Archbishop Hiltz at July 27 service

Checking in with the Primate

Since his June 22 election, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the new primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has been very busy. He and his wife Lynne Samways Hiltz have been in limbo between diocesan bishop duties in Halifax and starting new primatial work in Toronto. “I haven’t really had time to catch my breath,” he said in an interview.

Archbishop Hiltz at July 27 service
Archbishop Hiltz at July 27 service

The primate has already jumped into business at Church House, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national office. On July 12 he met with the General Synod management team, hosted a meet-and-greet with Church House staff, and participated in the weekly eucharist. He also appointed chairs for standing committees and spoke with them personally by phone.

Archbishop Hiltz’s first primatial visit was on July 25 to Port Daniel, Que. for the centenary of St. James’ Anglican Church. “Even preparing for that, and realizing that I was going in a different capacity than I’ve ever gone before, that was really quite helpful,” he said. “When I go to places like that, I hope I’ll always have the sense that I don’t go simply as the primate, but I go as the ambassador for the whole of this beloved church.”

Archbishop Hiltz enjoyed parish visits as a bishop and looks forward to meeting more people across Canada. “I’m kind of intrigued about visiting the north, because I’ve never been in the north,” he said. He hopes to organize such a trip at his September 20 meeting with the Council of the North, the group of financially assisted dioceses in northern Canada.

The biggest challenges of the primacy still lie ahead. The topic of same-sex blessings is “a front-pot boiling issue,” he says. Caring for the bishops is also a priority, especially incorporating quiet time into meetings where they arrive exhausted. He wants bishops to “model how to live with difference.”

“As a national church we need to regain joy in who we are,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “I fear that we get so self-absorbed in issues that are so internal. We need to continue to address internal issues, but what are we doing as a church about poverty? Homelessness? We need to regain or discover our public voice.”

During this visioning and transitioning time, Archbishop Hiltz finds comfort in his faith. “In my personal prayers I do have the sense that I don’t journey into this alone,” he said. “I journey into it with the Lord. He’s been with me through parish ministry and diocesan ministry, and I trust that he will be with me through this ministry.”

Spiritual retreats are especially important to Archbishop Hiltz. To discern whether to accept the nomination for primacy, he went on a private retreat and read the gospel of John alongside Jean Vanier’s book Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus in the Gospel of John. He has already organized monthly quiet days with the Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine convent in Toronto.

The Hiltzes recently bought a house in a Toronto suburb and the primate plans to commute to Church House by subway. “I’ll have to get used to it, but that’s okay,” he said. “It might help me with the separation between the office and the house, because I’ve always lived in rectories, or church-owned properties, which were right next door. So I won’t be able to slip over to the office at a quarter to ten at night for half-an-hour.”

Lynne Samways Hiltz, who chose the home while her husband was in Halifax, mused about which Nova Scotian mementoes they will bring. “I’m not letting him bring that lobster trap, and I’m not letting him bring any stones,” she said. What she would really love to bring is “the fog, to roll in around six or seven every night to cool me off.”

August will be a full month for the Hiltzes. Not only will they move to Toronto, but the family is also mourning the death of Archbishop Hiltz’s mother, Juanita Hiltz, who passed away unexpectedly on August 2. Preparations are underway for a Halifax-Dartmouth funeral.

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