National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald attends Jamestown "counter-celebration"

The Episcopal Church marked the 400th anniversary of permanent English settlement in the Americas with a “counter-celebration” in Jamestown, Va., Nov. 1 to 3. The New Jamestown Covenant Summit was an opportunity for Aboriginals to tell their side of the story, that English settlement has been a complicated and often destructive presence for their peoples. National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald was there to represent the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop MacDonald participates in the opening eucharist, Jamestown, Va.
Bishop MacDonald participates in the opening eucharist, Jamestown, Va.

“For the Anglican Communion, the Jamestown landing was the beginning of the modern age of mission,” said Bishop MacDonald in a later interview. “The Jamestown summit was an event to unveil both the good and the bad about indigenous relationships to the Anglican Church.”

The summit began with an open-air eucharist, attended by almost 250 non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal Episcopalians from 28 dioceses and 39 different tribes. Bishop MacDonald, who is also Assisting Bishop of Navajoland and former Bishop of Alaska, helped lead worship over the next three days and also gave a workshop on communication. Donna Bomberry, coordinator of indigenous ministries with the Anglican Church of Canada, also assisted with the program.

Part of the truth-telling at Jamestown was acknowledging that after a decade of “remembrance, recognition, and reconciliation” between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals in the Episcopal church, both parties need another decade of the same work. The covenant that was originally signed in 1997 was presented again and new participants signed on. “The celebration really was the hinge instead of the pinnacle that we thought it would be,” said Bishop MacDonald.

The summit has a precedent in a 1992 “counter-celebration” that marked 500 years since Columbus’s arrival in North America. “We tried to provide a counter-narrative from a positive, but truth-telling Christian perspective,” said Bishop MacDonald, who was also involved with the 1992 event.

Bishop MacDonald and Ms Bomberry were taking notes for a similar Canadian counter-celebration in 2010, when the Anglican Church of Canada will remember 300 years since the first eucharist was celebrated in Annapolis Royal, N.S.

“In 2010 we’ll be in a very different place,” said Bishop MacDonald. “The themes coming out of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Council of the North have to do with moving into a fuller future and the challenge of living into fulfillment, reconciliation, justice, and healing. In some respects it’s still a struggle to get them on the agenda, but in Canada people are ready to roll, ready to move forward.”

Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .