The Henry Budd College for Ministry in the Diocese of Brandon is offering the following course to equip individuals for ministry in the church, and for service in their communities this winter term.
Indigenous Christology with the Rev. Ray Aldred, Indigenous Studies Program at Vancouver School of Theology, Intensive Course April 2–5, 10 am to 4 pm
This course will examine the work and person of Jesus Christ through an Indigenous worldview. It is open to all Indigenous people and those who minster with Indigenous peoples. The course is fully funded so there is no tuition cost, but you must commit to the entire course. Due to the intense nature of the material, students should stay in The Pas/OCN for the week. Accommodation for the week will be available at Henry Budd College, or in homes in the community. This course may be taken for VST credit.
You do not have to be Indigenous or Anglican to take courses at the Henry Budd College. Courses can be taken for personal interest and growth ($50) or for Henry Budd College Diploma in Theology credit ($200). Bursaries are available.
If you are interested in enrolling in this course, please contact Kara at Henry Budd College 204-623-3311 or email at [email protected].
Dr. William Winter School for Ministry
The Dr. William Winter School for Ministry has been providing Indigenous peoples’ training for ministry in the Diocese of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh for more than 30 years. The school was created to facilitate the long-term vision of self determination amongst First Nations Anglicans in Northern Ontario and Manitoba. For more information on upcoming courses and workshops, contact Bishop Larry Beardy at [email protected] or Bishop Lydia Mamakwa at [email protected].
The deposit on a single alcohol bottle or can of beer isn’t much, but three nuns from the Community of the Sisters of the Church (CSC) have found an enterprising way to make a big difference using negligible amounts of change.
To date, Sisters Margaret Hayward, Heather Broadwell, and Michael Trott, have donated just over $1,000 worth of empty bottles and cans to the Council of the North and the Anglican Healing Fund.
It all started when the three nuns moved into their apartment building and took note of all the discarded empty bottles and cans in the building’s garbage and recycling room.
Margaret recalls saying to Michael, “This is ridiculous—look at all the bottles here! We should take them to the Beer Store, get the money, then give it to charity or something.”
Today, the sisters are fondly known in their building complex as the ‘Dumpster Diving Sisters.’
“People know what we are doing and they usually call us ahead to drop off their empty bottles. And when the super[intendent] finds bottles, he will put them in the back corner of the garbage room,” says Michael.
The nuns usually wait until they have accumulated at least $5 to $10 worth of bottles at a time before they transport them to the Beer Store in shopper bags.
“It’s exciting when we get folded money, not just coins. Sometimes we even get purple folding money. That’s exciting!” says Margaret as she chuckles.
For more than 25 years, the Anglican Church of Canada has financially supported local, community led healing programs in Indigenous communities in order to support healing, education, and recovery of language and culture, due to the devastating legacy of the residential school system.
Once the sisters have collected $100 worth of notes and change, they then write a cheque of the heart centred gift to either Council of the North or the Anglican Healing Fund.
“Alcohol has done such incredible harm to Indigenous people that it is almost poetic justice that we are collecting these bottles and at least trying to make some small contribution towards helping relieve some of the effects,” says Margaret.
“We just have a burden in our heart for [Northern] ministry—for what we have done.”
For those that would like to kickstart a bottle collection initiative in their own communities, the sisters have a great tip on how to get the ball rolling.
“Get a tin or box or something…you don’t need to be doing something full-time—just collect your bottles.”
“Don’t let your money go to waste. There is money in those dumpsters.”
Athabasca Lay Readers Confereence
The Diocese of Athabasca will hold a Lay Readers Conference at St. Peter’s Ecumenical at Slave Lake, Alberta from April 5 to 7, 2019. Competent and Confident II is a conference, not only for all lay readers, but also lay readers in training, and lay reader candidates. The registration deadline is March 18, 2019, and registration forms can be found on the diocese of Athabasca’s website.
Brandon Evangelism Conference
The Diocese of Brandon is now accepting registrations for the Evangelism Conference that will be held at the Cathedral Centre, from March 15 to 16, 2019. The conference aims to address the ways in which the Diocese of Brandon can implement a program of training on evangelism and church growth. The guest speaker will be former Canon Missioner of the Diocese of Toronto, and new Bishop of Niagara, The Rt. Rev. Susan Bell.
Youth grades 8 and above are encouraged to register as there is a youth program scheduled in the conference.
The registration form is available on the Diocese of Brandon’s website.
Caledonia conference and mission events
The Diocese of Caledonia will hold its clergy conference in Prince Rupert from April 30 to May 2, 2019. The diocese is also holding two Parish Missional Vision Events on May 11 at Dawson Creek and May 25 at Terrace. Parishes will be gathering for a Vision Day to educate and encourage local missional work. There will be interactive learning and planning sessions. Please contact the Synod Office at (250) 635-6016 or [email protected] for more information and/or to register.
Saskatchewan Prayer Conference
The Diocese of Saskatchewan will have the Annual Diocesan Prayer Conference at the Hawood Inn, Waskesiu, Sask., on Friday, April 5 and Saturday April 6, 2019.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews will be the guest speaker this year. He was the Dean of Saskatchewan and Rector of The Cathedral Church of St. Alban the Martyr in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan until 2001.
Registrations are being accepted on a “first come, first served” basis at a cost of $50 per person. This fee includes shared accomodation, sessions, meals and National Park entry. Please contact the Synod Office at (306) 763-2455 for more information and/or to register for this event.
Territory of the People call for deacons
Do you have a calling to serve as deacon in your local parish? The Territory of the People is holding a conference from April 12 to 13, 2019 to provide more information and answer questions on the role of a deacon. Deacon Michael Shapcott and other local deacons will be on hand at this event that will be held at the Shrine Conference Centre, Cache Creek. The conference will start on Friday April 12 at 5pm and end at 1 pm on Saturday April 13.If you are interested, please be in touch with your local clergy or the Bishop at [email protected] by March 1, 2019.All costs will be covered by the Territory of the People.
Diocese of the Arctic
Elections are underway for the installation of three suffragan bishops in the Diocese of the Arctic. Calls for nominations for potential candidates closed on February 18, 2019, and the election process will take place between March 28–30, 2019. The installation of these three suffragan bishops will bring the total number of bishops from the Diocese of Arctic to four, as Bishop Darren McCartney steps down on March 31, 2019.
Diocese of Caledonia
A reconciliation process between the Wet’suwet’en, British Columbia’s government and TransCanada Pipelines Ltd. is underway, following a national outcry over oil pipeline construction in Wet’suwet’en Territory.
On January 8, 2019, 14 people were arrested in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation for setting up a blockade called the Gitdumt’en access point. The blockade was erected to prevent pipeline workers from entering the Indigenous territory that stretches over both the diocese of Caledonia and Territory of the People.
In a joint statement of concern and call for prayer released on January11, 2019, Bishop David Lehmann, Bishop Barbara Andrews, Archbishop Melissa Skelton, Primate Fred Hiltz, and National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald called for the continuing work of reconciliation as outlined in the 94 Calls to Action, from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The government of British Columbia has released a statement in which they acknowledge the systemic denial of Wet’suwet’en rights, and commit to working with the community in a capacity that is respectful of Wet’suwet’en self-determination and self-governance.
Diocese of Moosonee
St. Mathew’s Cathedral in Timmins, Ontario, has found a resourceful way to manage rising expenditures with decreasing revenue. The cathedral, which has long served as a gathering place for the Timmins community, now has its eyes set on using its facilities to provide a venue that is inclusive and welcoming to local artists. Through this venture, the cathedral hopes to provide an incubator space for emerging artists, and looks forward to supporting the growth of its community and local artists.
Diocese of Saskatchewan
St. George’s Anglican Church at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, has a new warm face serving its congregation.
The Rev. Eyad Ajji is the Diocese of Saskatchewan’s newest priest, and he comes all the way from the Middle East. Ajji immigrated to Canada about two years ago with his wife and two children. Originally from Syria, Ajji and his family lived in Jordan for 13 years due to the war in his home country. It was in Jordan that he became ordained as an Anglican priest.
Ajji’s arrival at the Prince Albert parish not only marks his first time in the city, but also his first time in the province of Saskatchewan. He was formerly ministering in Calgary, Alberta.
As newcomer to both Canada and the Prince Albert community, Ajji is grateful for the warm reception and support that he and his family continue to receive from the Anglicans across Canada.
Territory of the People
The diocesan office of the Territory of the People has changed their email addresses. Effective immediately, their new email addresses are as follows:
Be sure to update your contact lists and direct your messages to these new addresses.
Diocese of Yukon
Diocesan Executive Archdeacon, the Ven. Sarah Usher will be taking over the Church of Northern Apostles as priest-in-charge from Bishop Larry Robertson and will also be in charge of St. Phillips Church in Teslin. This move will allow Bishop Larry to develop ministry in the inner Whitehorse area, while still being able to fulfill his day to day duties as a bishop.
A conversation with Bishop Larry Beardy of the newly formed Northern Manitoba Area Mission of Mishamikoweesh
Indigenous Suffragan Bishop Isaiah Larry Johnson Beardy has only been in his new ministry of the Northern Manitoba Area Mission Diocese for less than a year, but his ministry is quickly breaking new ground.
Beardy’s area mission spans the northern Manitoba portion of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, as well as the northern portions of the Dioceses of Saskatchewan and Brandon.
Born in Tataskweyak, Man., Bishop Beardy worked as a teacher before being ordained in 1999. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate of divinity from the college of Emmanuel and St. Chad, in recognition of his work in education and ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada.
Contact spoke with Beardy to learn of the new developments in his diocese, as well as the pastoral and spiritual needs of the Indigenous communities in the Northern Manitoba Area Mission.
This interview has been edited for brevity.
Q. On November 30 to December 2, 2018, you called a Sacred Circle for the Northern Manitoba Area Mission of Mishamikoweesh. What happened at this Sacred Circle?
A. Over the course of the threee days, we discussed a wide range of issues including the vision of this newly formed area mission, stewardship of both God’s creations and Indigenous spiritual journeys, as well as the formation of an Indigenous council to implement action items arising from the Sacred Circle discussions.
We also talked about the construction of a mission office in Split Lake, for the Northern Manitoba Area Mission Diocese. We hope to have this mission house constructed as soon as possible.
Q. Could you please tell us more about this Indigenous Council that was formed?
A. This Indigenous Council is for the Northern Manitoba Area Mission, and it consists of four members: Bishop Mark Macdonald, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, Bishop Adam Halkett, and myself. The council is mandated to find ways of implementing self-determination in both finances and policy development. There are three Indigenous language groups that are represented on this council: Ojibwe, Cree, and Dene, and it will serve a term of three years.
Q. When is the first meeting of the new council and what is on the agenda?
A. Our first council meeting is a teleconference scheduled for Monday, January 28, 2019. During this, and future teleconference meetings, we will discuss and explore matters such as youth ministry, lay readers training, catechism, implementation of our budget, stewardship, music ministry, and how to partner with local leaders and businesses in northern Manitoba.
Q. While all of the above agenda items are important, which do you think is the most pressing?
A. Stewardship. We need to find ways to support the ministry of Northern Manitoba Area Mission. All of our clergy at the Northern Manitoba Area Mission are nonstipendiary. We also don’t have very many clergy. There are some communities that do not receive any sacraments. We have to find ways to get to all our brothers and sisters in northern Manitoba, and look after one another.
Q. Is there anything else you would like the rest of the church to know about the direction of the Northern Manitoba Area Mission?
A. We need prayers and we need your support. Our budget is only $300,000 a year. We need support to provide stipends for our 15 active clergy, and we need support for training new ordained and lay ministers.
If there is any parish, in any diocese, that is willing to partner with Northern Manitoba Area Mission, we are willing to share ministry and exchange visits with you.
It’s been more than a month since the Alkali Lake wildfire blazed through Telegraph Creek in British Columbia, and it could take weeks more before its residents can return.
Officials say that the Alkali Lake wildfire was the largest that they have ever seen in history. By August 23rd, more than 560 fires had been recorded.
The entire community of Telegraph Creek is reported to have evacuated the area. Fifty six structures were lost to the fires, including the Roman Catholic Church of St. Theresa and its rectory. Twenty seven of these buildings were residential homes.
For a community that is already facing a housing crisis, these fires have been especially devastating.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s global aid agency, has donated $5,000 to the Diocese of Yukon to support rebuilding efforts.
PWRDF executive director Will Postma gave the relief funds to Larry Robertson, Bishop of Yukon Diocese, to support the mostly Indigenous community. In an email to the Anglican Journal, Robertson said the diocese would work with the local band to help those impacted by the wildfires.
In addition to the PWRDF grant, Robertson said that the diocese is grateful for the support that they have received from other ministries—including almost $1,300 donated by members of Sacred Circle.
The Anglican Church of Canada has added two new suicide prevention workers to its staff working in Indigenous ministry.
Jeffery Stanley, a master of divinity student at the Vancouver School of Theology, and Yolanda Bird, a former member of Council of General Synod (CoGS) – with extensive experience working with children and youth – have been hired to help their Indigenous communities work through the historical traumas of colonialism.
The new hires will be working full-time, and will provide much needed support to the church’s current part-time Indigenous suicide prevention worker, the Rev. Norm Casey.
Stanley, who will be based in Gingolx, a Nisga’a community on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, northeast of Prince Rupert, will cover British Columbia, Yukon and Western Arctic. Bird will be based in Montreal Lake First Nation, about 100 km north of Prince Albert, Sask., and will cover Alberta, Saskatchewan, and if necessary, also Manitoba and northern Ontario.
The work will combine Anglican and Indigenous traditional spiritual teachings to restore a sense of purpose and identity, especially to young Indigenous people.
Both Stanley and Bird have been personally affected by suicide; Stanley’s twin brother took his life in 2003, and Bird’s best friend committed suicide in 2016.
According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, a branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide and self-inflicted harm are the most common causes of death for First Nations youth and adults aged up to 44 years. Canada’s Inuit youth have among the highest suicide rates in the world, and are 11 times the national average.
Stanley’s background includes schooling in suicide prevention and youth ministry, and his past work, he says, included significant work with children and youth—including teaching the Nisga’a language to children from kindergarten to Grade 7. He finds suicide prevention work to be both a blessing and a challenge. This is because of the impact that suicide has personally had on him.
Similarly, Bird has been working with children and youth for many years.
Bird says that she “pretty much grew up around the church.” She is the daughter of Adam Halkett, Anglican Indigenous bishop of Missinippi. She served on CoGS from 2001-2004, and was involved with the Anglican Indigenous Network, which brings together Indigenous people from across the worldwide Anglican Communion, for about nine years.
“We’re looking forward to working with them and developing a strategy that will hopefully alleviate suicides in our communities,” says Ginny Doctor, Indigenous ministries coordinator. “It’s a start. It’s not going to end everything really quick, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”
The Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land has voted to create two new suffragan bishop positions, one for northern Manitoba and one for northern Ontario. The appointment of the two new bishops will bring the total number of active Indigenous Anglican bishops to eight.
Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, says that the recent push to create the two positions reflects wider changes in the church regarding attitudes towards Indigenous self-determination.
“I think in this case, the right factors came into play, the right people in the right context, and … heightened awareness amongst the broader province of the importance and significance of Indigenous self-determination in the life of the church, and the ability to have a self-determining church within the Anglican Church of Canada,” the archbishop said.
Both suffragan bishops will be considered part of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweseh. However, the bishop for northern Manitoba will also be responsible for the northern part of the Diocese of Brandon—particularly the Deanery of The Pas—and likely parts of the Diocese of Saskatchewan.
Benefits for Indigenous communities
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald called the creation of the new bishop positions “a huge shot in the arm in multiple ways” for Indigenous ministry within the church and self-determination. He further notes that it will provide Indigenous bishops with a higher profile in the national House of Bishops, as well as a stronger voice in numerous councils of the church.
“I think it shows a lot of faith in our ministry, in that it’s about self-determination, and that we are capable of providing leadership to take care of our own folks in our diocese and to build a ministry that God is calling us to do,” says Ginny Doctor, Coordinator of Indigenous Ministries. “And I think people are finally beginning to realize that we can take it on, so that’s significant.”
One of its most noteworthy impacts will be the ability of the Indigenous bishops to communicate in the local language of their communities. Bishop MacDonald said that the bishop for northern Manitoba will undoubtedly speak one of the region’s three main dialects of Cree, while the bishop for northern Ontario will be able to speak Oji-Cree.
Another advantage of the suffragan bishops will be their ability to provide direct pastoral care to remote communities and to preside over ceremonies such as baptisms, confirmations, and weddings—providing valuable support to area clergy, many of whom are currently non-stipendiary.
A key concern going forward will be making sure that the new positions for the bishops are financially sustainable.
The Diocese of Brandon has committed $56,000 over the next four years to help Mishamikoweesh finance the new bishop position.
“Mishamikoweesh and Brandon share northern Manitoba, but those boundaries are really colonial holdovers,” says Bishop William Cliff of the Diocese of Brandon. “They’re diocesan boundaries from old days, and [for] the folks in the north of Manitoba, especially the Cree folks, those boundaries don’t mean a lot.”
Though a budget has been set for the next four years, funding will require an increase in contributions from local congregations. Bishop MacDonald, however, said that “there is quite a bit of confidence that [congregations] will respond generously to the increasing pastoral care that this position will allow.”
Despite all the challenges, Archbishop Kerr-Wilson—who with Bishop MacDonald will be overseeing the election and consecration of the bishops—expressed excitement over the progress being made, and for those who have long championed the cause of appointing area bishops in the north.
“I’m very pleased that after all these years they’ve been able to get to this place,” says Archbishop Kerr. “And I would ask for the church broadly to be praying for the support and the strength of the Spirit as they move forward in this new ministry.”
A tentative date has been set in early September for the election and consecration of the new bishops.
Since the Iqaluit based school—in the Diocese of the Arctic—reopened its doors in 2016, this class of ministers has been highly anticipated by the diocese and their communities. This is because each of the new graduates is Inuit, and is bilingual in Inuktitut and English. Bilingualism in both of these languages is highly needed for the graduates as they will be ministering throughout the north.
“It’s a big deal, [for] a couple reasons,” says ATTS director, the Rev. Joseph Royal. “First of all, we just don’t have enough ministers in the diocese. There are parishes all over the north that want a minister and can’t get one.”
“But also, all the graduates are Inuit. They’re bilingual. So they’re going to go to a community in the north, and unlike someone coming from the south, they don’t have to learn a new culture or language. They have that already.”
“Not only do we have new ministers,” he adds. “We have really good ones who are trained well, but who also know the culture. It’s their culture and language.”
The new graduates are: the Rev. Sarassie Arragutainag, from the community of Sanikiluaq; the Rev. Annie Keenainak, from Pangnirtung; the Rev. Martha Kunuk, from Iqaluit; the Rev. Esau Tatatoapik, from Arctic Bay; and the Rev. Manasee Ulayuk, from Hall Beach.
At ATTS, the students learned through a combination of classroom study and practical parish ministry. All practical parish ministry was conducted in St. Jude Cathedral, or at a small community church. Most of the ministry was conducted in Inuktitut.
In spite of the learning curve, Ulayuk describes his time at the Arthur Turner Training School to be generally positive and rewarding.
“I believe it was my call to come into this college and learn the biblical, to be part of the ministry,” Ulayuk says.
The bulk of the core curriculum was taught by the Rev. Joseph Royal, ATTS Director. However, students also received tutelage from some visiting instructors.
Some of these instructors were National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, retired Arctic bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, and current Arctic Bishop David Parsons; Prof. Wanda Malcolm of Wycliffe College, who taught a course on self-care and pastoral psychology; Associate Prof. Ian Henderson, who teaches New Testament Studies at McGill University; and the Rev. David Luckman, Ireland team leader for the international mission agency Crosslinks.
“I enjoy so much that I made a good relationship with the people coming from the south and also from the north to teach us,” Ulayuk said. “It was really helpful.”
Supplements to the core curriculum focused on community outreach, ministry to youth and children, pastoral psychology, counselling, and navigating various crises and emotional problems that may occur within communities.
“The demands of the north for ministry are unique,” Royal says. “Communities are isolated, and compared to the south, they’re smaller. […] The northern context was always the focus in our curriculum.”
Classes for the next cohort are expected to begin in January.
The first new graduating class of the Arthur Turner Training School (ATTS) is ready to begin its ministry. Since the Iqaluit-based school—located in the Diocese of the Arctic—reopened its doors in 2016, this class of ministers has been highly anticipated by both the diocese and their communities. This is partly because each of the new … Continued
The leadership gap in Athabasca has been filled by an excellent candidate, with first-rate skills and a deep understanding of the region. Athabasca is a deanery in north-central Alberta, going as far west as the British Columbia border, as far north as the Northwest Territory border, as far west as Saskatchewan, and almost to Edmonton in the south. The new dean, the Very Rev. Jason Haggstrom, was installed on September 17, 2017. He has a wide range of plans, including starting new ministries and continuing successful ones, and desiring for wider communities, especially in local Cree and Métis communities.
Haggstrom has a long history in remote Western Canada. He grew up in a small town between Smithers and Terrace, in the northern interior of British Columbia, earning his first theology degrees in the Okanogan. This experience gave him some context for his new deanery. However, he has experience outside of the region. For example, he moved around quite a bit after graduation, working 15 years with the Church Army, an evangelical and mission group founded in the late 1920s. Haggstrom’s work with the Church Army included social service and general outreach work, and involved travelling throughout southeastern Ontario. He looks forward to spending the next decade in Athabasca, until his retirement.
Though he is new to the parish of St. James’ Cathedral, he talks of the diocese being filled with tightly knit communities, with a small-town intimacy. Part of this knowing is especially common among the Cree and Métis people. In these parishes, the discussion around reconciliation centres on a yearning for authentic community.
Haggstrom enjoys the challenges of reconciliation and community building. The cathedral is a busy place, filled with child care, food banks, and related services. Haggstrom also runs a prison ministry, visiting members of his flock who are incarcerated. There is also an attempt to extend communities of clergy. He notes a new retreat for clergy, who come together to discuss the spiritual needs of the parishes they mentor. This occurred for the first time in autumn 2017, but the hope is that it will be at least an annual event.
This does not mean that the community is not without its hardships. This year could be considered economically difficult. The region where Haggstrom is dean is more about agriculture than resource extraction, though he notes the economy rests on each. This year was hard on both the farmers and the oil riggers. Canola is the major cash crop for this region, and many of his parishioners depend on it to make a living. There was a canola blight, which affected most of the crops. This combined with a worldwide depression in oil prices, so that according to Haggstrom, “People cannot live as high as they did when oil was 138 a barrel.”
Even with the economic downturns, Haggstrom has a distinct hope that the community will thrive, with an ecumenical and pastoral focus that will help expand the influence of the church throughout the region.
by Melanie Delva Reconciliation Animator for
The Anglican Church of Canada.
This past December, I had the honour of traveling the Eastern portion of the Diocese of the Arctic with Bishop David Parsons, Esther Wesley (Coordinator of the Anglican Healing Fund) and the Rev. Victor Johnson (Regional Dean of Ungava Deanery). We traveled both the Hudson and Ungava Coasts of Nunavik, including 9 communities ranging in size from 200 to 1,000 people. The only way to access the villages is by plane, so we traveled mostly by Dash-8 and Twin Otter planes—a first for me! Anglican Mission in this area began in 1882. A couple of the communities have clergy, but most are led by dedicated and unpaid lay ministers who serve as everything from preachers of the Word, to nurses, counsellors and church building managers.
Everything was new and exciting for me — from my first visit to the local Co-op general store which sells everything from milk to rabbit skins, to the ski-doos whipping up and down the street through the towns. The first thing that really struck me though, was the quality of light in the North.It is very hard to describe. The light that time of year was low, but striking and the sky radiant with sun dogs. I couldn’t possibly describe it properly but it took my breath away everywhere we went.
The learning and “take-aways” for me from the trip are complex, and I am still working through them. I learned a lot from the people, the land, the travel itself. I was incredibly inspired by the faith of the people. It is brilliant in its immediacy—God is seen and known everywhere and in all things and people. I was humbled as well — humbled by what I take for granted, my consumerism in comparison to what is available and valued in the North.Finally, I was humbled by the weather—vicious blizzards that brought everything to a standstill and had us trapped in our little hotel for days.I tend to think I am “in charge” of my life and it really reminded me of Who is really at the helm!I am awash in gratitude. To my travel companions who taught me so much and were so great to travel with, to the people we met who were unending in their kind welcomes and hospitality, and to God, whose grace in giving me the gift of this experience is above all to be praised.
Last fall, 25 Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy travelled from all over northern Alberta to attend what they hope will become an annual ecumenical meeting. The meeting addressed concerns about how to work together in the North and how to be better Christians to newcomers. The Anglican area bishop, Fraser Lawton, described the meeting as a “conversation about the things they had in common, and a good start.”
The conference asked questions about missions: what missions now look like, who is called to be a missionary, and how best to support those who are called. These introductory conversations made for a solid footing for deepened mutual understanding. Lawton discussed the central goal of these questions as a kind of fellowship. The Bishop wished that those present would be “taking up time with people’s concerns, and connecting to each other.”
The connecting with each other focused on the similarity in challenges shared by Anglican and Roman
Catholic priests in Athabasca. The mission work concerned itself with both outside congregations and with local parishes. The concerns brought forth included issues of lay engagement. Lawton noted that both Catholic and Anglican churches continue to be concerned with how little people know their faith, and by extension, whether the clergy have “done a good job with catechesis.”
The question about what a catechetical good job looks like also encompassed the clergy. They noted that people in their dioceses were less interested in active parish life than they once were. Lawton described the problem as partly “being in competition for people’s time” and how to make church life a priority again.
There are other factors, which are slightly more of an issue for the Roman Catholic population, as a large number of their priests are from outside Canada. This intersects with populations in places like Grand Prairie, where immigrants in the service industry have made towns much more diverse. These concerns about newcomers, and people who have been in parishes for as long as Alberta has been a province, means that there should be a number of solutions for what could be a tricky problem. Lawton balances questions of Anglican engagement with hearing how Catholic partners in faith can “carry out ministry and are able to help” with mutual mission work, catechesis, and community building.
These concerns and challenges can often be met by open and honest communication, and through explicit planning. These are the ongoing goals of the Anglican diocese of Athabasca, and also of their fellow Christians. The conference is the first step in opening an ecumenical process that will hopefully bear much fruit.