2009 Sacred Circle to consider new province

No one ever really knows what ideas will arise from Sacred Circle. It’s a unique time and space when Canadian Aboriginal Anglicans can meet, pray, worship, and dream about the future. This year Sacred Circle will meet in Port Elgin, Ont. from August 9 to 15, with the theme “The Mighty Wind of the Spirit: the New Beginnings.”

The Rev. Gloria Moses and the Ven. Sidney Black, co-chairs of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, at the 2005 Sacred Circle
The Rev. Gloria Moses and the Ven. Sidney Black, co-chairs of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, at the 2005 Sacred Circle

The meeting was originally scheduled for 2008, but members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) recognized several hold-ups, including problems with the proposed University of British Columbia site. The Port Elgin site was used for the 2000 Sacred Circle and was a popular choice for 2009.

Since 1988, Sacred Circles have been held every three years or so, with several landmark moments. At the 1993 circle, then-Primate Archbishop Michael Peers apologized for the church’s involvement in residential schools. Twelve years later, at the 2005 circle, delegates submitted a proposal for a National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. This dream became reality in January 2007 with the selection of Bishop Mark MacDonald.

Sacred Circle’s daily schedule includes lots of open talking time for ideas to develop. Each afternoon the expected 150 participants will break out into 12 sharing circles. Elders, clergy, and young people from across Canada will attend, as well as partners, including the Council of the North bishops, the Primate, and the secretary general of the Anglican Indigenous Network, Malcolm Naea Chun.

“Sacred Circle is the only time Indigenous people have to come together and talk among themselves without feeling they’re studied or watched or compared,” explained Donna  Bomberry, coordinator for Indigenous Ministries. “We do it in small talking circles, because sometimes they need to tell their own story, so sometimes sensitivity has to be there.”

This summer, participants will mull over the idea of a new ecclesiastical province, proposed by the church’s governance working group. Indigenous Ministries staff have spent much of the past two years supporting consultations with communities in northern Manitoba and Ontario that are exploring new ways to redefine themselves into Aboriginal-led bodies. Similar conversations are also beginning in parts of northern Saskatchewan and northern Quebec.

“It’s hoped that one day Sacred Circle might be the synod that gathers us in a business meeting,” said Ms. Bomberry. “But it will always be a spiritual meeting where we come together, unifying us in Indigenous ministry.”

Part of this unity happens through music. After long days of discussion and listening, every night ends with a gospel music jamboree, and possibly an accordion solo by the bishop of the Arctic, Andrew Atagotaaluk.

Interested in supporting Sacred Circle? To meet their $300,000 fundraising target, Indigenous Ministries is selling editions of the First Peoples Theology Journal for $12 each. This collection of academic and artistic Aboriginal writings covers topics such as “Remembering God” and “Creation and Other Stories.” Contact Donna Bomberry by email, or call (416) 924-9199 ext. 626 for information on how to order and donate.

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