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The present and future of locally trained ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada

Posted on: June 23rd, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

Ordination ceremony for locally trained priests Martina Duncan and Angus Muir, who are currently serving at St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Ashcroft, B.C., Territory of the People. Front row, L-R: Pastoral Elder Amy Charlie, Duncan, Bishop Barbara Andrews, Muir, Pastoral Elder Jim White. Submitted photo

The present and future of locally trained ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada

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The following is the second instalment of a two-part article on locally trained ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada. Read Part 1.

Different models for locally trained ministry apply in different dioceses and communities of the Anglican Church of Canada. In general, local training involves a regionally-based program that candidates for ministry can participate in on a part-time basis over an extended period of time.

As opposed to seminary training, regionally provided ministry schools will often have intensive courses that meet for a certain period, such as one week, each season. Candidates for local training feel a deep commitment to carry out ministry, but one that typically must be balanced with other responsibilities.

“People who tend to become locally trained priests are commonly people who had a sense of being called to priestly ministry—but who aren’t going to leave their day jobs or whatever aspect of their lives in order to take this on as a paid career, or lifelong full-time commitment,” Archdeacon William Harrison said.

“Instead, there’s a sense that these are people for whom that’s a ministry to which they’re called and a contribution that they can make to the life of their parishes.”

Before taking on his current position as director of mission and ministry for the Diocese of Huron, Archdeacon Harrison served as ministry development officer for the Diocese of Kootenay, a largely rural diocese that developed local clergy to work in non-stipendiary support positions—still its primary use for locally trained clergy.

“What we’ve seen there [in Kootenay] is a real push to sustain and grow the church in areas where it would be impossible to provide paid seminary-trained clergy to offer real week-to-week leadership,” he said.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Travis O’Brian teaches an Ethics course for the Kootenay School of Ministry that took place in June 2016 in Kelowna, B.C. Photo by Anne Privett

The Kootenay School of Ministry, where Harrison served as principal from 2011 to 2014, evolved out of preparations for locally trained priests and deacons in the diocese. Besides forming priests and deacons, the school also trains licensed lay ministers to take leadership roles in parishes.

In the Territory of the People, locally ordained priests Martina Duncan and Angus Muir attended courses in the Diocese of New Westminster and the Kootenay School of Ministry alongside local and online training. Bishop Barbara Andrews laid out requirements for the candidates to have knowledge in certain areas such as biblical studies, theology, pastoral care, and parish administration.

Once the candidates had met those competencies, the bishop felt prepared to ordain them.

“Because they’re locally trained, they’re also non-stipendiary, so I put a condition on the parish that they will provide a certain amount of funds for them to continue their studies,” Bishop Andrews said.

“It’s lifelong learning, which we say for all priests, but most of us go to seminary and then we don’t continue studying after that in the same intentional way.”

Supporting locally trained ministry

Archdeacon Harrison saw the February consultation in Niagara Falls, Equipping the Saints: A National Gathering on Local Initiatives in Theological Education for Priestly Ministry—which focused on alternative diocesan training as well as seminary training—as an important part of the response by the Anglican Church of Canada to the increased role of locally trained ministry.

He believed the future of locally trained ministry would be an ongoing discussion with the Committee for Faith, Worship, and Ministry and the national church.

“My sense is that in many ways, the most important facilitating role that the church national can play is by enabling all of the kinds of preparation for ordination to continue in a conversation and in mutual support,” he said.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald suggested that the Anglican Church of Canada might support locally trained ministry by recognizing the growing number of clergy in this condition, and adopting measures to reflect the unique conditions under which they carry out their (generally non-paid) ministry.

Such measures might include supplementing their work by providing resources for ongoing training, providing subsidies for the elderly who do not have pensions, or enabling them to take some much-needed vacation.

“Very few of them get time off,” Bishop MacDonald said. “If the church started a program to allow clergy to cover for these clergy while they went off and had some time off, that would be a great help … There are a lot of ways in which the church could help out to support locally raised, locally trained clergy in the very challenging circumstances that they do their work.”

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, June 22, 2017

Beyond #Canada150: A Statement from the Primate on National Aboriginal Day 2017

Posted on: June 20th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Beyond #Canada150: A Statement from the Primate on National Aboriginal Day 2017

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Like many other Canadians, I am mindful that within just a couple of weeks of observing National Aboriginal Day on June 21, we will be commemorating 150 years of Confederation on July 1. For many this will be a great celebration complete with flag raisings and fly passes, parades and concerts, races and regattas, feasts and fire works. For many, this will be a time of national thanksgiving, and rightly so, for among other things the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with the benefits we enjoy as Canadians. It will be a time for reflection on our place in the family of nations committed to peace and freedom for all peoples in the world.

Yet for many #Canada150 will pass with much less of an air of celebration given the history of relationships between the First Peoples of this land and the Settler Peoples. For some, #Canada150 is now #Resistance150, as #Canada150 is a reminder that this country’s founding is inextricably linked to this relationship. This relationship is marked by an imperial arrogance that became enshrined in a Federal Government Policy of Assimilation of the First Peoples into the culture, social structures and governance established by colonial powers.

Enforced by the establishing of the Indian Residential Schools, generations of Indigenous Peoples lost much of their language, culture, identity and spirituality. Through “the child taken and the parent left behind” there were so many years of lost love resulting in a devastating impact on people’s dignity and self-worth.

The legacy of those schools lives on. It lives on even after the Government of Canada finally issued an Apology in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008 in Ottawa. It lives on after a number of the churches which ran the schools on behalf of the government – including our own – made formal apologies. None of us will ever forget the words of Archbishop Michael Peers, “…I am sorry that we tried to remake you in our image…We failed you. We failed God. We failed ourselves…”. (August 6, 1993, Minaki, Ontario)

TRC Calls to Action

As Canadians and as Anglicans, particularly those who followed the work of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the time between National Aboriginal Day and Canada Day is a time to re-read the 94 Calls to Action that accompanied the final report of the TRC Commissioners, released in December 2015. Counting myself in that company, I feel bound to draw the attention of all Canadians to a number of those Calls, to our deepen understanding of them, to recommit ourselves to the work they call for, and to pray in hope for the healing and reconciliation to which they aspire.

#53 calls for the establishing of a National Council for Reconciliation that would “monitor, evaluate, and report annually to Parliament and the Peoples of Canada on the Government of Canada’s post apology progress on reconciliation”.

#78 calls “The Government of Canada to commit to making a funding contribution of $10 Million over seven years to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation…”. This Centre is already in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, Provincial Education Ministers and numerous community based organizations, producing resources that will educate all Canadians on the history of the Residential Schools (#62, #63, #64 & #65).

#81 and #82 – call for the erection of a “Residential Schools Monument” in the nation’s capital and in each provincial capital “to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities”.

#68 calls on “the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, and the Canadian Museums Association to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017 by establishing a dedicated national funding program for commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation”.

#45 calls for a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, renewing or establishing Treaty relationships, and taking steps “to ensure that Aboriginal peoples are full partners in Confederation”.

#79 calls for a national heritage plan that will include ways to mark the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history.

#80 calls for the establishing of “…a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation…”.

The legacy of the Residential Schools

A number of the Calls to Action speak to the need for much more attention to “the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools…” (#21); the vulnerability of Aboriginal women and girls to violence through human trafficking (#41); and the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal peoples and to “eliminate barriers to the creation of additional Aboriginal healing lodges within the federal correctional system” (#35).

So numerous are the concerns for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples, that Call to Action #56 calls on the Prime Minister to issue an “annual ‘State of Aboriginal Peoples’ report”.

Language, culture, and spirituality

Many of you will know that several of the Calls to Action speak to the revitalization of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, including the enactment of an Aboriginal Languages Act and the appointment of a Commissioner to oversee its work (#14 & #15).

Another Call issues a challenge for the churches to provide permanent funding for community-controlled healing and reconciliation projects, culture and language revitalization projects, and education and relationship building projects. (#61)

I am pleased to say that long before such a Call, our Church was supporting and continues to support projects for recovery of language, culture and spirituality through the Anglican Healing Fund. As the Church celebrates the 25th anniversary of the work of this Fund, we are committed to rebuilding its base by raising $1 million this year to ensure at least $200,000 is available for each of the next five years for continuing this good work. We have spent 22 Days from May 31 to National Aboriginal Day to deepen our commitment to this work.

As Esther Wesley, the Coordinator of the Anglican Healing Fund has said, “Recovery of language is about recovery of one’s identity, dignity and delight in being an Indigenous person”. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Esther for her outstanding work, not only with the Healing Fund, but also as our lead staff person for anti racism training programs throughout the whole Church. We are blessed by her passion, patience and perseverance in this work.

Animator for Reconciliation

It is important that I continue to hold these Calls to Action before the Church so that as responsible citizens and as people whose faith is absolutely centred in the reconciling work of God in Christ, we can be proactive in speaking of the Calls and in supporting them.

I am ever grateful for the ongoing work of the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice and the direction in which it points our Church. I am also delighted by our Church’s commitment to engage, on a full-time basis, someone who will serve as Animator for Reconciliation. Melanie Delva has begun her work. Her mantra for this ministry is that reconciliation is a spiritual practise. Melanie will be travelling the country extensively and working with bishops, synods, regions and parishes, colleges and schools, with elders and youth, in supporting their commitments in responding to the Calls to Action.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The TRC Commissioners declared the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be the framework for reconciliation in Canada. They called on the churches among others in Canadian society to endorse the declaration and put in place plans for adhering to it.

I am pleased that in 2010 our General Synod endorsed the declaration. In 2016 I issued a public statement “Let our ‘yes’ be yes” outlining a number of ways in which we as a church might honour and uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

They included the appointing of a Council of Indigenous Elders and Youth to hold our Church accountable for its public endorsement of the UN declaration. That Council was commissioned for its work at General Synod in 2016 and held its first face-to-face meeting last month. Co-chaired by Judith Moses and Leigh Kern, the members have appropriately renamed themselves “The Vision Keepers”.

Indigenous self-determination in the Anglican Church of Canada

In relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls to Action, I was always taken by the interest of the Commissioners in the Anglican Church of Canada’s commitment to self-determination for Indigenous Peoples within our church. And I mean real, practical on-the-ground commitment.

I mean responding to the call for the appointment of a National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. The Right Reverend Mark L. MacDonald was commissioned for his ministry ten years ago at General Synod in 2007.

I mean the setting aside of rules and procedures common to our processes for the election of bishops, so as to create space for electing Indigenous bishops in accord with Indigenous customs.

I think of Bishop Lydia Mamakwa’s election and the subsequent emerging of Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh. I think of the election of Adam Halkett to be the Indigenous Bishop for the Diocese of Saskatchewan. I think of Bishop Barbara Andrews work in the newly proclaimed Territory of the People. I think of Bishop Riscylla Walsh Shaw, a citizen of the Métis Nation of Ontario. And I think of, the Right Reverend Sidney Black, the newly consecrated Indigenous Bishop for Treaty 7 Territory in the Diocese of Calgary.

I think of the work of the Indigenous House of Bishops Leadership Circle, the Anglican Council of Indigenous People and the Sacred Circle. The work of each of those circles is almost entirely focussed on self-determination and what that might look like.

The vision of a truly Indigenous Church within The Anglican Church of Canada is enshrined in the 1994 Covenant – A Journey of Spiritual Renewal. In 1995, General Synod accepted the hand of partnership extended by Indigenous leaders in the hope of that vision. In 2016, the whole Church took account of a statement from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples “Where we are: Twenty Years after the Covenant”. That statement spoke of a ministry plan for Indigenous ministry across our Church.

This summer, we are planning a consultation to be held in Pinawa, Manitoba in mid-September (14-17). Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from throughout the Church, all of whom have a demonstrated commitment to the vision of a truly indigenous expression of the Church, will gather. Over the course of three days, we will take stock of where we have come in “The Journey of Spiritual Renewal”.

We will celebrate great moments that have inspired us to continue the journey. We will name issues that cause us from time to time to hesitate or lack the courage of our conviction with respect to self-determination. We will take some time to learn more about the nature and substance of self-determination.

We will be blessed to have Dr. Martin Brokenleg, a highly respected Indigenous scholar, elder and priest as our keynote speaker and animator for this conversation. We will conclude our time with some engagement in a report from a focus group convened by Bishop Mark MacDonald with respect to a model for self-determination with a fair degree of flexibility within it. For now it bears the image of an “Indigenous Confederacy” within The Anglican Church of Canada. The consultation promises to be a challenging but fascinating conversation marked I trust, by much grace and hope.

Throughout our time we will be immersed in the story of The Road to Emmaus (Day 1 – on the road, Day 2 – at the inn, and Day 3 – on the road again). The name of the story in an Indigenous translation of the Gospel of Luke is “The Road to Warm Springs”. That is the theme for our time together. I ask your prayers for Bishop Mark and me as we host this gathering and for the Planning Team co-chaired by the Rev. Norm Wesley and Dr. Randall Fairey.

The Fundamental Principle 

I conclude by quoting from the last of the Ten Principles the Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared as underlying their 94 Calls to Action.   It reads in part…

“Together, Canadians must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practise reconciliation in our everyday lives—within ourselves and our families, and in our communities, governments, places of worship, schools, and workplaces. To do so constructively, Canadians must remain committed to the ongoing work of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.

For many Survivors and their families, this commitment is foremost about healing themselves, their communities, and their nations in ways that revitalize individuals as well as Indigenous cultures, languages, spirituality, laws, and governance systems. For governments, building a respectful relationship involves dismantling a centuries-old political and bureaucratic culture in which, all too often, policies and programs are still based on failed notions of assimilation. For churches, demonstrating long-term commitment requires atoning for actions within the residential schools, respecting Indigenous spirituality, and supporting Indigenous peoples’ struggles for justice and equity. …For Canadians from all walks of life, reconciliation offers a new way of living together.”

Pray with me that this principle be etched on the very soul of our Church and our commitment to healing, reconciliation and new life.

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, June 20, 2017

Locally trained ministry a rising force in rural and northern dioceses

Posted on: June 16th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Ordination of locally trained deacons in the Diocese of Brandon. Clockwise from left: The Rev. Cheryl Kukurudz, Bishop William Cliff, Archdeacon Kevin Goodrich, and newly ordained deacons The Rev. Elaine Dixon (front row, right) and The Rev. Lorraine Bonnell. Submitted photo

Locally trained ministry a rising force in rural and northern dioceses

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The following is the first instalment of a two-part article on locally trained ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada.

On March 17 the Territory of the People, formerly known as the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, ordained its first two locally trained priests. Having each previously served for one year as deacons and undertaken all their studies locally, Martina Duncan and Angus Muir were set to join the team at St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Ashcroft, B.C. following their ordination to the priesthood.

The increased role of locally trained ministry—in which leaders and candidates for clerical positions receive all their studies and training from within their own local community—is a growing trend across the Anglican Church of Canada. But it is in rural and northern dioceses that locally trained ministry is making its greatest leaps and bounds as a vital part of wider Anglican ministry.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said that locally trained clergy, mostly non-stipendiary, are particularly common in areas such as northern Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. He recalled that almost all clergy in the Diocese of Alaska during his tenure as bishop there were locally trained.

“It’s very, very common in a number of contexts, and it’s growing,” Bishop MacDonald said. “We’re seeing more and more of this type of ministry.”

In the Diocese of Brandon, Bishop William Cliff is currently putting together a program to identify leaders in parishes and provide them with education to take their ministry to the next level.

“We are a Council of the North diocese without a great deal of resources, and we are spread over a very large area, and many of our parishes are small due to rural depopulation,” Bishop Cliff said. “So locally raised clergy are going to be the way some of our rural parishes survive.”

In the Territory of the People, Bishop Barbara Andrews said that while the trend is based partly on population shifts and economic pressures, it also represents an embrace of the belief in a “ministry of all the baptized” that all Christians are called to—and that “within the community, all the necessary gifts are there for leadership already.”

“We recognize who the natural spiritual leaders are of a community,” Bishop Andrews said. “In a sense you might say that it’s more of an Indigenous peoples’ way of looking at spiritual leadership in the community … We call forth the spiritual leaders, and then we’re committed to helping them get the necessary training they need.”

‘A more flexible church’

Far beyond forming the majority of clergy in many areas, Bishop MacDonald said that locally trained clergy have become “in many places, the only way that you’re going to have any kind of ministry at all”.

“The capacity for ministry in the old model is gone all over the place,” Bishop MacDonald said. “And that’s increasing rapidly, so that you’re finding it’s not just Indigenous congregations on remote reserves, but also communities in rural areas, and even in some cases in suburban areas.”

Archdeacon William Harrison, currently director for mission and ministry in the Diocese of Huron, said that the addition of locally trained ministers to parishes and working with licensed lay readers and ministers has resulted in a greater emphasis on teams able to respond to a variety of tasks.

In doing so, Harrison said, “It creates a more flexible church.”

“The model that we’ve been working with of parish churches, each of which has at least one sort of full-time priest and a building … that model is rapidly failing,” he said.

“Many of those do continue and will continue. But as a uniform model for the whole church, that one’s coming apart … What we’re looking at is the flexibility of ministry to meet a flexibility of Christian communities, and I think our faith communities, our congregations, are starting to look somewhat different.”

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, June 16, 2017

Mentor-Apprentice Program keeps Indigenous languages alive

Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Frances Quocksister (left) and Melanie Stapley have begun their third year together as a mentor-apprentice team, helping preserve the Kwak’wala language as part of the B.C.-based Mentor-Apprenticeship Program spearheaded by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. The Anglican Healing Fund is providing $15,000 to support the program as part of its ongoing focus on Indigenous language recovery. Submitted photo

Mentor-Apprentice Program keeps Indigenous languages alive

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More than 34 First Nations languages and 61 dialects are spoken in British Columbia, a figure that represents 60 per cent of all First Nations languages in Canada. But where languages such as Cree and Ojibwe count tens of thousands of speakers across wide swathes of the country, many of the unique languages in B.C. are spoken by a mere handful of elders.

One such language is Kwak’wala, spoken by the Wei Wei Kum and Wei Wei Kai nations near Campbell River, B.C. For the last two years, members from each nation—elder Frances Quocksister and Melanie Stapley, respectively—have worked together to help preserve the language as a Mentor-Apprentice team, part of an ongoing immersion program run by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC).

“My grandfather … went to residential school, which basically stopped all of the language knowledge from passing on to his children … so it’s huge to be able to go out and have that revitalization,” said Stapley, a supervisor at the Wei Wei Kai childcare centre on Quadra Island who oversees the centre’s language and culture program,

The Anglican Healing Fund has granted $15,000 to the Anglican-founded, Victoria, B.C.-based group called Aboriginal Neighbours to support the project Revitalizing Indigenous Living Languages: A Gift to Future Generations, which supports engagement in FPCC’s three-year Mentor-Apprentice Program. The grant includes three $5,000 honorariums for elder-teachers on mentor-apprentice teams in Ladysmith and Port Hardy, as well as a third team in a location yet to be determined.

In the Mentor-Apprentice Program, mentors and apprentices spend a total of 900 hours together speaking the language one-on-one over the course of three years.

Every week, Melanie Stapley spends 10 to 12 hours with her mentor, Frances Quocksister. They meet at Quocksister’s house at the beginning of each day and sit at the kitchen table for activities such as reading picture books, in which Stapley will describe in Kwak’wala what is happening in different pictures. The pair will often play card or board games together, and occasionally members of other mentor-apprentice teams in the community will join them.

“When I started [the program, my knowledge of Kwak’wala] was very beginning[-level],” Stapley recalled. “I basically knew how to say [the words for] animals and numbers … [There aren’t] a lot of people in our community that speak the language, so even hearing it was pretty foreign for me.”

After 600 hours of language experience in the first two years, Stapley is now able to engage in fairly complete conversations in Kwak’wala with her mentor.

Language revitalization

Aboriginal Neighbours, an ecumenical group initiated by the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia that brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous members in support of justice for First Peoples, has played a key role in helping to raise money for the Mentor-Apprentice Program.

The group’s involvement began in February 2015, when treasurer Ruth D’Hollander attended a special display of the exhibition Our Living Languages: First Peoples’ Voices in B.C. at the Royal B.C. Museum. During a panel discussion at the display, which was organized for International Mother Language Day, speakers discussed efforts within the province to revitalize Indigenous languages.

D’Hollander, who is non-Indigenous, was at the time becoming more aware of the colonial and racist values that drove the residential school system, and the role of the schools in contributing to language loss.

“I realized that it was our government and our churches who took these languages away … I’d been to many hearings here on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver, and I heard so many people firsthand talk about being beaten and shamed for using their mother tongue,” she recalled, adding, “The whole injustice of it just hit me hard.”

When D’Hollander asked the panel what single action might best address their most pressing concerns, speakers immediately raised the issue of language revitalization. Dr. Peter Jacobs, an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Victoria who is of Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) and Kwagulh (Kwakiutl) ancestry, pointed to support for the Mentor-Apprentice program as a particularly effective way to preserve Indigenous languages.

An effective learning model

For the last three years, Jacobs has been researching the Mentor-Apprentice Program and studying outcomes for both mentors and apprentices. His findings have determined that the program offers significant advantages over other forms of language instruction, chief among them more immersion time for learners to become conversant in the language.

By comparison, other models for language instruction, such as classroom-based courses, generally involve fewer hours of immersion and intensity, and require a greater capacity of people to fill classes. Compared to Cree and Ojibwe, less prevalent languages such as Kwak’wala are unable to mobilize the necessary resources and people to sustain programs such as university-based courses.

“Right now, for some communities, [the Mentor-Apprentice Program] will be the most effective way to create a new generation of speakers for the time being,” Jacobs said.

The program, he added, offers a deeper meaning and engagement for mentors and apprentices alike. For mentors, helping to recover their language by passing it on to the generation can have a significant positive healing effect.

Apprentices, meanwhile, often find employment in their communities directly related to language revitalization, such as becoming teachers. A large percentage go on to pursue higher education in order to better support local language initiatives.

“The apprentices are becoming leaders in their community in many different ways … They’re really having a clear connection with their identity, with their language and their culture, and they’re attributing that to the other effects that it’s having in their [lives], like getting motivation to go to school or things like that.”

Monetary support

Crucial to the success of the Mentor-Apprentice Program are honorariums and stipends given to teams, based on evaluations from teams of community elders on the progress of the learner that take place every 100 hours of immersion.

Typically, mentors receive $25 per hour, while learners receive $20 per hour. Those stipends enable young people to devote the necessary time to participating in learning the language, which may require taking time off work.

“That’s where the money part becomes crucial, because you can’t really ask someone to take 300 hours out of their life every year—unless they already had money, but they don’t,” Jacobs said.

Stipends also enable elders—many of whom are on low incomes—to participate in the program, and serve in many ways to affirm the wealth of knowledge they offer as mentors.

In the case of her own mentor, Melanie Stapley said, “it allows her to be able to go out and do things that she might not have been able to do. It also gives her consistency. I go to her house every day and can help her with things.”

Working through Aboriginal Neighbours, D’Hollander has led efforts to raise $47,000 for the Mentor-Apprentice Program by applying for grants from organizations that included the Anglican Healing Fund and the Anglican Foundation of Canada. Anglican contributions include the $15,000 grant from the Healing Fund and two consecutive $10,000 donations from the Anglican Foundation.

In light of a growing sense of urgency to preserve languages at risk of extinction, every little bit helps.

“This is a real state of emergency, because the people who have the language to pass it on are dying,” D’Hollander said.

“These are the elders, these are the residential school survivors, and we don’t have much time for this. We don’t have much time left.”

Support language revitalization projects, like the Mentor-Apprentice Program, through the Anglican Healing Fund.

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, June 07, 2017

Muslim-Christian relations in Mkumba: Co-operative, but guarded

Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By André Forget on June 07, 2017


Imam Omari Bakari Mngwawaya (left) and Bishop James Almasi say relations between Muslims and Christians in southern Tanzania are positive.
Photo: André Forget


Mkumba, Tanzania

“Salaam Alaikum” (Peace to you).

The diocese of Masasi’s Bishop James Almasi stands beneath the spreading branches of a large tree at the centre of the village, and pauses as the people seated before him acknowledge his greeting with the traditional response: “Alaikum Salaam” (And to you, peace).

Many of the men wear the traditional Muslim kofia hat, and amongst the crowd of women draped in colourful kitenge fabrics, several sport the tightly wrapped hijabs, but when he follows the Muslim greeting by hailing them in the name of Jesus Christ, the response of “Amin” (Arabic form of Amen) is just as loud.

Speaking in Swahili, Almasi introduces the villagers to the group of Canadians gathered behind him, who have come to southern Tanzania to learn about All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC), a project focused on maternal and newborn health. The project was  spearheaded by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada.

When Almasi finishes the introduction, a man sitting in the midst of the crowd stands and introduces himself as Omari Bakari Mngwawaya, imam of the local mosque.

“I would like to thank you for not separating the [Christian and Muslim beneficiaries],” he says. “The projects we received—of course, we are so thankful because one of the boreholes was put in very close to our mosque!”

There is general laughter, and the meeting gets down to business. Beneficiaries of a previous PWRDF program in the region (on which the AMCC project is based) stand to express their appreciation for the livestock, seeds and well they have received, and report on the progress made.

Some have Muslim names, while others are clearly Christian, but as on outsider, it is hard to immediately tell. based on name or dress, who follows what faith. Creed, in Mkumba, as in other villages in Masasi, is one strand of a complex web of identity.

Take Almasi himself.

The only son of two Christians from a small, predominantly Muslim village, his first name is Christian, but his family name reflects the Muslim heritage of his father’s family, most of whom practise Islam to this day.

Almasi’s father converted to Christianity under the influence of an uncle who was a church elder. But according to Almasi, the conversion did not cause a rupture within the family, nor has it had a detrimental effect on his own relationship to his cousins and uncles.

“They respect me to be part and parcel of the family,” he says later in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “If we could go back to my home village where my parents are, Christians in that village are a minority, Muslims are a majority. [But] what happens when I go there on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist? The church is full! But three-quarters are Muslims.”

A similar dynamic was in action earlier that week, at the Sunday morning worship service at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew in the city of Masasi.

Many men and women in the large throng of onlookers at the back of the church had been dressed in distinctively Muslim garb, and Almasi and the diocesan development officer, the Rev. Geoffrey Monjesa, both confirmed that these were indeed Tanzanian Muslims.

“Is very good! It’s very good,” Almasi says when asked about the relationship between Christians and Muslims in Masasi. “You should not forget one thing: in Africa, the life is a communal life…You wouldn’t expect that we can fight each other if my father’s side all are Muslims.”


Imam Omari Bakari Mngwawaya addresses the delegation on behalf of the villagers of Mkumba. Photo: André Forget


 

Tension over census

But while many Anglicans in Masasi stress the co-operative nature of the relationship between the two faiths, some also acknowledge that tensions exist between some Muslims and Christians in Tanzania.

PWRDF and its partner groups, like the diocese of Masasi, provide resources based on needs identified locally, without consideration of religious affiliation. However, the Rev. Lucas Buriani, project manager for AMCC, says sometimes concerns are raised that PWRDF’s development work could be a cover for missionary activity.

“[Local Muslim] perception is, ‘Maybe these people are supporting us now, and later on they will baptize us,’ ” he says. “You talk about issues of health, [but] people are starting to ask, ‘Are you coming to build a church here?’ ”

Buriani says he and his fellow workers assure the people that, “We are not preaching the Bible, we are not preaching the gospel, we are preaching health. “We are doing work that God wants us to do to help anyone we meet on the way.”

And it is not only the Muslim population that suspects the other side of ulterior motives.

The diocese of Masasi is unwilling to publish numbers regarding its membership, out of a concern that if Christians are found to be in the minority, some Muslim leaders might try to push for recognition of Tanzania as an officially Muslim country.

Tanzania has not asked about religious affiliation in a census since 1967, though the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project estimates about 60% of the country is Christian. These numbers are disputed, and many Tanzanians believe it is closer to an even split between Muslims and Christians.

Monjesa says there was an attempt, spearheaded by conservative Muslim groups, to include religious data in the 2012 census. “The Muslims actually wanted to know exactly how many Christians and how many Muslims [there were in Tanzania],” he says. “The reason behind was, if…they see that they are more than the Christians, they wanted to [say], ‘Why can’t we declare that the country is an Islamic country?’ ”

Christian groups resisted this attempt, insisting that it went against the nation’s status as a secular country, and in the end, the data wasn’t gathered.  Tanzania remains an officially secular country.

However, the issue is far from resolved.

According to the U.S. Department of State’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2015, the last year for which information is available, there have been arson attacks on churches in the western part of the country, and 2013 saw a number of attacks on Christian clergy and churches, including a bombing of a Roman Catholic church in the northern Arusha region.


Bishop James Almasi with some members of the PWRDF delegation. Photo: André Forget


‘We don’t have a problem here’

Back in Mkumba, the village imam Mngwawaya has agreed to answer a few of the Journal’s questions, with Almasi as interpreter.

“We, Christians and Muslims, we don’t have any problems, our life is a communal life,” he says, brushing away suggestions that there might be tensions between local Christian and Muslim communities.

“If someone who is a Muslim is having some sort of problems, that makes Christians come and work together. If Christians have problems, the Muslims go there and work.”

“We don’t have that problem here,” he says, when asked if there have been attempts from people inside or outside the community to sow divisions between Muslims and Christians. “And we don’t have any experience seeing some people to come and convince [us] not to communicate with the Christians.”

Mngwawaya reiterates his appreciation for cows and borehole provided by the PWRDF project.

As the delegation drives away from Mkumba later that afternoon, the villagers join in a circle dance, just as they had when we drove up earlier that day.

Some of the participants had introduced themselves as Christians then, and some as Muslims. In Mkumba, at least, they seemed to be able to find common ground.

 

 

About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.

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Anglican Journal News, June 07, 2017

Changing lives, one cow at a time

Posted on: May 29th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By André Forget on May 29, 2017

When Harima Mkitage’s family received a cow four years ago, her parents used some of the money the cow brought in to pay her school fees. Now, she wants to become a livestock specialist. Photo: André Forget


Mkumba, Tanzania
Seventeen-year-old Harima Mkitage runs her hand gently down the back of Liviki, a doe-eyed Friesian cow chewing indolently on the fresh grass while a calf pulls at its teat. Harima smiles shyly and exchanges a few quiet words in Swahili with the man leaning against the railing of the cow pen. He is asking her what she wants to do when she finishes school.

“Harima wants to be a livestock officer,” he tells me. “She is living at boarding school, but when she comes back she learns how to care for the cows.”

Harima’s shyness does not extend to the cow, which she handles with a quiet confidence born, presumably, of deep familiarity. Liviki’s second calf begins nudging at her, and Harima firmly guides the animals to a more open section of the pen.

It is, perhaps, fitting that Harima is considering a career working with cows; it was cows—these cows, in fact—that made it possible for her to pursue an education in the first place.

On the other side of the cow pen, a cluster of Canadians take pictures and listen as Harima’s parents, Hasan Mkitage and Nuru Salumu, talk through an interpreter about how the cow they had received in 2013, as part of a development program supported by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), has affected their lives.

The Canadians are representatives from PWRDF, the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada. They are visiting this village in southern Tanzania’s Lindi region as part of a weeklong visit to learn more about All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC), a $17.69-million PWRDF program to increase health and nutrition for mothers and young children in Eastern Africa.


Hasan Mkitage, Nuru Salumu and their son Jamali beside their cattle pen. Photo: André Forget


Mkitage and Salumu did not receive their cow through AMCC, but through a smaller PWRDF initiative known locally as CHIP, or the Community Health Improvement Program, which ended earlier this year. But because CHIP served as a model for AMCC (which has only just entered its second year of operation), the visitors are being introduced to some of its beneficiaries to get a sense of what the AMCC might accomplish by the time it wraps up in 2020.

Looking happy but distinctly overwhelmed by the attention, Mkitage and Salumu are telling the visitors that they got lucky; Liviki has recently given birth to twins, which they will soon be able to sell.A calf can fetch $1 million Tanzanian shillings, or roughly US$450—a lot of money in a country where, according to the United Nations Human Development Report, 46.6% of the population live on less than US$2 a day. It is clear that by the standards of rural southern Tanzania, Mkitage and Salumu are thriving; not only can they afford school fees for their three children, they have installed a hutch on the other side of the yard and purchased dairy goats. They’ve also been able to plaster the interior of the house and put in a new concrete floor.

It’s a kind of prosperity that they say they would never have expected to achieve before receiving the cow. They explain to the delegates that they are, in turn, trying to share this prosperity with less fortunate members of the village—every day, they deliver a free litre of milk to an older villager who cannot afford to buy it.


Most of Liviki’s milk is sold to the Mkitage’s neighbours, but some is given to older villagers for free. Photo: André Forget


Paying it forward is built into the program in more practical ways as well.

Every family that received a cow was obligated to give the first female calf to the next household on the waiting list, a practice known as sabili. Mkitage and Salumu have already fulfilled this obligation.

Sabili is overseen by the project’s monitoring and evaluation officer, Dismas Menchi—who, this morning, is also serving as the translator through whom I speak with Harima.

Recipients are chosen by the village council based on need, and their place on the list is determined by drawing lots.

I ask Menchi how long it would take before every household in the village had a cow, and he says a few words to one of the villagers, and pauses to calculate.

Mkumba has around 2,500, people, he explains, or about 200 households. The program is in its third cycle already. (The first cohort of 15 recipients have fulfilled their sabili obligations, as has the second cohort; there are now 38 cows in the village.) Menchi estimates it will only be a matter of years before every household in the village had a cow of its own.

 

* * * * * *

 

The changes extend beyond the Mkitage compound, according to Joachim Sapuli, who worked as a livestock officer in Mkumba for the CHIP program for five years, and now provides advice and support to the villagers on matters related to livestock health.

“The economic level has changed, and I can say it has changed abruptly after this project,” says Sapuli.

Many of the houses we passed driving in are still traditional wattle-and-daub style huts, with a thick thatch of dried grasses for a roof. But in Mkumba (though not only in Mkumba), these huts are being replaced by sturdier houses, made of brick and roofed with corrugated galvanized steel.

“There are a few things [people] will invest in immediately when they have extra income,” Zaida Bastos tells me when I ask her about it later. “[First], education, pay the school fees for the children…second is the ability to buy [medicine], third is improvement of the household—so buy a roof, increase the size, build a new house.”

Bastos is director of PWRDF’s development partnership program and one of the staff members travelling with the delegation, and she has been visiting southern Tanzania since she first started working for PWRDF in 1997. In that time, she says, she has seen some remarkable changes.

“For people that travel to Masasi for the first time, they see a very poor country. For me, who has been travelling to Masasi for so long, one of the things that I look for as a sign, is the housing,” she says. “I’m very glad to see so many houses that are built in brick, that have roofs that don’t leak…this is a change!”​

About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.

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Anglican Journal News, May 29, 2017

Revamped church building opens possibilities for New Brunswick parish

Posted on: May 23rd, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

Diocesan council takes place in the main building of St. John (Stone) Church in the Diocese of Fredericton in December 2016. The layout of the room reflects new renovations that have transformed the life of the congregation in many ways. Submitted photo by Gisele McKnight

Revamped church building opens possibilities for New Brunswick parish

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Only a short time ago, St. John (Stone) Church in the Parish of St. Mark faced a situation familiar to many churches across Canada. With a historic church building too large for its present congregation but in need of repair, the parish found itself burdened by high maintenance costs, competing pressures for ministry, and a significant carbon footprint.

Now Stone Church—located in St. John, N.B. in the Diocese of Fredericton—has turned its weaknesses into strengths and a revitalized relationship with the local community. Over the course of 2016, the 191-year-old church underwent a major renovation marked by the demolition of the parish hall, the construction of six new rooms under a previously unused balcony, and flexible seating that replaced the pews.

“It’s kind of like that prayer at the end of the Eucharist—‘more than we can ask or imagine’,” rector John Paul Westin said. “We found that the thing that we thought was actually our main stumbling block became our greatest resource.

“The result of it [was that] instead of having a beautiful old church building that people who want to worship in can come and use for two hours a week, we now have something that’s accessible and used by people for seven days a week.”

Out with the old

At the time Westin took over as rector of Stone Church in August 2013, discussions had been going on for approximately a decade regarding the dilapidated state of the hall, which hosted community programs such as a laundry mission, language classes for immigrants, Bible study, and the Street Hope outreach program.

His predecessor David Edwards—now bishop of Fredericton—also took part in discussions over how to deal with the decaying infrastructure while serving as rector from 2002 to 2011.

“During my time it became clear that something needed to be done with the buildings,” Edwards said. “At that time we vaguely spoke about demolishing the hall and going into one space, but really the main thrust was the replacement or renovation of the hall.”

The cost of renovating the hall would have carried an estimated price tag of $2.2 million, while still leaving the old church building as it was. Though unable to afford to keep both buildings going, parishioners felt called to stay put and minister in their current location.

The obstacles facing the congregation appeared insurmountable—until a new idea came to the fore.

“We had never considered that the church and the hall would be one building,” Westin said.

“When we let go of our expectations of what our limitations were,” he added, “we started to see things from a different perspective.”

In with the new

By demolishing the hall and moving its functions into the church building, the congregation relieved itself of a significant financial and environmental burden while retaining the community programs that used the hall.

The six new rooms under the balcony accommodate a kitchen, office, Sunday school, and meeting rooms. Each has soundproof glass walls, through which anyone inside can still see the stained glass windows visible in the main part of the church.

Meanwhile, the church has undergone extensive renovations through the removal of pews and their replacement by flexible seating in the main part of the sanctuary. In the process, congregation members and guests were once again able to use its balcony, previously closed due to fire regulations.

Westin said that the revamped church has been “extremely well-received” by the congregation and the wider community, including other churches and the Heritage Conversation Service of St. John, which promotes the rehabilitation and development of historic buildings.

Strengthening community ties

Besides opening up new possibility for worship, such as incorporating Messy Church and creating different seating structures for different liturgical purposes, the new layout has helped Stone Church attract a variety of artists and community groups.

Recently, the church hosted a concert by Christian singer-songwriter Steve Bell, who played to a packed house that filled even the balcony seats, and many more concerts are planned in the future. It has also hosted a wide variety of community events, such as a conference for the healthy eating network Everyone Can Eat, and a seminar for Threshold Ministries.

Westin estimated that at least 10 different groups have already held activities in the church, which offers a sound system and completely open free space in which people can set up chairs and tables.

“I think groups are starting to see us, as we had hoped, as a possible venue, so that we can get more people from the community in and using it—so it’s not simply seen as a church worship space, but as a space that might be usable for various community groups.”

While the church still has to finish paying off some of the funds that helped finance the renovation, it remains in line with its projected financial plan. The cost of the new building is presently less than half that of maintaining the two older buildings.

On a deeper level, the reinvention of Stone Church has started a conversation among parishioners about how the structural changes will affect the future life of the congregation. For other churches considering similar renovations, Westin highlighted the need to answer such fundamental questions to better equip each congregation for its own distinct mission and ministry.

“Every building has its own strengths and weaknesses, so I would say just be really open to what God might be able to show you can be done with your building … Try to discern what are the needs of the community, and what are your strengths in your congregation, and what do you need your buildings to be able to be used for in order to accomplish the work that you feel God’s calling you to do in your community.”

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, May 23, 2017

On the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, remembering Martin Luther’s

Posted on: May 16th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By Richard Gunderman

An exhibition for the Luther monument in Worms. AP Photo/Jens Meyer

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses, which helped spark the founding of the Reformation and the division of Christianity into Protestantism and Catholicism.

The 95 Theses critiqued the church’s sale of indulgences, which Luther regarded as a form of corruption. By Luther’s time, indulgences had evolved into payments that were said to reduce punishment for sins. Luther believed that such practices only interfered with genuine repentance and discouraged people from giving to the poor. One of Luther’s most important theological contributions was the “priesthood of all believers,” which implied that clerics possessed no more dignity than ordinary people.

Less known is the crucial role Luther played in making the case for ordinary people to read often and well. Unlike the papacy and its defenders, who were producing their writings in Latin, Luther reached out to Germans in their mother tongue, substantially enhancing the accessibility of his written ideas.

In my teaching of philanthropy, Luther’s promotion of literacy is one of the historic events I often discuss with my students.

Early years

Born in Germany in 1483, Luther followed the wishes of his father to study law. Once, while caught in a terrible thunderstorm, he vowed that if he were saved, he would become a monk.

Indeed, Luther later joined the austere Augustinian order, and became both a priest and a doctor of theology. Later he developed objections to many church practices. He protested the promotion of indulgences, the buying and selling of clerical privileges, and the accumulation of substantial wealth by the church while peasants barely survived. Legend has it that on Oct. 31, 1517, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, the town where he was based.

Luther’s 95 Theses. Keren Tan, CC BY-SA

He was branded an outlaw for refusing to recant his teachings. In 1521, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther from the Roman Church. His patron, Frederick of Saxony, saved Luther from further reprisal and had him taken in secret to a castle, where he remained for two years.

It was during that time that Luther produced an immensely influential translation of the New Testament into German.

Impact of Luther’s writing

Gutenberg’s earlier introduction of the printing press in 1439 made possible the rapid dissemination of Luther’s works throughout much of Europe, and their impact was staggering.

Luther’s collected works run to 55 volumes. It is estimated that between 1520 and 1526, some 1,700 editions of Luther’s works were printed. Of the six to seven million pamphlets printed during this time, more than a quarter were Luther’s works, many of which played a vital role in propelling the reformation forward.

Thanks to Luther’s translation of the Bible, it became possible for German-speaking people to stop relying on church authorities and instead read the Bible for themselves.

Luther argued that ordinary people were not only capable of interpreting the scriptures for themselves, but that in doing so they stood the best chance of hearing God’s word. He wrote,

“Let the man who would hear God speak read Holy Scripture.”

Luther’s Bible helped form a common German dialect. Prior to Luther, people from different regions of present-day Germany often experienced great difficulty understanding one another. Luther’s Bible translation promoted a single German vernacular, helping to bring people together around a common tongue.

Expanding literacy

This view, combined with the wide availability of scripture, shifted responsibility for scriptural interpretation from clerics to the laity. Luther wanted ordinary people to assume more responsibility for reading the Bible.

In promoting his point of view, Luther helped to provide one of the most effective arguments for universal literacy in the history of Western civilization.

At a time when most people worked in farming, reading was not necessary to maintain a livelihood. But Luther wanted to remove the language barrier so that everyone could read the Bible “without hindrance.” His rationale for wanting people both to learn to read and to read regularly was, from his point of view, among the most powerful imaginable – that reading it for themselves would bring them closer to God.

For much of Luther’s life, his remarkable output in theological treatises was exceeded only by his Bible commentaries. He believed that nothing could substitute for direct and ongoing encounters with scripture, which he both advocated for and helped to shape through his detailed commentaries.

Reading to interpret truth

Luther had many reasons to favor the dissemination of learning. He was a university professor. His 95 Theses were intended as an academic disputation. His teaching and scholarship played a crucial role in the development of his theology. Finally, he recognized the crucial role students would play in carrying his movement forward.

Martin Luther King Jr., namesake of the German reformer. the.urbanophile, CC BY-ND

So powerfully did Luther’s influence reverberate down through the ages that, during a visit to Germany in 1934, Rev. Michael King Sr. chose to change both his and his son’s name to Martin Luther King. MLK Jr., namesake of the great German reformer, would make full use of the power of free speech in catalyzing the American civil rights movement.

In posting his 95 Theses, Luther was encouraging a vigorous exchange of ideas. The best community is not the one that suppresses dissent but one that challenges ideas it finds objectionable through rigorous argumentation. It is largely for this reason that the founders of the United States took so seriously freedom of religion, free association and the protection of a free press.

Luther trusted ordinary people to discern the truth. All they needed was the opportunity to interpret what they read for themselves.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, May 16, 2917

Hope couture: Dressing a bear an inspiring challenge for Toronto designer

Posted on: May 12th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

By Tali Folkins on May 12, 2017

Shafiq Beig, assistant production manager at Toronto-based Harcourts, Ltd., says making a surplice, mitre and vest for Hope Bear was one of the most challenging fashion design projects he ever undertook. Photo: Tali Folkins


At the office of Harcourts, Ltd., a Toronto robe-making and tailoring company, a grinning assistant production manager Shafiq Beig is showing me one of his favourite tricks.

“Whenever I find somebody with a grumpy face walking around, I say, ‘Come here!’” he says, holding up his cell phone.

On the screen is a photo of a light-brown teddy bear wearing a strikingly realistic-looking surplice and clerical collar. The bear seems unperturbed by the responsibilities one might associate with its priestly garb, and gazes nonchalantly out of his sewed-on black cloth eyes, as if to say, “What did you expect?”

“A smile is guaranteed. I couldn’t find a single person who did not smile when they saw it,” Beig says. “Actually, it brings them back to their childhood. They become a child, and they smile.”

The vestmented stuffy is no ordinary teddy bear, but Hope Bear, mascot of the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s Kids Helping Kids Fund since it was established in 2011. The Foundation sends Hope Bear to anyone making a donation of $20 or more to the fund.

Originally, Hope Bear came with just a bowtie. Over the years, however, the Foundation has been developing outfits for the cherished teddy, including a crocheted baptismal dress, pyjamas (blue or pink), a rainbow scarf, and a military uniform. Two or three years ago, the Foundation started receiving requests for bears decked out in clerical garb, as gifts for the newly ordained.

Foundation executive director Canon Judy Rois knew where to go. She’d had all her clerical vestments made by Harcourts (or a company later acquired by it), many of them by Beig himself, and she knew his passion and drive for perfection.

“There was nobody else, really, that I wanted to do these, because I knew of his craftsmanship, which [is] outstanding,” she says. “You know that when you get a piece by Shafiq, it’s going to be of the highest quality.”

For Beig, making clothing is, or should be, an art form. He laments what he sees as a worldwide trend toward completely manufactured, off-the-rack apparel. “It is made just for commerce, not for passion and the finest art. That is dying.”

Beig began to learn tailoring at age nine, in his father’s shop in Mathura, India, and eventually went on to study fashion design in London, U.K. He has worked at Harcourts since 1989, continuing to learn the craft and rising up the ranks from a minimum-wage, entry-level position.

But the Hope Bear project would turn out to be among his biggest challenges. “It was, trust me, a very difficult task,” he says. “I have dressed up the finest models in fashion houses…but when I started to dress up this Hope Bear, it was difficult.” It was not simply a matter of scaling down; a teddy bear has proportions very different from a human being’s. At the same time, the surplice had to have the same look and drape as one made for a person—and it had to be sewn together on machines not made for miniature garments. Sometimes the surplice would disappear entirely inside the machine while being worked on, he says. Sometimes, too, the sewing process would stretch the tiny piece of material, distorting the garment’s shape, and the process would have to be started over.

Beig had to make a few versions of the surplice before Rois was satisfied. Rois, he says, knew exactly what she wanted—and, precisely for that reason, she was a highly motivating customer. Beig says her appreciation for the art fired him with extra zeal for the project. “Very few people have an eye for the finest art in this industry…She knows how a garment should fit exactly.”

Happy with the surplice, Rois once again called on Beig last year, when she began receiving requests for a mitre to put on Hope Bear’s head. The mitre presented an additional challenge—creating a hat that, while retaining the look and details of the original, sits naturally on a teddy bear’s fuzzy cranium, without having to be fastened down.

More recently came what Beig says was the toughest task of them all. Rois contacted him to make a black vest for Hope Bear to wear to celebrate the Foundation’s 60th anniversary this year. The lined vest features two pockets, barely large enough to admit a little finger—meaning very fine stitching work for a garment small enough to disappear from the sewer’s view.

“The gown we make for chancellors at the University of Toronto—this is one of the most expensive items we sell, almost $10,000. I don’t work that hard to get that gown done,” Beig says with a laugh.

All together, Beig estimates he’s made close to 250 Hope Bear surplices, 30 or 40 mitres, and 100 vests. He says he feels honoured and privileged to be contributing in his own way to the work of the Foundation, whose work he admires. Beig also writes poetry, and learning about the Foundation inspired him to compose a poem about Hope Bear, called “Bearing Hope.”

The conversation moves seamlessly from sewing to spirituality. Beig says he believes people need faith to experience real peace and hope. “Hope without divinity is impossible,” he says. He also believes in the coexistence of religions—he says he loves Christianity as much as his own religion, Islam—and in the importance of love for people’s common humanity. “Humanity came first, before religion. We are human first,” he says. “You can dress up the way you want, I can eat whatever food I want, but still we can love each other.”

He pauses for a moment. “How simple it is.”

Perhaps even as simple as sharing a smile over a teddy bear in a surplice.

About the Author

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.  His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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Anglican Journal News, May 12, 2017

Alpha course proves ‘gospel communication tool’ in Toronto

Posted on: May 11th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Features

A banner outside St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto promotes the Alpha course. Submitted photo

Alpha course proves ‘gospel communication tool’ in Toronto

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The following is the second instalment of a two-part article detailing experiences of the Alpha course in the Anglican Church of Canada. Read Part 1.

Alpha Canada national director Shaila Visser estimated that in 2016, there were 3,800 Alpha courses being run across Canada in more than 1,750 churches, including both youth and adult courses. Of that total, 99 parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada ran the Alpha course during the year.

One such parish is St. Paul’s Bloor Street, the largest Anglican congregation in the Diocese of Toronto, which began presenting the Alpha course in the fall of 2016. Rector and senior pastor Barry Parker, who facilitates the course at St. Paul’s, said that his congregation has been using Alpha as its “primary interface with the community for evangelism”.

“A lot of my experience in the church is that we’re designed and conditioned to think that people ought to come to us,” Parker said.

“Alpha takes a different tactic. We need to go to [people] by engaging folks where they’re at, not where we think they should be.”

Each Wednesday, St. Paul’s Bloor Street hosts a weekly lesson using the Alpha course. Participants gather for a meal before watching a video lasting 25-30 minutes. The host then asks a series of open-ended questions for round-table discussion.

Parker noted that the latest series of videos targets a younger demographic, reflective of the population in its Toronto neighbourhood which is surrounded by condo buildings. In turn, the average age of participants attending each Alpha course has grown younger.

“It’s been really effective … For example, in this [current] group we have three young women being baptized in a couple weeks that have come out of Alpha, just because they’re so excited and engaged now in the journey of faith,” Parker said. “We see this as sort of the portal to start this journey of faith and lead to discipleship.”

Finding flexibility in local contexts

Visser described the goal of the Alpha course for parishes as “providing a safe on-ramp to their local expression of church in a way that engages people that have otherwise found it to be irrelevant,” one that can lead almost anywhere from deeping questioning to a greater understanding of Christianity to baptism.

That focus on local contexts means that gauging success depends on the specific context for each congregation running the Alpha course.

Reflecting on both St. Paul’s Bloor Street and St. Jax Montréal, Visser—stressing that it was only her personal opinion and that she does not live in Montreal or attend St. Jax—noted, “From what I understand, [St. Jax is] using Alpha because it’s a replant of an already established church, and so they’re trying to really reach the community. They don’t yet have an established sizable congregation, and they are really trying to grow the congregation by sharing the faith, not by pulling people in from other churches.”

“To do that, you have to provide an on-ramp for people either far from God or toying with the idea of God, and I think that’s why St. Jax has taken that approach … where[as at] St. Paul’s, a very vibrant, healthy church in the centre of Toronto, they would run it on a Wednesday night because they already have lots going on on the weekend and in their Sunday services.”

Alpha course is only one way to spread the gospel

Despite embracing Alpha as a valuable tool for congregations, Parker cautioned that the course is “not some magic bullet”, but rather “a gospel communication tool that seems to have resonance in connection with a culture that is increasingly disconnected from the church and the gospel message”.

The church plant at St. Jax centred around the Alpha course, he said, is “a radical approach. But when you think about it, what [parish incumbent Graham Singh is] trying to do is present the gospel to a totally non-churched culture in downtown Montréal, and it’s effective. And as that community builds, then they move into worship, and they’ve had great worship services. I’ve been down there.

“It’s not they’re neglecting worship, they’re just not leading with worship. They’re recognizing that we can’t do that—Christendom is dead, so you can’t lead with Christendom. You’ve got to lead over here and bring folks into not only the experience of Jesus, but also then the community of Jesus, the faith community, the body of Christ.”

Thoughts on the Alpha course as a gospel communication tool? Tell us on our Facebook page.

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, May 11, 2017