A deep experience of communion

In late November 2013, Indigenous Anglicans from around the communion traveled to Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand for a meeting of the Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN)—a recognised network of the Anglican Consultative Council, which facilitates communication and cooperation between the different provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Participants in the November 2013 Anglican Indigenous Network meeting in Churchill, Aotearoa/New Zealand. PHOTO: LLOYD ASHTON
Participants in the November 2013 Anglican Indigenous Network meeting in Churchill, Aotearoa/New Zealand. PHOTO: LLOYD ASHTON

Attending from the Anglican Church of Canada were National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, Bishops Lydia Mamakwa and Adam Halkett, Archdeacon Sidney Black, youth council representative Dixie Bird, and youth delegate Sheba McKay.

“We all shared our own stories, but we share the same struggles,” says McKay.

“We need to hear each other. If one country isn’t moving along… getting to the point where they are self-determining within the church, the role of AIN members is to help them.”

That sharing of stories is part of what MacDonald calls a “check-in period” at the beginning of every AIN meeting, held every two years in a different member country.

“When we come together—even though there are differences—there’s such a sense of family, of community, of coming home,” says MacDonald. “There’s immediate identification. We have a common problem with Western society and colonialism, but we have something else in common: our relationship to the land.”

As to the ultimate goal of AIN, MacDonald aims high, saying it’s “the incarnation of the Word of God in Indigenous cultures around the world, appropriate to their various contexts and cultures and languages.”

The main issue on the table was building a stronger internal structure to help AIN to become a stronger voice and make a larger impact. This included establishing a permanent group for handling AIN business between meetings, and shifting from an executive committee to a standing committee (to which Archdeacon Sidney Black was elected) to better reflect Indigenous values of co-operative governance.

The Rev. Tamsyn Kereopa, part of the delegation from Aotearoa/New Zealand, wrote about the meeting afterwards for Toitu Te Pihopatanga, an unofficial online magazine covering the Maori Anglican Church (i.e. Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa).

“While seemingly simple, these changes have the potential to greatly alter the efficiency and effectiveness of the Network both locally and globally,” she wrote.

“And this is really what the AIN is about. It is about Indigenous people supporting each other in the struggle toward self-determination and Tino-Rangatiratanga [sovereignty over land, culture, and more] across the globe… In our post-tribal society and world, the need for inter-national brotherhood and sisterhood is not only required, but a necessary part of Christian life, and the only way toward global transformation.”

Canadian Indigenous Anglicans returned home energized from what they feel was a spiritual experience.

“At the end of the meeting I didn’t want to leave,” says MacKay. “It ignited something within my heart that I had been putting aside before. I can’t put a name on it.”

MacDonald was similarly moved. “I think it was an outstanding meeting. It was beautiful in every way. We met together and had a deep experience of communion with each other and with God. These moments in life are far too rare. It will be something that everyone who was there will remember for a long time.”

Learn more about the Anglican Indigenous Network.

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