislature, spoke on the need to accept apologies and for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to move forward together.

Bishop Logan McMenamie of the Diocese of British Columbia detailed his 470-kilometre journey from Alert Bay to Victoria, throughout which he asked elders in local First Nations for permission to re-enter the land. Melanie Delva, reconciliation animator for the Anglican Church of Canada, described her own journey and recovery from ideas of white privilege.

The Iona Report

Part of a presentation on Friday afternoon included discussion of The Iona Report on the diaconate in the Anglican Church of Canada, published in October 2016. Conversing in table groups, delegates shared their experiences of what dioceses had done with the report since the last General Synod.

The Rev. Canon Nancy Ford, incoming president of AADC, introduces forum speakers. Photo courtesy of Christ Church Cathedral via Facebook

In reflecting on competencies for diaconal ministry, outlined in the report, the delegates acknowledged the diversity of contexts and opinions from diocese to diocese. They also considered the possibility of continuing education funds for deacons.

“That was a huge topic for many people,” The Rev. Canon Nancy Ford said of the latter. “Some dioceses have [continuing education funds] for their deacons. Others don’t, and that’s a shame, because when you’re working at the margins on the edges of things, you do need educational support and other kinds of support …

“In terms of academic education, there needs to be support because the cost is not always something that the church supports, and it could be a stumbling block for someone who’s called into the diaconate … We need to look at how we fund education.”

Ford, who was elected president of the AADC board at the conference, characterized the overall reaction to the Iona Report as positive, with many delegates finding it useful as a means for their dioceses and bishops to assess spiritual growth and development.

“The whole process of looking at how we assess and form deacons—a lot more people felt that this was a very useful document to feed into that,” Ford said.

Building a ‘national community among deacons’

A highlight of the conference for many delegates was the chance to network with other deacons from across the country, and to continue building closer national ties.

Morris pointed to the election of new directors to the AADC board as a positive step in that direction.

“There are some very good voices I think that are on the board now, who will help to galvanize the association and bring it some new life and some new ways of looking at issues for the church—not just pertaining to deacons, but pertaining to the overall mission of the church and the role of the diaconal community nationally in that,” he said.

Organizers of the conference, such as the Rev. Wally Eamer, are now awaiting responses to evaluation forms on the event that were sent out to delegates. Any decisions based on the feedback will likely be made by the AADC board in September.

“I think what’s going to come out of it is a much greater sense of the need for national community among deacons,” Eamer said.

“We tend to be rather split up into dioceses, and even there, we have different ministries and we’re scattered geographically. In Toronto, it’s relatively easy to meet with each other; in a large part of the country it’s not … I think for many of [the deacons], they had a real sense [at the conference] of being part of the national community, and I think what will be important is that is supported and enlarged.”

An estimated 70 registered delegates attended the conference, which took place at a downtown Victoria hotel and included opening events and a closing Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral.

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Anglican Healing Fund supports residential school survivors at reconciliation workshops

August 4, 2017 - 3:34pm

The long journey towards healing and reconciliation can be even more arduous for residential school survivors living in remote northern communities.

Where survivors in urban centres can more easily find information, resources and support online, or by travelling to their local friendship centre or band office, such options do not always exist for survivors in northern and rural areas, where computer access and high-speed Internet is often limited or lacking.

Responding to a call from Health Canada for a project to provide emotional support to survivors, Ontario Indian Residential School Support Services (OIRSSS) earlier this summer organized “Reconciliation Begins With Me”, a series of workshops that took place from June 13-30 in communities that included Sault Ste. Marie, Fort Albany, Moose Factory, Moosonee, Attawapiskat, Peawanuck, and Kashechewan.

The Anglican Healing Fund provided a $15,000 grant to OIRSSS in support of the workshops—a continuation of the annual grants that the Fund has donated for more than a decade to OIRSSS, formerly known as the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

“We really appreciate what the Anglican Church has done,” said special projects resolution health support worker/cultural support worker Claudette Chevrier, who helped coordinate the workshops. “We’re really, very, very appreciative of the small amount of funds that are set aside specifically for healing, and our view is to try to reach out to as many survivors as we can so that we can come to that place of healing.”

She added, “We want everyone to be educated with the correct version of what happened throughout the years [in the residential schools], and how to equip them with the knowledge and understanding that as long as we’re alive … it’s never going to happen again.”

Resolution health support workers Andrew Reuben and June Black facilitated the workshops, which brought together approximately 90 participants in total, including residential school survivors, elders, and intergenerational school survivors.

Each workshop lasted between two and three hours, beginning with a traditional smudging ceremony. Most of the sessions were held in Cree, the native language of many participants, with English used as a secondary language.

The meaning of reconciliation

Sitting in a circle, participants introduced themselves, shared their stories related to the residential school experience, and what reconciliation meant to them.

“All of the workshops, of course, were difficult,” said Reuben, himself a residential school survivor. “There were still strong feelings about not forgiving and really having a hard time trying to deal with their own issues even today, after the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] hearings and after sharing their stuff.”

Many survivors described feeling as if they had been unable to describe everything they wanted to talk about at the hearings. Some pointed to difficulty in being able to share their experiences even with their own children, who are often worried that asking about their parents’ residential school experiences will dredge up painful memories.

The meaning of reconciliation was itself the subject of debate at the workshops. Reuben described a common sentiment among survivors: “Why should we reconcile [when] we didn’t do anything? … The people who did the wrong should be reconciling—to not only us, but our parents, our grandparents, all our relations.” Some participants, he added, even used the sardonic term “wreck-onciliation”—as in, “they wrecked everything”.

Yet many also described reconciliation as entailing forgiveness, and wanting to move forward with a positive goal in mind. In this respect, one goal stood out above all others: the recovery and revitalization of Indigenous languages.

“If we can utilize our language more, speak our language more, share in our language more, that brings back our identity,” Reuben said. “It brings back the things that our parents and our grandparents talked about way before the residential schools … about importance of identity, importance of man and woman, importance of sharing and helping in the community, and all those things that [Indigenous] people utilized” prior to colonization.

Call for a gathering of survivors

The most common need expressed by participants was for a conference or gathering that would bring together all survivors from the Mushkegowuk area of northern Ontario to talk about the future, get youth involved, and talk about how to move forward with reconciliation.

Though OIRSSS is currently analyzing feedback from the workshops, they plan to eventually organize more visits or the suggested gathering.

“I think all in all, people found it useful to share a little bit and ask about what’s possible in the future, and continue to try and move on with their lives and talk to their children and share with their children,” Reuben said.

“There’s still a long way to go, still a lot of issues I think they have that they need to consider and heal from themselves … The gathering would help, I think, a lot more in getting the word out that we need to all work together to heal ourselves.”

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Human trafficking discernment group seeks input from Anglicans

August 1, 2017 - 12:30pm

The June 2017 meeting of the Council of General Synod saw council members officially endorse Resolution 15.10, the resolution against human trafficking passed in 2012 by the Anglican Consultative Council. Shortly thereafter, the Anglican Church of Canada established a new human trafficking web hub, collecting information and resources to raise awareness of the issue within the church and beyond.

Now, the church is taking another step forward in its fight against human trafficking and modern slavery with the formation of a discernment group led by General Synod Global Relations and Public Witness teams—the members of which will meet this September at Church House in Toronto to assess the current scope of Anglican work in this ministry, identify priorities in this work, and to plot out a detailed plan going forward.

Crucial to this process will be identifying Anglicans involved in work against human trafficking. As a result, the discernment group is calling on all individuals and organizations engaged in this work or aware of initiatives by others to contact group members Andrea Mann or Ryan Weston.

“The data gathering process is a way of beginning to better understand the nature, the incidence, the existence of trafficking and slavery in Canada, how the church is responding to those realities within local communities, and how other people can become involved,” Mann said.

“It’s data that identifies people, ministry, cities and towns, and rural and remote areas in the church where people are thinking about this and responding.”

The discernment group is also interested in hearing from Anglicans who are involved in working ecumenically and in interfaith collaborations, as well as in partnerships with government and civil society.

Hoping to make their work against human trafficking a full communion initiative, members have been conducting discussions with the Rev. Paul Gehrs, assistant to the bishop for synodical relations at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, about potential Lutheran involvement. “Human Beings—Not For Sale” is one of the subthemes of the Lutherans’ commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

With the ongoing accumulation of data before and after the September meeting, one goal for the web hub is to feature a map pointing to the locations of initiatives against human trafficking by Anglicans across Canada, providing a useful visual resource that encourages people to connect with one another.

One example of work against human trafficking comes from a member of the discernment group, Caitlin Beck, who also serves as missioner for children, youth, and families in the Diocese of New Westminster.

In the first week of March, Beck helped organize a delegation of teens and young adults from New Westminster and the Diocese of Niagara to the sixty-first session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW61), where human trafficking is often a recurring theme. Many panels and events discussed the need to protect the rights of sex workers and migrant workers and involve them in conversations related to human trafficking.

With the increased focus on trafficking by the church, Beck is currently helping write a letter to the Primate’s office describing some of what the delegation learned at the United Nations.

“I’m actually excited to be able to share some of that as a part of the new discernment group that they’re putting together for this issue,” Beck said.

“I think that’s a really great step that the national church has taken to ensure that we do this work in the right way—in a way that includes the voices of people who are caused the most harm by human trafficking, and that we learn from their experiences and don’t base our actions on assumptions when we don’t have the direct experience. I think that’s a good thing for us to be careful about.”

In terms of working towards the eradication of human trafficking and slavery, Barbara Gosse, chief executive officer of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking and a parishioner at St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Toronto, said that churches often have a reach that other activist groups or police may not have.

“There’s no question that the Anglican Church has a substantial reach across the country, and that faith communities can play a very important part in educating the public, on bringing people together to really look at grassroots efforts that could combat human trafficking,” Gosse said.

“Also, I think faith communities are very respected as being cohesive and organized and caring and positive on some of these socioeconomic issues. So when you have the opportunity to speak to your policy makers and lawmakers and political representatives, I think it brings with it a lot of clout and a lot of credibility.”

Are you active in or aware of work by Canadian Anglicans related to the fight against human trafficking? Email Andrea Mann or Ryan Weston to share your story.

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Living the life of the sisters: Companions reflect on monastic experience

July 25, 2017 - 9:29pm

More than 10 months after a group of young women began living with members of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (SSJD), the inaugural Companions on the Way program is drawing to a close—an experience that left a major impact on sisters and companions alike.

The sisters officially commissioned five companions in September 2016: Christine Stoll, Sarah Moesker, Amanda Avery, Hanné Becker, and Alisa Samuel, though the latter three were unable to stay for the entire duration of the program. During their time at the SSJD’s Toronto-based convent, the companions joined in living the monastic lifestyle of the sisters, devoting their days to work, study, prayer, and spiritual contemplation.

A typical day for the companions began at 6 a.m. with two hours of personal prayer. After eating breakfast, they attended morning prayer in the chapel before devoting time to various work projects.

Afternoons were filled with study and rest. The companions each took part in two courses at Wycliffe College during the fall and winter, and also pursued independent studies. Occasionally companions would contribute to a blog documenting their experiences. Dinner and cleanup preceded evening prayer and rest time.

Work of the companions

Reflecting their diverse backgrounds, each of the companions had a unique experience at the convent.

For Stoll—previously a teaching assistant in mathematics at Douglas College in Port Coquitlam, B.C.—work experience included gardening and carrying out tasks in the chapel, such as filing papers and refilling the oil lamp.

“I think living here, for me, it’s been good and healing,” Stoll said.

“In terms of discernment, I wasn’t expecting to have everything all figured out at the end of this year,” she added. “But I think I have a clearer sense of what it is I need to do.”

Having spent recent weeks debating what to do after the program ends, she is leaning towards returning to her work as a teaching assistant.

“Maybe the thing that surprised me about myself is that leaving here, one of the things that I’m thinking of is that I would like to live in a community, which for me is not something that I was expecting,” Stoll said. “I’m not planning to live as a sister … but to live in some kind of community.”

Moesker, a student at Canadian Mennonite University, described her time at the convent as “good, but hard”, noting the amount of work that is required of participants. At the same time, she added, “Working hard isn’t a bad thing. It’s really satisfying and fulfilling.”

During the first half of her stay at the convent, Moesker spent much of her time working in the kitchen. The latter half saw her providing pastoral care at nearby Sunnybrook Hospital, visiting patients and gaining a sense of their varied spiritual needs, as well as taking care of simple tasks such as delivering newspapers and watering plants.

Art in the SSJD convent. Photo by Matt Gardner

She described her time at the convent as “stabilizing” and clarifying her post-graduation plans. As she concludes the program, Moesker takes away a renewed sense of spiritual discipline, appreciation for the value of closing her day with prayer, and improved skills in navigating relationships with others.

“I think being here and sort of being forced to interact with the same people constantly—somehow it makes it a safe place to figure out healthy boundaries, to figure out communication,” she said.

Convent life was particularly impactful for Amanda Avery, director of the Ready-Set-Go program for low-income children in Halifax and an Atlantic School of Theology student who is seeking to become an Anglican priest. She described her time in the program as “exciting, stressful … yet joyful”.

“It has been a roller coaster of a ride … The experience has changed me and has given me new insights and new ways to look at not just God, but myself and my community and the people that are in my community,” Avery said.

The majority of Avery’s time was spent at St. John’s Rehab with the sisters and the Rev. Joanne Davies, who serves as chaplain to the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. During this time Avery visited patients and took part in the hospital’s therapy program.

She said the experience tailored her to look at a different kind of ministry than that of a parish priest.

“Something I really haven’t thought of was chaplaincy,” Avery said. “The time I spent at the hospital with the sisters and with Rev. Joanne has changed my thinking of faith in the hospitals, and so I’m definitely looking in that direction … It gave me insights to looking at the broader view of ministry.”

Reflections from the sisters

For the sisters, the experience of living alongside the companions was a positive one.

“I think it brought us a lot of good energy, living with younger women, and opening us up to living with younger people,” Sister Elizabeth Ann Eckert said.

Eckert believed that the companions gained an appreciation for the nature of “a life faithfully lived, and the transformation that happens when you’re in one place or in one vocation for this many years.”

“I think it was a good experience,” Sister Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas said. “Even though all of them didn’t stay and some of them had some difficulties, it added greatly to our choir. It was so lovely to have some younger people to relate to. We still have a lot to learn about how best to help them. But I enjoyed their energy, and each of them helped us in different ways.”

The degree to which the companions integrated surprised even the sisters. Though the companions were originally allotted time each morning to hold a conference amongst themselves, they ultimately chose to join the sisters at that time—an arrangement that “worked much better,” Rolfe-Thomas said.

“It was a little different from what we had in mind,” Sister Wilma Grazier said. “The idea was that they would form their own community within a community. But as it was presented, it didn’t work out that way from their point of view.”

Highlights for the sisters included the evening prayers put together and formatted by the companions, as well as an Agape supper chiefly organized by Avery but in which all the companions helped out.

“They all took part in [the supper], and it was a wonderfully profound experience,” Rolfe-Thomas said. “They put so much effort into it.”

Future of the Companions program

With the successful completion of the first Companions on the Way program, the SSJD now plans to take time to evaluate the experience. The sisters meet in chapter annually, and Companions on the Way is slated to be a major topic at their August chapter meeting.

For the 2017-2018 season, Companions on the Way will be folded into a similar SSJD program, Alongsiders: Living in God’s Rhythm.

“We feel we need a year to evaluate the [Companions on the Way] program and see if there are changes we want to make in it, rather than just flowing from one to the next,” Sister Constance Joanna Gefvert said.

Nevertheless, Rolfe-Thomas said, the Companions program will “go ahead in some form”.

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