Willie Nelson, placemats, and Facebook for the Amazing Grace Project

The Rev. Rob Towler is not a fan of Willie Nelson. Yet this Kitchener, Ont. priest changed his cell phone ring tone to Willie Nelson’s twangy version of “Amazing Grace,” so that every time his phone goes off, he donates a toonie to the Council of the North, the 10 financially supported dioceses in Canada’s north.

This musical martyrdom is in support of the Amazing Grace Project, where every Canadian Anglican parish is encouraged to sing “Amazing Grace” on Sunday, Nov. 23, film their rendition, and send it in to the national office, to be included in an online compilation video by Christmas. Canadian Anglicans are also encouraged to each donate a toonie to the Council of the North.

The Rev. Towler’s church—St. Andrew’s Memorial—is one of many congregations gearing up for Amazing Grace Sunday. They’re planning a special “Amazing Grace” prelude and postlude, and will use both the homily and Sunday school to share the Council of the North story. Since many Canadian Anglicans in the council dioceses are Aboriginal, the parish plans to use a sweetgrass basket to collect the offering.

In the Diocese of Toronto, St. George’s, Apsley, will also educate their parishioners about the Council of the North. They have ordered special placemats and brochures through Fiona Brownlee, communications officer for the council, and will donate their entire Nov. 23 offering to the cause.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, an online social networking site, 102 people have signed up for the “Amazing Grace Hymn Sing” event (accessible through the Council of the North Facebook Group).

“This is a great undertaking!” one member wrote on the public message board. “I’m looking forward to it!” Another wrote “I’ll be singing!!!!!”

Nov. 23, Amazing Grace Sunday, is rapidly approaching and it’s not too late to organize your parish to sing, film, and raise money. Check out the Amazing Grace Project website for more information, including tips on filming a video, Sunday School curriculum (in English [PDF] and French [PDF]) and Amazing Grace Project videos (including new ones from the Lambeth Conference).

“I am extremely excited about this initiative,” wrote the Rev. Towler in a recent email. “I see this project as a way for all Canadian Anglicans to connect with one another as they knowingly stand and sing this hymn together on the same Sunday.”

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