Generous Anglicans support military chaplaincy

Canadian Anglicans have recently expressed their support for military chaplaincy through large and small gifts to the Bishop Ordinary Trust. In early May, Blake Goldring, chairman and CEO of AGF Management Ltd., gave $500,000 to the trust and thousands of Canadian Anglicans have donated more than $56,000 through the Silent Night Project, a collective video initiative in fall 2010.

Military chaplains in Halifax sing on board the HMCS Iroquois as part of the Silent Night Project.  SILENT NIGHT PROJECT DOCUMENTARY
Military chaplains in Halifax sing on board the HMCS Iroquois as part of the Silent Night Project. SILENT NIGHT PROJECT DOCUMENTARY

Eighty regular and reserve Anglican chaplains serve in the Canadian Forces. They are led by a bishop ordinary, currently Peter Coffin, and they serve the military community at large, as well as the 20,000 Anglicans in the forces, collectively known as the Anglican Military Ordinariate (AMO).

“We would like to say thank you very much for thinking of us and supporting us,” said Bishop Ordinary Peter Coffin. “These chaplains have all come from different dioceses and they find it very, very encouraging to know that they are remembered and appreciated by their church for what they do.”

Mr. Goldring’s donation was part of a $1.5 million gift through the Diocese of Toronto’s Our Faith—Our Hope: Re-imagine Church campaign, which aims to raise $50 million for future ministry. Mr. Goldring is an honorary colonel and a parishioner at St. Clement’s Anglican Church in Toronto, Ont.

The Silent Night Project was a cross-Canada video event where thousands of Anglicans filmed their communities singing “Silent Night” then sent the videos in for a Christmas documentary. Singers also donated toonies to support Anglican military chaplains.

Funds will support bishop’s ministry
All donations will support the bishop’s ministry through the Bishop Ordinary Trust, which is managed by the Anglican Foundation. Currently this ministry is supported by General Synod and donations from Anglican chaplains, but the AMO leadership seeks a more independent model that will allow the ministry to grow. They aim for an endowment of $2 million that will cover the bishop’s stipend, lay staff support, and some travel.

The bishop ordinary is a vital means for Anglican chaplains to stay connected to the larger church as they minister in different places. Chaplains may be holding services for troops in Haiti, helping train new medics, or working alongside soldiers as they sandbag before Manitoba floods.

The bishop communicates among the chaplains and the various levels of the church. He also visits with chaplains and encourages them in their day-to-day work.

“The bishop becomes for us a kind of point of unity,” said Col. the Rev. Canon John Fletcher, archdeacon of the AMO. “It’s the bishop who links us to the larger family of the Anglican Church of Canada and then to the Anglican Communion.”

Bishop cares for caregivers
The bishop’s pastoral ministry also helps support chaplains as they support others.

For Mr. Fletcher, the bishop ordinary was crucial in helping him discern his call to military chaplaincy. He was going through a difficult time while working in Halifax and the bishop travelled out from Ottawa to pray and visit for several days.

Major the Rev. Michelle Staples, an Anglican chaplain based in Edmonton, also received an unexpected visit from the bishop ordinary. Several years ago she was in Afghanistan at Christmas, struggling with feelings of loneliness. Somehow the bishop tracked her down and surprised her with a visit when she needed it most.

For Ms. Staples, this memory links strongly to the feeling she had with the Silent Night Project. The project happened during a very busy period in her life. She was absorbed with local operations and her husband was deployed overseas.

“When I saw the Silent Night Project video, I felt that the church continues to reach out and wrap me in something bigger than me,” said Ms. Staples. “For me, the bishop ordinary is a symbol of the church’s care.”

Mr. Fletcher agrees that these donations and gestures of support help connect members of the church.

“We may work in a different place than most folks are familiar with, but the ministry Anglican chaplains exercise is a ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada,” he said. “We’re so grateful for the support of our primate, clergy, and laity across the church for their prayers and generous support.”

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