Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Sheer silence

Posted on: August 24th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

By Vianney Carriere

 

 

 

“To seek silence is to seek God; to love silence, to learn the beauty of stillness, is to invite God to touch us and our lives.” – Text and photo by Vianney Carriere.


 

(Editor’s Note: The following article is republished from the Spring 1999 issue of MinistryMatters, a now-defunct publication of the Anglican Church of Canada. Its author, Vianney (Sam) Carriere, a former editor of the Anglican Journal and the church’s director of communications and information resources, died on August 10. Described by many of his colleagues and friends as a gifted writer and editor, Carriere crafted graceful, insightful prose that were often about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.)

Now there was a  great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (Kings: 18: 11-13)

Silence is something like one’s good health. It is most prized when abruptly taken away, most cherished when suddenly recovered, when, as with the rush of light, we suddenly realize that we have been deprived of it for a long time. Then as it returns, a wealth of rediscovered feelings comes with it. Silence begins as something external and it becomes a state of being.

People who live in cities almost never experience silence. There is always something – traffic in the distance, the chatter of neighbours, a far-off siren, even the white noise of office buildings.

Yet it is a mistake to think of silence as the absence of noise. Silence is not a negative, not an absence at all, but an overwhelming presence, an awesome something that brings sustaining and resuscitating gifts all the more precious for their rarity. Silence is a wonder for all the faces that it has, all the garments that it wears, the nuances and qualities that come with it: the silence of a starlit night in a wilderness; the silence of a deserted church, empty yet holy, the engulfing silence of fresh snow, the silence that passes in a glance between a loving couple, running like electricity through a wire. All different. All magical.

That is why we whisper when we pray, why our “I love you’s” are spoken so softly – it is isn’t all reticence or a need for privacy. It is a tribute to the silence of special places and special moments, the mystery of special moods that we know are so fragile and so transitory that the merest sound can drive then away. We know in our very soul that we ought not to disturb these times. They are as skylarks, timid, every poised to swoosh away.

The very best kind of communication that can happen between people is silent. This is one of life’s mysteries – how we, as a species with the marvelous and unique gift of speech, make ourselves understood, share a moment, communicate our love and our passion with a look or a glance, so much more effectively than we do with words.

So much of what we say to people with whom we live and work or to people whom we meet is not important at all. It won’t be remembered or it will be misunderstood. The really crucial things are communicated wordlessly, punctuated, perhaps with a mere squeeze of the hand, with a smile, or with a look with which you suddenly find yourself gazing into the very depths of someone else’s silence.

The wordless way we have of communicating our really vital thoughts and emotions are as personal as fingerprints. No two people do this the same way. It requires awareness, fullness of soul, love, and silence. Silence, above all, cannot be dispensed with.

It is a way of communicating not unlike the way we are taught, as infants, to communicate with God, the way we are taught to pray. Prayer, even for those who find it difficult, is enabled by silence. Silence, stillness, is the route to holiness and to communion with God, much more so than the other props we’ve picked up, the icons of prayer, the formulaic words we learn as children, the beads of a rosary, the gestures.

There is a reason, surely, why Jesus and all the prophets sought out the wilderness in their quest for inspiration and to nurture their special sight. They were seeking holy silence – the consuming presence of an empty, quiet space, which is the surest conduit to God and the things of God that nature allows.

To seek silence is to seek God; to love silence, to learn the beauty of stillness, is to invite God to touch us and our lives. And in silence, in this private, internal wilderness that we create, God finds us, as he once found the prophets, and speaks to us in ways that can enlighten, inspire or confound. That is another mystery, another level of communication, another place. A silent place is a holy place if only we can learn to hear and love that mystical nothingness that is everything.


Photo by: Vianney Carriere

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Anglican Journal News, August 15, 2014

 

 

Parish moves ‘from lament to hope’

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

By Deborah Kraft

 

St. Thomas Anglican Church in Thunder Bay, Ont., converted its empty Sunday school classroom into a vibrant centre that serves those in need. Photo: Deborah Kraft

 


“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8–9).

Every second Friday around noon, there is a flurry of meaningful activity at St. Thomas Anglican Church in Thunder Bay, Ont. Tables are sent up, a barbecue is started and the doors of the church are opened wide.

About 50 people come for a free and delicious lunch; they are also offered a bag of nutritious food and encouraged to visit rooms in the church where they can pick out clothing, pet supplies and toys.

St. Thomas has shifted its purpose, from teaching Christian education to hundreds of local children in the Thunder Bay community of Westfort to reaching out to those in need.

Established in 1887 as a mission of the diocese of Algoma, the first church was built in 1890 and rebuilt twice after two fires in the early to mid-1900s. Church attendance soared and a Christian education centre with multiple classrooms for Sunday school children was built beside the church.

Over the past decades, however, attendance at Sunday school declined significantly. Most of the classrooms in the centre were closed and became storage rooms. It would have been so easy to lament the good old days and to yearn for hundreds of children to return to Sunday morning worship and Christian education. It would have been so easy to throw up one’s hands and say that everything had  been tried. Instead, the parishioners and their rector, the Rev. Doug McClure, started to pray about God’s purpose for their parish community. They believed that God was leading them to help people in need, to feed the hungry, provide basic necessities and to be a voice for those in need. They decided to develop a Family Giving Centre, using the empty Christian education classrooms.

The people at St. Thomas moved from lament to hope and opportunities. Several classrooms have been put to use for food and toy cupboards, housewares and clothing for men, women and children. There is even a pet boutique. The rooms are clean, bright, attractive and stocked with care.

The congregation is involved through donations of food, time, clothing and money. In addition, several clients have become volunteers. Chef Tim Chadukiewich cooks the free community lunches. He started to come to the Family Giving Centre a couple of years ago, and now volunteers for the lunches. Chef Tim said that there is “joy in helping and giving back.”

The Rev. Doug McClure (right) with volunteers and some clients of the Family Giving Centre. Photo: Deborah Kraft

Janis Barker, food cupboard co-ordinator, recalled that around 300 children used to attend Sunday school. While saddened by the number of people in need, Barker said she is heartened by the willingness of many others to help.

Lesley McClure, who is in charge of the “pet boutique,” said it was “humbling to see the need and that it is hard to keep up.”

Kim, a client at the centre, said that the help she has received “has made it possible for me to have and create a home, to be safe and no longer afraid.” She added: “Thank you all for all you do for our community. You uplift me, and you have given me hope in my darkest hours.”

In addition to the Family Giving Centre, the church provides healthy snacks for school children and backpacks with school supplies.

—The Ven. Deborah Kraft, archdeacon of Thunder Bay, Anglican diocese of Algoma, contributed this piece.

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Anglican Journal News, August 19, 2014

 

Kids’ alumni choir gets adult reincarnation

Posted on: August 20th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By Diana Swift

 

 David Legget arrives to conduct the revived Fern Alumni Chorus.  Photo: Contributed


 

If he psychs himself up for it, basso profundo David Michael Legget can still hit the C below the bass line. And for the past two years he’s been the director of a reincarnated choir of 50-somethings that he founded nearly five decades ago. By the way, he turns 80 at Halloween.

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PHOTO: Legget as a young
newspaperman gets ready for some
aerial reporting.

Photo: Contributed
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A high school dropout—“I quit school in grade 11 because I was having too much fun and not making any progress,” Legget had a way with words and an eye for good pictures. So he soon became a reporter and photographer at a small-town newspaper and then at the Montreal Star. Later, he traded his camera and notepad for chalk and pointer, becoming a grade school teacher in the mid-1960s.

“I started music lessons at age four,” Legget says. Later, trained in piano at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music,  a child member of Toronto’s St. Simon-the-Apostle Church choir under Eric Lewis, and an assistant organist at Grace Church on-the-Hill under Giles Bryant, Legget specialized in music teaching.  While on staff at Fern Avenue Public School in the Little Poland district of Toronto’ west end, he founded the school choir and instrumental groups. In its first year the choir placed first in 17 of 18 competitions.

 

“He turned the school’s entire music program around,” says Shireen Whitmore, 57, a Fern alumna and a current chorus member. And in what was then a rough neighbourhood of recent immigrants, he created a haven for kids who often came from troubled homes. “He showed them something different from what they faced in their daily lives,” says Whitmore, a Toronto property administrator.

No one, least of all Legget, wanted to see the fine singing come to an end, so in 1970, he brought together some of his former pupils, now in high school, in the Fern Alumni Chorus and Orchestra. In its second year, it made a well-received church tour of England, Scotland and Wales, performing in high-profile venues such as Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.  The first alumni chorus disbanded in 1980 but that was not to be the end of it.

Although he recently stepped down as head, Leggett re-established the choir in March 2012, after reconnecting with many of his former pupils at a reunion in a downtown Toronto hotel.  As 110 of his former charges serenaded his arrival, he stepped right up to direct them. Afterwards, he uttered words that were music to the choristers’ ears, “What do you say we get together once a month and do this?”

Specializing in sacred music but mixing things up with Broadway show tunes and traditional ballads, the new group (“the Alumni-Alumni Chorus,” as it members fondly call it)” rehearses two Sunday afternoons a month at St. Martin-in-the- Fields. Its most recent concert at St. Martin on Mothers’ Day, 2014, raised $1,000 for the Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund, a camping program for disadvantaged kids.

“He sure has inspired us over the decades,” says chorus member and Fern graduate Jackson Freeman, 54, an auto mechanic with a passion for music who owns a heavy truck alignment shop. “He has a big heart and he has always treated us as one of his own children

He also challenged them. “We were one of the few of the grade 7 and 8 choirs to sing Attwood’s coronation piece, I was glad when they said unto me,” Freeman recalls.  Over the years, he and his brother have often had “Aw, Legget” moments as some piece of music triggered poignant recollections of their formative experiences under his tutelage.

Says Whitmore, “He lifted up young minds and set people on a better, more positive path. He made young people aware of the possibilities.”

The chorus in full voice at the Mothers’ Day concert with “Sir” at the helm.  Photo: Contributed

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Anglican Journal News, August 18, 2014

 

Finding Hilda’s Grave: A residential school survivor’s search for a lost sister

Posted on: August 20th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

In March 2014, 81-year-old Inez Dieter journeyed to Edmonton for the final national gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). She had been to a number of regional and national events, but knew that this one would be different. This was a last chance to visit with the community that forms around these events, talk with archives staff, and find open hearts to listen to the story of her time in an Indian residential school.

Inez’s story of truth and reconciliation reaches back more than seven decades. One of twelve children born to a Métis mother and First Nations father, Inez was all but orphaned at age four after her parents divorce and her mother’s death.

In 1941, when she was eight, she was sent alone by train to St. Barnabas School in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, where she would experience the trauma and abuse so tragically familiar in life at residential school.

In between her mother’s death and her time at St. Barnabas, young Inez lived at a nearby Roman Catholic school. Even years later, she recalls the striking reactions of other children once they discovered her Indigenous identity. “They treated me all fairly until they found out that I was Indian,” she says, “One of the girls said ‘Dance powwow!’ and I didn’t even know the first thing about this, but of course she was a bigger girl so I pretended to dance and that made her keep quiet.”

On her transition from the Roman Catholic school to Anglican-run St. Barnabas, Inez recalls particularly chilling—and particularly apt—words from a nun, “‘If you ever leave the Catholic church, you’re going to go to hell.’ And her prediction was true, in a way, because when I went to the residential school it was hell.”

Inez’s account of her time in residential school is peppered with the words ‘mean’ and ‘cruel.’ “It was really terrible. We never had enough to eat . . . that’s where we learned to steal. In that residential school, we broke all of the Ten Commandments.”

In 1943, St. Barnabas was destroyed by fire and children were sent back to their reserves. At 9-years-old, Inez Dieter entered a new and unfamiliar world. She was sent to live with her father, whom she had not seen since she was a toddler. Her relatives didn’t know about her. “People came around and they were hugging me and they spoke a different language. They spoke Cree. I didn’t understand.”

Young Inez settled in with her brother Eli and his wife Gladys. She had fun playing with her niece and enjoyed helping build a mud house on the farm. This reprieve was short-lived.  Inez was soon sent back to residential school, this time in Prince Albert, where familiar sights and sounds enveloped her again. “I witnessed a lot of strappings, I witnessed a lot of kids crying,” she remembers.

At night, Inez would strain to listen to other children speaking Cree. “I’d try to catch on,” she recalls, “because I knew that was my language.”

As a teenager, Inez and three other girls made a plan to run away. “The situation was really bad,” she remembers, “We never had enough to eat. We were always on our knees, constantly praying.”

Sneaking down the fire escape one night, the foursome fled. They were caught in short order, punished with a strapping, and told, “If you ever run away again, you’re going to go home in a wooden box.”

Like many residential schools, boys and girls lived and were educated separately at St. Barnabas. Inez and a brother were on either side of this divide. She was not usually allowed to speak to him, however, she remembers meeting him in a parlour and that “he looked exactly like me.”

The pair reconnected on a school outing where the children were piled onto a truck “like cattle.” They sat next to each other and he taught her how to say ‘stick’ in Cree.

In listening to children crying at night, meeting her father’s family, and sacred times with her brother, Inez found fuel for a lifelong appetite to learn Cree. “I wanted that language so bad. I knew it that it was meant for me. My ear was always tuned to hear this Cree because it was such a beautiful, beautiful music.”

She left St. Barnabas in her late teen years and went to work at a doctor’s office in Fort Qu’Appelle, continued her education, got married, and had six children.

Today this soft spoken and good-humoured woman struggles with how her time at residential school made intergenerational survivors out of her children. She speaks with sorrow about the cruelty and bitterness and anger that she passed on to them as she tries to understand and heal from her life at St. Barnabas.

Like many Indian residential school survivors, Inez has done a lot of work for the sake of her own healing and the healing of her family. As an adult, she returned to Indigenous spirituality and ceremonies and now feels at home on her healing path.

Inez also carries with her a deep compassion for her former teachers at St. Barnabas.  “They must have been having hard times and they took it out on us,” she says sympathetically, “They were mean because they had all this work. Probably they were under a lot of stress looking after us, so they stressed us out, too.”

Now, generations after she left residential school, Inez sits near the archive tables in Edmonton and is pensive, “My life has been pretty well fragmented. Now I’m just tying up the pieces . . . getting them together.”

Two of significant pieces have yet to find their place in the story of Inez Dieter’s life. She is still missing her siblings Hilda and Edward. Like Inez, they attended St. Barnabas. Unlike Inez, they did not survive.  They are among the upwards of 4,000 Indigenous children who died in residential schools in Canada.  They were not returned to their families, nor has Inez been able to find their graves.

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Saskatchewan Anglicans Roger and Mary-Ann Assaily embody a deep commitment to right relationship, and through this commitment find their own story woven with Inez Dieter’s in providential ways.

The Assailys first met Inez Dieter at a Regina TRC community hearing, where Inez gave testimony about her time in residential school and of her missing brother and sister.  They felt a connection with her because she came from Red Pheasant First Nation, which was quite close to where they lived and worked for some time.

Months later at the Onion Lake regional hearing, the Assailys remembered Inez and sought help in looking for the graves of Hilda and Edward.  Through a few connections, they managed to find a fenced-in, abandoned graveyard nearby the ruins of St. Barnabas Indian residential school.

In silence, they picked up decaying and knocked over crosses, and scraped thick moss off wooden grave markers revealing the first names of the Indigenous children who lay below.

They prayed, took some photographs, and left.

Two years passed. Regional hearings and national TRC events continued. At the last of these in Edmonton, Roger thought to bring photos from that day in the Onion Lake graveyard to Anglican archivist Nancy Hearn.

While Roger was uploading pictures of the grave markers, Inez wandered by looking for records and photos from her time at St. Barnabas.  Roger helped find a binder for her, and Inez shared with him that she had lost a sister and brother there. Since they died before Inez was even born, she was craving any kind of connection with them.

Roger clicked through a few pictures and as he turned the laptop around said, “This is at the bottom of the hill from the school.” On the screen was a long-forgotten cross that said simply, “Hilda.”

Inez broke down and began to weep. Roger joined her.

A journey that began with a small child on a train going across the Prairies, now finds part of its end more than seventy years later in a bustling conference centre—Inez had finally found Hilda’s grave.

The grave of brother Edward still has not been found. The Assailys plan to go back, keep tidying up graves, and finding more names. 

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, July 29, 2014

Are Church leaders the world’s most active peacemakers?

Posted on: July 8th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

 

Diplomat Magazine, July/August 2014

 

CHURCH DIPLOMACY

Michael Binyon says church leaders are now using their moral authority to persuade leaders in conflict situations to look again at proposals for peace

Are Christian church leaders becoming the world’s most active peacemakers? Only a week after President Peres of Israel and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the Pope’s invitation to pray together with him in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a dramatic flight to Nigeria to pray with President Goodluck Jonathan and encourage him to make every effort to find the schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

The Archbishop’s impromptu trip came hard on the heels of a visit to Pakistan, where he visited a small embattled Christian community and praised their efforts to forge closer links with the wider Muslim community, despite regular attacks by militants, the threats of mob violence and the increasing use of the notorious blasphemy laws to force Christians from their land and property.

The two men,  both new in their jobs and  both with fresh agendas that place considerable emphasis on peace and reconciliation, have been increasingly active in tackling conflicts that have defied the efforts of the world’s political leaders to resolve. While insisting they are not taking on political roles, and cautious of wading into the thickets of global diplomacy, both Pope Francis and the Most Revd Justin Welby have shown themselves skilled at using their huge moral authority to improve the political climate and persuade leaders in conflict situations to look again at proposals for peace.

This was dramatically demonstrated in Rome at the beginning of June, when President Shimon Peres of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, arrived at the Vatican for a formal ceremony to plant olive trees – the ancient symbols of peace. With the world’s cameras watching, both men greeted and kissed each other before shovelling earth around the roots of the trees. Coming after the breakdown of formal Israeli-Palestinian political talks on peace, the gestures were almost as astonishing as the famous handshake 21 years ago between Yassir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin of the White House lawn as President Clinton sealed the agreement of the Oslo Accords.

The Pope may not be a politician. But over the past year he has demonstrated an extraordinarily deft touch in his use of gestures and symbols to underline the messages he wants to convey. This was particularly evident during his visit to the Holy Land. In an image that will define his papacy, he paused to bow his head in prayer and pressed his hand against the graffiti-covered concrete of Israel’s formidable ‘separation wall’ – the barrier built to seal Israel off from the occupied West Bank. As his aides later conceded, it was a silent statement against a symbol of division and conflict.

  The Palestinians were delighted, feeling that the Pontiff had drawn attention to their plight in a way that Israel was obliged to recognise. The Israeli government was visibly irked, but responded diplomatically. But the gesture then made it impossible for either side to refuse his invitation to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to join him in Rome to pray for peace.

At the very moment the Pope was in Jerusalem, the Archbishop was in Lahore, meeting bishops and leaders of other minority faith communities in Pakistan. His visit, part of his plan to meet the primates of all 38 provinces of the Anglican Church around the world early on in his time in office, was also laden with symbolism. It came only months after a devastating attack by two suicide bombers on a church in Peshawar, which killed and wounded more than 230 worshippers, and amid tensions over the increasing threats by Islamist militants against the Pakistani state and especially the small non-Muslim communities.

At a joyous morning service in the imposing Gothic Anglican cathedral in Lahore, he praised Pakistan’s Christians for their steadfastness in the face of these threats. He said the work they did in running colleges, health clinics and even a special school for children with learning difficulties (a provision not offered by the state), open to all and overwhelmingly attended by Muslim students, was an example of Christian service in action.

There was no doubt of the political risk he ran in making the visit. By ghastly coincidence, the Archbishop was listening to impassioned pleas by Pakistan’s bishops for the right to worship in freedom and safety at the very moment when, only streets away, a pregnant young woman lay dying in the dust outside Lahore’s High Court, her face and head smashed by bricks hurled at her by her family.

The woman and her husband had gone to court to swear an oath that they had married of their own free will, despite the opposition of her father. Every year there are around 900 ‘honour’ killings of women by their families. There could have been no more dreadful example of the dangers of hatred, ignorance and fanaticism that are now gripping Pakistan.

Security was extraordinarily tight for the Archbishop’s visit: armoured cars were used to move him and his wife around. It was a precaution that only a week later was shown to have been justified. In Karachi, where the small group from Lambeth Palace stayed a night, riots broke out a few days later, following the arrest in London of an exiled political leader who controls powerful militias in the sprawling city. The British High Commission building there, where the Archbishop stayed, was closed and evacuated. Three days later, militants stormed Karachi airport, from where he had earlier flown on to Bangladesh, killing officials and forcing the airport to close.

Peacemaking and reconciliation – within the Anglican Church and between the world’s main faith groups – were the declared priority for Justin Welby from the moment he became Archbishop. He is well qualified for the role. As an oil executive who visited Nigeria often before his ordination, he has seen at first-hand the conflict raging between Christians and Muslims in Central Nigeria that is now taking a deadly toll. As a former head of Coventry Cathedral’s Centre for Reconciliation, he has himself conducted delicate negotiations between militant groups in an effort to free hostages, often risking his own life.

On reaching Lambeth Palace he appointed Canon David Porter, an Ulsterman who succeeded him at Coventry, as his Director of Reconciliation. And together they have focused on many of the world’s more intractable conflicts. The machinery and strategies for reconciliation are now in place at Lambeth Palace.

The Pope, too, has made reaching out, especially to the poor, a focus of his papacy, and has spoken out strongly in favour of greater justice and opportunity for the downtrodden in the world’s slums. He, too, has reorganised the Vatican bureaucracy, appointing cardinals whom he trusts to carry out the priorities he has laid down.

Both men, with influence over vast numbers of nominal Christians and their political leaders, now look set to make the running in peace-making. Both are determined to halt the deterioration in Christian-Muslim relations around the world. And both are not afraid to speak out, unambiguously, in condemning violence and prejudice. The Most Revd Justin Welby called the stoning of the woman in Lahore a “revolting lynching” and said he had been “utterly horrified.” He has also called the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls an “atrocious and inexcusable act.”

The Church leaders are not attempting to supplant United Nations negotiators or politicians with responsibility for maintaining global security. But at a time when the world’s leaders seem paralysed in the face of its more intractable problems – poverty, injustice, ethnic conflict and civil wars – maybe the Church is rediscovering a role that could make it a formidable political as well as moral force: the role of championing humanitarian causes and chastising those who fail to take a stand against war, conflict and violence.

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), July 8, 2014

Leading in the circle

Posted on: June 17th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

 

This column first appeared in the June issue of the Anglican Journal.

On April 23, 2014, near his home on Siksika First Nation, we laid to rest my adopted brother and friend, the Rev. Mervin Natowohki (“Holy Water”) Wolfleg. Even in his long illness, he continued to be courageous, loving, humorous and connected. Even in the sadness of his passing, the many unique qualities of his leadership and fellowship were present, but some things stood out with special clarity and strength.

Even if you have never heard of Mervin, you have been touched by his work. He was the artist who created the symbol of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. Other aspects of his ministry are not as well known, though they had deep and broad influence. Merv was a trailblazer. Long before it became widely acceptable, he advocated a gospel welcome to indigenous culture and practices. Many now accept the possibility that indigenous symbols, ideas and ideals can serve within the framework of a rigorous and dedicated Christian discipleship. That was not true when Mervin started his work.

He was way out in front on many issues—political advocacy, spirituality and indigenous identity, in particular—but he never seemed to be apart from the rest of us. He always wrapped his very firm stances with friendship, humour and humility. He was a leader, but never seemed to be a leader in a stand-in-front sense. It was always the type of leadership that typifies the very best of indigenous elders: leadership within the circle. When he spoke, it was with the authority of a friend and brother, not of an office or position.

Mervin brought the presence of his family and nation with him—he loved them deeply, but he invited us all to be a part of that love, helping us to see that by loving family in a good way we become relatives to others—including the rest of creation. While Western institutions are often uncomfortable with indigenous ways, he would insist that they made sense and received fulfillment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He was, in all things, a believer—a believer who made the church look good to those who had long ago given up on it. Having suffered in the residential schools, he spoke with courage about his experience, without losing compassion for others, even those who hurt him. In his 67 years, he had his own ups and downs, but his experience appeared to give him admirable humour, humility and hope.

We will miss Mervin greatly, but his influence and example will be with us as we go forward. I will eagerly pray and look for his anointing to fall on some of us who have been left behind. Blessed rest, my brother.
Bishop Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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Anglican Journal News, June 13, 2014

Coffin takes on new role as metropolitan

Posted on: June 17th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Leigh Anne Williams

Archbishop-elect Percy Coffin, the bishop of the diocese of Western Newfoundland, has been elected as the new metropolitan for the ecclesiastical province of Canada.   Photo: Contributed


Percy Coffin, bishop of the diocese of Western Newfoundland, will begin his new duties as metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Canada later this month after the current metropolitan Archbishop Claude Miller retires. Archbishop-elect Coffin will be installed in the office on Sept. 18.Coffin was elected on the second ballot in an electronic vote by provincial synod members at the end of May. With his characteristic self-deprecating humour, he told the Anglican Journal that his initial reaction was “fear and trembling,” but then he said more seriously that it was exciting to see how the election was unfolding. Reached more than a week after his election during a break in a hectic schedule, he said he still feels his election is “a bit overwhelming,” but he added, “I’m a firm believer in calling, and when you have that conviction, there’s a strength that comes with it in the belief that you are sustained in this by God and also by the people you work with.”

It is a challenging time for the seven dioceses in the province, in large part because the church is shrinking drastically in most areas, he said. Anglophone Anglicans have migrated away from Quebec and many rural communities are losing population to urban areas. While the Anglican population in the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, which includes St. John and the economic activity produced by offshore oil, is holding steady or growing, in the diocese of Western Newfoundland it has shrunk by two-thirds, Coffin says, from 37,000 Anglicans in 1977 when the diocese split into three, to under 13,000 now. That drop, he said, is consistent with figures from the last three Statistics Canada census reports, which have shown drops of 12 to 20 per cent in the population of rural communities.

Coffin noted, however, that last year was the only year in recent time where every parish in this diocese paid its assessment, allowing the diocese to pay its apportionment to General Synod. That’s an indication that “the church is still very important to the people who are left,” he said.

In response to the church’s changing situation, Coffin explained that resolutions at recent provincial synods have directed dioceses to re-examine their boundaries and look for ways to share resources. The dioceses of Montreal and Quebec are expected to have discussions, as will Fredericton with Nova Scotia and P.E.I., and the three Newfoundland dioceses. Newfoundland, for example, might revert to the sort of structure it had prior to 1977, he said. “There are some serious implications in those resolutions that would need to happen on the ground in each diocese.”

Aside from outmigration, Coffin noted that the church is also challenged by the fact that faithful Anglicans are aging and dying, and in an increasingly secular society, they are not being replaced by younger generations of Anglicans.

“In Western Newfoundland, I suspect that we have one foot in Christendom and one foot in the 21st century,” he said, recounting a recent conversation with a priest who commented that kids aren’t available for Sunday school on Sunday anymore because they are busy in activities such as figure skating and hockey. “Because it can’t happen on Sundays, it seems that we’ve given up Christian education. I think pitiful is a good way to describe it, for the most part,” Coffin said. “My response to that issue is that Christ came and took us as we are on whatever the day of the week it was he came. Maybe it’s not going to be a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon,” he said, adding that the church needs to find ways to reach out to people beyond Sunday church services.

Coffin added that more Christian education for adults is also needed. “We are largely a biblically illiterate society. People are just as likely to quote a hymn or Shakespeare, thinking it came from scripture. We don’t know the stories of creation, deliverance, prophecy and salvation, and we have to recover that,” he said.

Coffin’s own faith formation began almost from infancy, he said. Born a few days before Christmas, underweight and struggling, his parents asked the priest to come to their home to baptize him. It was only in recent years when Coffin’s sister told him that a bowl in their mother’s home, which his mother often used to deliver soup to neighbours who fell ill, was, in fact, his baptismal font. “I said I’d like to have that bowl. Mum, who was well into her 90s at this point, said, ‘I’m not finished with it,’ ” he recounts, acknowledging that indeed his mother’s ministry of caring for the sick wasn’t finished. The bowl has since been passed down to him and he says it is a daily reminder of his baptism. He added that Bible stories his parents and grandparents read to him and a pre-school Sunday school class taught by his mother’s cousin, “Aunt Lucy,” were an important part of his Christian education.

He said he first heard a call to ministry as an undergraduate student at Queen’s College in St. John’s. He spoke to the principal of the college at the time, but was told “Young man, I think you’d better give this more thought,” he recalled. At almost the same time, his friend David Torraville, now the bishop of Central Newfoundland, also spoke to the principal but was told to get out of the man’s office, a memory Coffin says the two bishops recently joked about.

In Coffin’s case, time for more reflection “and salt air deprivation” while he spent a year with the medical corp. of the military in Calgary was useful, he said. When he returned to Memorial University and Queen’s College in Newfoundland, he took the calling seriously, finished his undergraduate degree and completed a master of divinity degree. He was serving as a priest in Newfoundland when he met his wife, Monica, with whom he has four children, the last of whom is just graduating from university, he said. The family has lived in Corner Brook for the last 18 years.

Coffin spoke of the value of consultation and fellowship. He has made a habit of leaving his sermon notes on his desk for suggestions and input from Monica, who is also ordained. “I have a wonderful staff around and people available for consultation, and I have regular contact with other bishops for advice and just to converse with,” he said, noting that he appreciates people who challenge his thinking or plans. “It’s always healthy to have people around you who will do that…to make sure you don’t get into hot water. It’s a fellowship I rely on.”

Editor’s note: Several minor corrections have been made to quotes in this article.

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Anglican Journal News, June 13, 2014

Small island states and global warming

Posted on: June 11th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Small island states and global warming

Posted By Bp Terry Brown

05 June 2014

A reflection for World Environment Day from Dr Terry Brown, former Bishop of Malaita, Anglican Church of Melanesia (1996 to 2008).

We sometimes have very strange ways of imagining or writing about small island states and global warming. For example, we may think of the small island as a kind of oil rig, locked forever at a certain height from the bottom of the sea, being overwhelmed by the rising sea level, incapable of response, a victim. Or we may speak of small island states as “sinking” into the sea when precisely the opposite is happening. We may assign blame to some, innocence to others. Indeed, small island states themselves sometimes take on these explanations. But it is not really as simple as all that.

Quite a few years ago, I arranged to have a small holiday house of bush materials constructed beside the sea on a small atoll-enclosed island on the east side of the large island of Malaita in Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Because it was so close to the sea (the children swung from the nearby tree to dive into the sea), I arranged for the house to be on high timber pillars, the local fashion.

I had many enjoyable trips to the house but began to notice something. Rather than the sea encroaching upon my house, climbing up the pillars, sand was climbing up the pillars and my house was (so to speak) moving away from the sea. More and more sand was being deposited upon the beach. Now the tree near my house was rather far away from the sea and children could no longer dive into the sea from its branches.

I asked local people what had happened. They took me to the other side of the island, where a seawall had been constructed to protect a large church nearby. There the seawall was being eaten away by the sea and a side of the church was in danger of falling into the sea. It appeared that the sea was rising and taking away the island.

Of course, I learned, it was all about currents that were both depositing and removing sand. This would be very evident after big storms. Sometimes big gaps closed with more sand, sometimes islands were torn in two. There was a sense in which the island was alive, actively responding (often quite well) to the rising sea level, when not interfered with.

I am not suggesting there is no climate change crisis. Small island states are very vulnerable. But nature also has considerable capacity to adapt. But we contribute to climate change and paralyze nature’s capacity to adapt when we attempt to engineer or control nature: when we cover cities with concrete, when we destroy mangroves and replace them with seawalls, when we replace natural riverbeds with cement ones (remember New Orleans), when we strip the land of forest and seas of fish, when we destroy forests to grow grain to produce ethanol, and when we (including the citizens of small island states) insist that cars and trucks are the best transport, buying more and more of them beyond sustainability and putting tons and tons of pollution in the air.

I lived about 22 years in the Solomon Islands over about 40 years. During that time I have seen enormous destruction, now culminating in killer storms, flash floods, rapid sea level rise and increasing poverty, violence and corruption. It is time to reaffirm the “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation” championed by the World Council of Churches decades ago.

Poverty also causes environmental destruction and climate change: the need to sell a precious area of rainforest to foreign loggers to pay school fees, the need to live on an urban flood plain because no other land is available, the failure to repair a polluting truck because there is no money to do so, and dumping garbage anywhere because the city cannot afford garbage collection.

Small island states are often just as guilty as big continent states. Just because the latter produce more pollution, it does not mean the former are off the hook. Some of the world’s worst pollution is in small island states around the world, where the need for cash in the face of poverty brings about the destruction of nature. Part of the solution is a lot less global money spent on war and much more on poverty alleviation.

The answer is a personal commitment to leave only a very light carbon footprint on this earth, to allow nature a fair amount of freedom and respect, and to address the economic and political structures of global society that both cause global warning and prohibit it from being addressed politically. The problem is not nature’s, the problem is ours.

Pope John XXIII was fond of quoting the proverb, “drops of water wear away the stone”. No matter how small our contributions to addressing climate change and global warming may be, no matter how small our island state is, let us be those drops of clean water, wearing away the stone of global warming.

Dr Terry Brown is currently Bishop-in-charge of  Church of the Ascension, Hamilton, Ontario, in the Anglican Diocese of Niagara,  Anglican Church of Canada

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), June 06/06/2014

 

 

Mia Anderson: On the stage, on the page and in the pulpit

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Leigh Anne Williams

 

The Rev. Mia Anderson, who won the 2013 Montreal International Poetry Prize, appeared in many stage productions in Canada and the U.K. before becoming an Anglican priest. Photo: Danielle Giguére


A shorter version of this story was published in the May issue of the Anglican Journal.

 

Staged as a play, the Rev. Mia Anderson’s life would have a plot full of twists and surprises.

Act 1: A young Canadian actress sets off for theatre school in London, England, and soon is acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Act 2: She tends sheep on a farm with her husband in southern Ontario.

Act 3: As a priest in Quebec City, she becomes a shepherd of a different sort, using music, a garden and a labyrinth to rejuvenate the parish.

Act 4: She steps into a different kind of spotlight when one of her poems wins a $20,000 international prize

The play may seem to be about four different lives, but in each there is an artist contemplating and seeking to express something about truth, the divine and human life.

Anderson grew up in Toronto in a family that was not particularly religious. She watched her mother write poetry, and her parents took their children to the theatre from a young age. Theatre grew in importance for her.

Early in her acting days, she appeared in summer theatre festivals in southern Ontario and did two seasons at the Stratford Festival while still an English major at the University of Toronto’s . She travelled to England for classical theatre training, and soon an audition led to a role in a Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night. Looking at the posters for the show in the London Underground, she recalls thinking, “Here I am, this hick from the colonies, and here’s my name for doing Shakespeare up on the walls of London…This is really mind-boggling.”

Anderson went on to do more Shakespeare at the Ludlow Shakespeare Festival in the ruins of a medieval castle, repertory theatre and to act in the Royal Shakespeare Company, eventually acting in experimental productions with prominent English director Peter Brook.

After four years, she returned to Canada, finished her undergraduate degree and then an M.A., and was once more performing at the Stratford Festival. (See photo below: Playing Julia in the Stratford Festival’s 1975 production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Photo: Robert C. Ragsdale)

In the early 1970s, she also staged her own one-woman CanLit-based show, Ten Women, Two Men and a Moose, which toured nationally. In that show, Anderson performed pieces drawn from contemporary Canadian literature such as Michel Tremblay’s Les Belles Soeurs, Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel and Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman.Atwood injected some comedy, not only from her novel but also with a personal suggestion that Anderson include another bit of Canadiana—an audio recording of a Quebecois hunter’s practical instructions on how to attract a moose. The second act opened with Anderson just quietly sitting on stage in dappled light, like sunlight through forest leaves, while the recording played. “People fell about. It was so funny because it’s telling you how to imitate the sound of the female peeing in the water of the marsh because that attracts the male,” she said, laughing. “So, thanks to Peggy for that idea. That’s why the moose is in the title.”

And the sheep? While teaching at the University of Guelph, Anderson met her husband, Archdeacon Thomas Settle, who was dean of arts at the time. He had been a Methodist minister in England, but came to Canada as professor of philosophy. After they married, it was Anderson’s idea to live on a farm and raise animals in addition to their other careers.

Anderson says her interest in religion began long before she met her husband as a personal search, “sort of like a wisdom tooth, that kind of started up and receded again,” she said. She became familiar with Anglican worship while at Trinity College, and in England had attended an Anglican church. Along the way, she studied Aikido, a Japanese martial art that has a spiritual side, and the hands-on healing practices of Japanese Reiki. Later, she and Settle were confirmed as Anglicans and studied healing ministries with the Order of St. Luke.

Together, the couple began attending St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Elora, Ont. Anderson loved singing there so much that she later joined the choir at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, Huron St. in Toronto, commuting from the farm twice a week. That musical experience was also an important part of her spiritual development, she said. And it was while singing there one day in 1996 when she heard a call that said “I should be a priest.” Although she had been interested in contemplative prayer and healing ministries, until that moment, “it had simply never crossed my mind that my relationship to the church would be as a priest,” she said. At first she dismissed it because of her age and the cost of training, thinking it was “some…stupid idea of my own brain.” But then she noticed that the idea had begun to “inhabit” her, and she began an intense discernment process. Obstacles she had anticipated seemed to be swept away. Three weeks later, she enrolled in a divinity program at Trinity College. In 1998, she interned with Bishop Rowan Williams, another poet-priest, when he was still in Wales.

Ordained in 2001 at Saint Michael’s Anglican Church in Quebec City, the only parish in which she served, Anderson found lots of work to be done there. The average age of parishioners was 75. The neighbourhood, predominantly francophone, assumed that an Anglican church would be English-only and have nothing to offer them. During Anderson’s time, Saint Michael’s became a bilingual parish. A garden and labyrinth were built on church grounds to serve as an invitation to the surrounding community, and hymns were also sung in French. When Anderson left, the parish was still small, but the average age was 34.

Her theatre experience proved useful. “One wants to have some of the elegance of liturgy, the flow of it, the shape of it, when it peaks and when it unwinds, all those theatrical values,” she acknowledged, but said the connection to drama is sometimes overrated. “The high point for me is always prayer…it’s the cure or care of souls, as the old expression goes.”

Anderson has also published books of poetry. Poetry, she said, seems most closely connected with her work as a priest. “The thing that astonished me…was to find that the sermons and poetry come from the same source inside me.” That might not be true for other poets or priests, she acknowledged. “But it’s probably in the area of just how mysterious it is trying to put the faith into words, and it is mysterious trying to put whatever it is a poem is grasping for into words. That is the parallel.”

Now retired from parish ministry, she and Settle live in the country in the Portneuf region along the St. Lawrence River. When Anderson’s poem “The Antennae” won the Montreal International Poetry Prize in 2013—selected from more than 2,000 entries from 70 countries—she kept reminding herself that the praise and attention were a fleeting, if much appreciated, experience. And the $20,000 prize didn’t hurt. “Poets don’t get that kind of money,” she said.

In 2012, she published The Sunrise Liturgy, a meditative poem sequence that brought theology and poetry together with inspiration from the St. Lawrence, which her publisher Wipf and Stock described as winding across the page as “a tidal presence at once natural and mystical.” A new book, Light Takes, due to be published in August, is less overtly religious. ”I suppose [that] I less and less put the theology in the forefront because it is such a secular age,” said Anderson, “and I want to be talking to people who wouldn’t really want to have anything to do with church but we might still have a conversation.”

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Anglican Journal News, May 26, 2014

 

Anne Blue Wills: Ruth Bell Graham was more than Billy Graham’s wife

Posted on: May 24th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Anne Blue Wills: Ruth Bell Graham was more than Billy Graham’s wife

The story of Ruth Bell Graham is not well-known. Although she embraced her role of “preacher’s wife,” she also lived out a deeply personal Christian commitment, says a scholar who is writing her biography.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, May 22, 2014