It’s a big event, and it has to be done just right. This is why the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) decided on March 7 to reschedule this year’s Sacred Circle, the major Canadian Aboriginal Anglican gathering that has happened every three years since 1988.
“It’s too premature for Sacred Circle this year,” said Donna Bomberry, coordinator of Indigenous Ministries for General Synod. She helped organize ACIP’s March 5 to 9 meeting in Vancouver, B.C. The council recognized several hold-ups: the proposed site (the University of British Columbia campus) is difficult for elderly members to navigate, and several ACIP members are busy helping their dioceses develop new structures of Aboriginal self-governance. They will be able to share more about this process in 2009.
Many of the previous five Sacred Circles have been landmarks. At the 1993 Sacred Circle in Minaki, Ont., then-Primate Archbishop Michael Peers apologised for the church’s involvement in residential schools. At the 2005 meeting in Pinawa, Man., members presented a proposal for a National Indigenous Anglican Bishop (a position filled in January 2007 by Bishop Mark MacDonald).
Sacred Circle was postponed once before, in 2004, when a major donor withdrew support months before the event.
Now members of ACIP will choose an alternate location and date for Sacred Circle 2009. They will consider locations in the Diocese of Saskatchewan as well as Port Elgin, Ont., where they met in 2000.
One benefit of the delay is more time to fundraise. In the past, Sacred Circle cost around $350,000, paid jointly by General Synod, Indigenous Ministries’ program budget, outside grants, and registration. Recently, high fuel prices have increased the cost of meetings—a particular problem for Aboriginal gatherings where people travel from remote areas.Â For these reasons, ACIP’s Vancouver meeting cost $15,000 more than expected.
Sacred Circle a time for being silly and serious
After deciding to postpone Sacred Circle, ACIP members spent the evening reflecting on why they care so much about the event.
“There’s a spiritual awakening that happens at those circles,” said Rev. Arthur Anderson (Diocese of Qu’Appelle).
Rev. Sidney Black, ACIP co-chair, noted how Sacred Circles have changed over the years: “The first one was so visceral and raw with the pain and the wounds of the (residential) schools in particular. As you look at the archive of all the video documentation, you see the gentle movement of the spirit, and the healing that has occurred in the Sacred Circle gatherings.”
There were also stories of silliness. Rev. Andrew Wesley laughed as he remembered a knee-judging competition, and Rev. Gloria Moses, ACIP co-chair, recalled square dancing until 2:00 in the morning, only to wake up two hours later (tired, but amused) to watch the sun rise with an elder.
Did you know you can watch past Sacred Circles on video? Contact the Anglican Book Centre at (416) 924-2760 for more information.
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