A youth group meeting takes place at a church in Toloyoak, Nunavut, located in the Anglican diocese of the Arctic.

Gifts for Mission: Support ministry in the Canadian North

Anglican dioceses in Northern Canada face unique challenges when compared to their southern counterparts. The vast distances between parishes, isolation of many remote communities, and the distance from urban centres, among other factors affects ministry.

The Council of the North is a meeting of northern dioceses chaired by Bishop Michael Hawkins, who describes the council as a “covenant of mutual accountability and support.” Dioceses across the country support the council by funding a grant from General Synod made on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada. Council of the North funding is the largest single budget item for General Synod, representing 25 per cent of its overall budget. Dioceses in the council carry out their ministry to spread the gospel appropriate to the region and diocese.

Special projects are primarily funded through donations to Gifts for Mission and Anglican Appeal. This funding is key to adapting ministry to the needs of different communities.

“Many dioceses, their bishops and clergy and people, would have dreams of ‘If we had just a little bit of money, we’d be able to do something,’” Bishop Hawkins said, noting that some northern dioceses run on very tight budgets and have recently had to cut clergy and staff positions.

“These [donations through Gifts for Mission and Anglican Appeal] allow them to do those kind of little dream projects to energize people,” he added. With a $100 gift through the 2015 Gifts for Mission gift guide, you can help support ministry to people in the Canadian North.

Funds from Gifts for Mission and Anglican Appeal helped elders gather for the launch of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh in 2014, the culmination of what had been called "the dream of the elders."
Funds from Gifts for Mission and Anglican Appeal helped elders gather for the launch of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh (called “the dream of the elders”) in 2014.

In the past three years, projects have included a healing gathering in the diocese of Moosonee, local education projects, and paying for elders’ travel to attend the launch of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.

Training and education have also been major themes of late. While the diocese of Caledonia has offered lay and clergy training, the diocese of the Arctic has hosted a clergy conference with lay leaders on spiritual and mental health. The diocese of Athabasca used funds to support a youth ministry initiative, and the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior held a ministry conference.

“Some of it is because there needs to be more local training, I think, in all the dioceses … Our ability to send people away for three years for a traditional M. Div. is very limited,” Hawkins said.

The need for lay training is another pressing issue, with the council seeking to provide training and support for the more than 100 non-stipendiary clergy across northern dioceses.

If donations through Gifts for Mission are vital in supporting ongoing projects, equally important is the boost in morale.

“I would say that the gifts are a sign of our solidarity and of our commitment to one another,” Bishop Hawkins said. “There is the good that these gifts do on the ground, but there also is the great encouragement, and that sense on the council, that the church is with us.

“With many of our people who are working in some of the most difficult environments and most pastorally demanding, socially and economically challenged communities and parts of our country, to know that their fellow Anglicans are with them with their prayers and gifts is a great encouragement.”

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