Volunteers staff the Anglican Church of Canada booth at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions. L-R: Sue Ann Elite, the Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer, the Rev. Jeff Nowers, the Rev. Jason McKinney. Photo by Matt Gardner

Anglicans boast strong presence at Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Anglican Church of Canada was well-represented at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions (PoWR).

The largest and oldest interfaith gathering in the world, this year’s parliament took place from Nov. 1-7 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The Toronto-based event brought together an estimated 10,000 people from 80 countries, spanning more than 200 different religions, faiths, and belief systems, for a week of programs, discussions, and interactive experiences.

The Anglican Church of Canada had an official booth in the exhibit hall, where clergy and volunteers were on hand to speak to attendees, and share information about the church national.

The Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman, Animator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in the Anglican Church of Canada was one of the official representatives on site.

The Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid (left) and volunteer Lisa Spence oversee the Fishing for Faith activity organized by St. Peter’s Erindale. Submitted photo

Sharman described Canadian Anglican attendance at PoWR as a “ministry of presence” and a valuable opportunity to converse with people about “where Anglican expressions of Christianity fit within the wider world of inter-religious dialogue, and ways that we can find common ground.”

“Within our history, [there has] always been a tradition that has been able to find ways to live in dialogue across different approaches and different perspectives on theological issues,” Sharman said.

“That’s kind of been hardwired into Anglican DNA within the Anglican family. […] Certainly it’s important just because so many of the economic and political and social and ecological issues of our time deeply involve how people think about the world, and how people structure their communities and think about the meaning of life and make decisions. Religion is part of how that happens.”

As Canada continues to become a more religiously and culturally diverse place, Sharman said that the church needs to be “good neighbours with the people that we live with … Part of that is trying to understand and work towards ways of cooperation with other faith communities.”

Indigenous spirituality front and centre

A strong focus at the 2018 PoWR, Sharman noted, was ensuring that Indigenous spirituality and ceremonies were “included as equals alongside the other major world religions.”

Anishnaabeg blanket on display. Photo by Matt Gardner

The Parliament of World Religions began with the lighting of a sacred fire outside the convention centre—a fire that remained aflame throughout the seven days of the conference.

The opening ceremony also included a grand entry of traditional dances, drumming, and honour songs, together with a ceremonious welcome from the First Nations from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Sue Ann Elite, an oblate with the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, was present for the ceremony.

“It was such an incredible feeling to be welcomed by the Indigenous community, the people on whose land we stand,” Elite said.

Teaching Christianity

Along with other volunteers from the Diocese of Toronto, Elite spent time at the Anglican Church of Canada booth in the main exhibit hall, where she provided information on the church, its beliefs, and the virtues of peace and interfaith cooperation.

Signage, literature, and a table for the booth were provided by St. Peter’s Erindale. In addition to the church’s national booth, St. Peter’s also organized activities that were aimed at teaching kids the basics of Christianity.

The Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid, incumbent at St. Peter’s, helped organize the “Fishing for Faith” activity. Participating children would catch a “fish” (the ichthys), take it to a table, and then put beads on it.

“We had a sandbox to show them how the early Christians would use the symbol of the fish to know that it was safe to talk to one another … The little kids definitely loved it,” Reid said.

Read part two, part three, and part four of this story for more on the Anglican presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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