Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

A story of our time

Posted on: August 19th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By John Higgins

It’s late May, and our last day in Canada before we fly back to Scotland. We’re sitting on a bench on Granville Island, Vancouver, taking in the atmosphere in the warm afternoon sunshine and trying to eat large ice creams before they either fall to the floor or rise skywards in the beak of some ever so attentive seagull. The “we” consists of myself, my wife, Kay, and a young married couple we first encountered half a world away.


Let me go back to the beginning. It’s 2012, and I’m working in Ankara, Turkey, as the priest at the Church of St. Nicolas of Myra, within the British Embassy complex, and ecclesiastically within the Church of England diocese in Europe.


Amongst the slowly growing number of refugees seeking out St. Nicolas is a nervous young couple recently arrived from Iran. They’re penniless, lost and facing an uncertain future, but what has brought them here? They say that love is blind, but sometimes it is stupid, too, for this is a Romeo and Juliet story set against the backdrop of cultural and religious prejudice. The boy is from a minority sect in Islam, but through patient searching and online ministry, he has become a Christian. The girl is from a large and passionately orthodox Shiite family—even worse, her uncle is the presiding judge of a religious court. In secret, they commit themselves to each other and are married, and only then tell her family. They are angry beyond words. They attack her, cracking her skull, breaking her nose, ripping off her ring and forbidding her to see him again.


That night the young man escaped to Turkey and the following day our “Juliet” joined him. Sometime later they found their way to St. Nicolas and to me. In the months that followed, they grew in faith and commitment, both to each other and the religion that so many of the refugees there described as “one of love and life”—the very opposite, they said, of their experience in the world from which they’d fled.


But back to our story. Obviously we did not expect a refugee to contribute financially to the church, but often they insisted on making a contribution in kind, and this couple took on the cleaning of the church, while at the same time attending catechism and Bible study, which often went on for two or more hours after the Sunday Eucharist, led by my colleague, Fr. Ebrahim. In due course, they were baptized and confirmed.


For the next two years, earning whatever few coins they could through hard, unpleasant manual work that is so often the lot of refugees in order to pay for their rent and food, they not only survived but slowly made their way through the UN’s refugee processes and then those of the Canadian embassy to which the UN has referred them. Little by little, the pieces fell into place, until after what seems a lifetime to them, they fly out of Turkey and on to Canada; eventually into the pastoral care of an Anglican parish priest in Burnaby, Vancouver.


That was two years ago, and these past few days have seen both a tearful and a joyful reunion, one in which their Ankara past and their Canadian future have been given equal expression, as together the priest and I prayed both with them and for them. Theirs is just one journey amongst so many in today’s world, but one in which the church, its message of faith and love, and its ability to join hands across the world, has been central to every aspect of it. Lots of hard work lie ahead for them both as they continue to build their new lives in Canada, but they have such determination, faith and commitment to each other that they will unquestionably succeed— with the faith and faithfulness of the Anglican congregation in Burnaby, Vancouver, which will be with them every step of the way, as was that of the congregation of St. Nicolas, Ankara, before them.


Anglican Journal News, August 19, 2016

The exodus of Fleet Street

Posted on: August 19th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

The exodus of Fleet Street

Posted By The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce

19 August 2016

The closure of the London editorial office of the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Post earlier this month, marked the end of an era, as the last two journalists working in Fleet Street, Gavin Sherriff and Darryl Smith, bade farewell to a place that has long been synonymous with the newspaper and printing industries. The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce, Rector of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, is de facto chaplain to the British media. In this column she reflects on the role of the press in society.

It was a story that began in the year 1500, when William Caxton’s apprentice, Wynkyn de Worde, relocated his printing press to a site adjacent to St Bride’s Church. Other presses followed suit, and Fleet Street swiftly became the hub of the printing industry in the city. St Bride’s remained at the heart of this development, exercising a distinctive ministry, initially as the Printers’ Church.

In 1702, the first British daily national newspaper, the Daily Courant was launched in Fleet Street; other newspapers were then founded here, and, as the industry developed and broadened over time, so the ministry of St Bride’s evolved in tandem, providing pastoral care and support to journalists as well as printers.

The turbulent days of the Wapping dispute in the 1980s, and the radical changes in technology and working practices that accompanied it, marked the beginning of the end of the old Fleet Street days: one by one, the newspapers moved away, culminating in the departure of Gavin and Darryl on 5 August 2016. Yet, interestingly enough, the ministry of St Bride’s to the media industry remains as active and significant as ever: these days it extends to newspaper proprietors, journalists, photographers, and those working in film and television, social media and for on-line publications.

This is, in part, because the challenges faced by those working within the industry have never been greater. Journalists are under more pressure than ever before: increasing numbers of reporters are working freelance, without the job security or support of a news organisation behind them; and the instantaneous nature of communications in the digital era can make the sheer pace of work hard to manage: as one seasoned political journalist observed to me recently, contrary to all his professional training and instincts, finding sufficient time to check his sources adequately was starting to feel like a luxury rather than a requirement.

For those reporters working in conflict zones the stakes are even higher. The days in which the word “PRESS” on the back of a flak jacket could offer a reporter a measure of protection from gunfire are long gone: today it is more likely to single out the wearer as a target. One of the most significant occasions in the St Bride’s calendar is the annual Journalists’ Commemorative Service. In November 2010 the foreign correspondent Marie Colvin spoke at this event. Fifteen months later she was herself killed in Syria.

The Journalists’ altar at St Bride’s features memorials to journalists who have lost their lives during the course of their work: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kenji Goto, beheaded in Syria, are all commemorated, alongside those murdered in the Charlie Hebdo massacre. In addition, candles are lit each day for the journalist John Cantlie, held hostage in Syria since 2012. The journalistic community is global and inclusive: in 2015, St Bride’s hosted a memorial service for Ammar al Shahbander: an Iraqi Muslim working for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, who was killed by a car bomb explosion in Baghdad (ironically on the eve of World Press Freedom day).

We need journalists; we need good journalists; and we need to celebrate good journalism. Although the reputation of some sections of the British press has been tarnished in recent years, the need for quality reporting and good investigative journalism, which can give a voice to the voiceless, and tell stories that would otherwise remain untold, has never been more urgent – particularly as press freedom is curtailed in so many parts of the world.

The departure of the last two journalists from Fleet Street on Friday 5 August comes at a time when one of the most exciting, positive and creative developments in the history of communications – the advent of on-line journalism – is rendering the future of print journalism increasingly uncertain. That is a fact of journalistic life. However, one of its more worrying side-effects can all too easily be overlooked. Because not only have we become accustomed to news that is instantly accessible; there is a rising expectation, particularly amongst a generation that has known little else, that news should also be available free of charge. And that is where we enter murky waters.

Because the need for “slow journalism”: the kind of extensive and detailed investigative journalism that can take months to undertake, remains essential to the quality of our press reporting. A case in point would be the exhaustive and time-consuming research which exposed the appalling child abuse scandal in Rotherham, involving as many as 1,400 victims.

That story would never have seen the light of day, had it not been for the readiness of a newspaper editor to grant the journalist Andrew Norfolk, whose painstaking research uncovered that horrific reality, both the time and the resources to make it possible. And that kind of journalism does not come cheap. Nor will advertising revenue alone (which, in any case, can introduce an agenda of its own) provide the solution. Good journalism is a very costly business – but at its best it is worth every single penny.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Friday 19 August 2016

‘The sky’s the limit’: In Vancouver and Toronto, church buildings fetch top dollar

Posted on: August 12th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Realtors Leonardo Di Francesco (left) and Rav Rampuri (right) and have been specializing in selling worship space in the Vancouver area for more than two decades. Photo: Contributed

What do you get when you take a booming real estate market and add a high demand for worship space fuelled by the arrival of new immigrant communities? In Vancouver and Toronto, you get a red-hot market for church property, some real estate agents say.“There’s not very much out there, and whatever comes for sale sells pretty quick,” says Leonardo Di Francesco, who, with his partner Rav Rampuri, has been specializing in selling church real estate in the Vancouver area for more than 20 years. “These type of properties are rare, and now with real estate becoming even a hotter commodity, they’re even more rare.”

Di Francesco and Rampuri spoke with the Anglican Journal shortly after a meeting with a Lutheran bishop about the sale of a church in Burnaby, B.C., outside Vancouver. The partners are asking $8.8 million for the property, which includes 10,000 feet (929 square metres) of floor space (two sanctuaries, plus a house) on an acre (0.4 hectare) of land.

Prices for church property tend to go up or down with prices of real estate property in general, Rampuri says, because of the potential of church property to be converted to other uses. A one-acre parcel of church land, for example, could be converted to roughly six residential properties worth $1.6 million each, for a total of about $9 million.

“We have to do a direct comparison on value of land, and what the use is later on—so, what is the potential of that property,” he says. “And you always have to look for the highest and best use to determine the value of the church land.”

The most expensive property Di Francesco and Rampuri have ever sold was a 40,000-square-foot (3,716-square-metre) Salvation Army building in Vancouver. The building, which included a hostel for unemployed men, went for $15 million some years ago to a Buddhist group, and has since been transformed into a monastery for Buddhist nuns. The building would be worth about $25 million today, Di Francesco says.

Church property that has a trifecta of commercial-sized kitchen, large sanctuary and ample parking represents a “gold mine” for any congregation that wants to sell it, Di Francesco says.

“If you’ve got all three components, for the big religious groups, honestly, price is not the issue…Because it’s so rare, the sky’s the limit. Within reason. Not 100 million, but 20, 30 million [dollars] is not unreasonable.”

Typically, says Di Francesco, their work involves them selling a church for a long-established congregation whose numbers have dwindled, to faster-growing congregations of various religions, often largely composed of new Canadians.

“A lot of new immigrants that are moving here are currently renting space right now,” he says. “Their congregations are small, but you know they’re growing. So as they grow, the demand for their own building changes, plus financially they become stronger.”

According to a 2015 Angus Reid survey, 35% of Canadians born outside the country are likely to attend religious services, compared to 21% of Canadian-born people.

Di Francesco and Rampuri are asking $8.8 million for this property in Burnaby, B.C. Photo: Contributed

“Some of these [long-established] congregations…had 300-400 people, 30, 40 years ago, and these 400 people are down to 75 because most of them have passed away,” Di Francesco says. The partners have sold church buildings to a wide range of religious communities—Chinese groups of various faiths, Pentecostals, Hindus, Muslims, and more.

But church property doesn’t come up for sale very often. Some of the fast-growing congregations are unable to find the space they need despite their willingness to pay handsomely, the partners say.

“We had two groups actually call us—they were looking for a church on the west side [for] up to 20 or 30 million [dollars], and they couldn’t find them,” Di Francesco says.

In its latest monthly report, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver announced the average price of all residential properties in Metro Vancouver had reached $930,000 in July—32.6% higher than a year earlier. The average price for detached homes was $1,578,300, 38% higher than the previous July. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, housing prices in Greater Vancouver have nearly doubled since early 2009.

Because of this high demand for worship space, Di Francesco and Rampuri say, about 90% of the churches they handle are sold to other religious organizations—unlike in other parts of the country, where churches are frequently converted into residential or other space.

Sometimes, one of two or more congregations sharing the property will want to sell their space. In this case, says Di Francesco, one of the challenges is to find another congregation of the same religion to move in.

“To make the transaction easier, you want to sell to the same religion,” he says, since different religions often have different needs in terms of altars and other physical elements.

Some churches express preferences in terms of how their properties will be used after they’re sold, and some don’t, he says.

Church property is also one of the specialties of John Morrison, a real estate agent practising in Canada’s other famously hot market, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Like Di Francesco and Rampuri, Morrison says he’s seen church prices move in rough lockstep with residential prices. This means that on average they’ve probably roughly doubled over the past seven or eight years, although they can vary enormously, he says, depending on factors such as location, parking and their proximity to highways.

Prices are not likely to be as high in less ethnically diverse parts of the city; but in areas where there are higher immigrant populations, Morrison says, “there are certain communities that are really aggressively looking for churches.”

In the GTA, churches once sold also often end up being converted to residences or some other institutional use (such as a private school); or being demolished to make way for some new development. There’s hardly a limit to how much can be fetched for a church in prime residential spots that can easily be converted to condominium space, he says. Many people, Morrison says, are willing to pay a premium to live in converted church space.

This spring, a three-storey condominium in Toronto’s posh Rosedale neighbourhood was listed at $3.95 million. The condo was one of five residential units that had been converted from a former Baptist church.

The hot market can make it difficult for religious groups looking for worship space, Morrison says, because it often means they have to compete with other groups for the same space. Also, he adds, financing can be more challenging because banks are sometimes more reluctant to lend to congregations than they would be to individuals or companies.


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.


Anglican Journal News, August 12, 2016

Enuma Okoro: For the love of God, write

Posted on: August 4th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Author, consultant, speaker

Making a living as a writer is choosing to struggle with the tension of being called, having that call affirmed as ministry and discerning the particulars of that ministry, says the author of the memoir “Reluctant Pilgrim.”

In the past several months, I have had close to a dozen current or recent seminarians reach out to me asking for counsel on what to do with their desire to write.

Engaging in the craft of creative writing is where they feel most alive and the means by which they feel most passionate about witnessing to “the things about which [they] have been instructed” (Luke 1:4 NRSV).

But these men and women seek counsel on discerning how writing can be ministry and where they might turn for support and encouragement in understanding how faith and writing intersect. They share earnestly their hunger for Christian mentors who can affirm their felt callings and help them cultivate what such a ministry could look like.

I know of such hunger.

I have been writing since I could pick up a crayon. My love of words began with poetry — Mother Goose nursery rhymes and a million different versions of “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Eventually, I tried my own hand at it and fell in love with the ability to play with words.

Naturally, as I’ve grown older, I have come to appreciate that writing is not just about wordplay. It is also about power and beauty, truth telling and possibility, and hope and activism.

Questions to consider:

  •  Enuma Okoro describes writing as her “discerning shawl,” the way she comes to understand the work of the Spirit. Who or what functions in that way for you?
  • Okoro identifies several practices — silence, solitude, prayer and reading — that are essential to her vocation of writing. What practices do you engage in that are vital to the living out of your sense of calling?
  •  What books have you read, what songs have you heard and what experiences have you shared that have given you permission to live into your calling? How have they shaped your imagination and challenged your assumptions?
  • In the spirit of creative writing, write a letter to an imagined mentee about what you have learned from your vocational journey. What would you tell a person 15 years younger who has expressed a calling similar to yours?

Still, it has taken me decades to discern my calling as a writer, to accept this call as valid and to slowly navigate with the help of other writers, teachers and priests how my own particular writing ministry will look.

Such discerning is a work in progress. But an important part of vocational discernment is listening to how the community of faith responds to your perceived gifts, and a key moment for me occurred when people began to respond to my writing in ways that affirmed a sense of call.

Because I understand writing as a significant part of my call to Christian discipleship, I have also come to understand that other necessary habits must coexist with the discipline of writing to help me best live out this call.

So to the seminarians who email me with their concerns about how to cultivate a faithful writing practice, I share only what I have learned through my own experience.

I have learned how essential it is to welcome, appreciate and make space for silence and solitude. The first task is listening — cultivating attentiveness to life in general, both locally and beyond. Every single thing around you and in the midst of your days can help you be a better writer. It is as poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned: “Earth’s crammed with heaven,/ And every common bush afire with God,/ But only he who sees, takes off his shoes; / The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

I have also learned the importance of prayer. Wordsmithing is in itself a form of centering of breath, mind and prayer. Yet I speak particularly of the asking, seeking, knocking kind of prayer that beseeches God to reveal God’s self and God’s purposes for you as God’s child and for you as a writer and as one more fellow pilgrim in a broken community that groans for redemption.

I suspect it would be difficult for me to take writing as ministry seriously if I were not also an avid reader. The two tasks go hand in hand.

Beyond intellectual growth, reading teaches me that any physical space has the potential to become holy, a sanctuary where my thoughts and emotions can alight one by one like candles of blessings commemorating the dead. Reading draws me uniquely into the community of saints both present and passed on. It helps form me in faithful ways of engaging space and being in relationship.

Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” for example, affirmed anew the spiritual and communal truth that I am part of a bigger narrative than what I see. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea” taught me something significant and long-lasting about being female, creative and made in God’s image in these very ways. And John Leax’s vocational memoir “Grace Is Where I Live” helped me ease into the reality that it was OK to love both God and writing, and to feel called to writing as vocation. The book brought me into community with other Christians who had similar struggles.

Making a living as a writer is choosing to struggle with the tension of being called, having that call affirmed as ministry and discerning the particulars of that ministry. I have found it an ongoing challenge to live into a vocation as a writer, someone who culls words for the sake of faithful witness and imagined creativity and not for research or academic pursuits.

But I rely on narrative for spiritual nourishment. Returning words to God has always been my primary impulse of navigating my way through the world. Writing is the discerning shawl with which I wrap things whenever I sense the soft or strong winds of the Holy Spirit. It is one of my daily attempts to live and work faithfully with the gifts God has given me for the sake of the kingdom. I write because I believe writing is essential to my unique proclamation of God’s goodness.

Integrating my love of God and of words has been a somewhat solitary endeavor, a spiritual, intellectual and creative journey where I have found myself elated at the occasional fellow pilgrims I encounter with similar longings and hungers. I understand the space from which these seminarians who seek my counsel speak.

During my own theological training, I too wish I had been encouraged more to think of the disciplines of reading and writing as a response to God’s call and as a sort of spiritual practice inviting me to delve further and struggle creatively in God’s presence.

I wish I had encountered more mentors who had the time and space and concern to say to me, as someone who imagined writing as Christian vocation, “Take the leap of faith and trust in your gift to proclaim God’s word in new ways.” I hope I can grow into the sort of mentor who recognizes the writing gift and call in others and boldly and daringly says to them, “Write for the love and power of words. Write for the love of God.”


Alban Weekly,  Alban at Duke Divinity School, July 25, 2016

The hardest worship—common prayer reflections from the floor of General Synod 2016

Posted on: July 28th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Martha TatarnicEvery cell in my body was in flight mode. I wanted out. It was not that I didn’t know that the vote on expanding the Marriage Canon would be difficult and divisive. It was clear throughout the process of careful listening in our break-out groups, and then the long legislative session in which sixty members of Synod went to the microphone to speak to the motion, that we are ultimately a broken body, that at the end of this day, that the story we would be lifting up to the world would be one of sacrifice and pain.

And yet there had been much about our General Synod to that point that had led me to a place of wild hope going into this marriage motion. We had received stories of God’s beauty and transformative power shared from across the communion, we had seen truth and reconciliation emerging as our Indigenous voice was heard and was heard in a way that offered an exciting dream of a renewed church for all of us. Our “Neighbourhood Groups”–the break-out sessions in which we reflected on our concerns and hopes regarding the Marriage Canon–were difficult, but in many of our groups, the voice that was heard most clearly was a desire to stay together, to continue to walk together, to find our relationship with one another marked by Christian charity and abiding generosity, even in the face of pain and division. If this was true, then what could hold us back from doing this?

Now that hope and expectation felt like a distant memory. The outcome, one vote short in one house, fell on our assembly with a thundering silence. Somehow I had not been able to imagine myself here. I had come into this vote thinking in abstracts and principles: we need to listen to the LGBTQ2+ voice; we need to be respectful of one another; no matter what, we must reach out to those who are feeling most vulnerable, disenfranchised, and alone; and we must honour the voices that are different from ours. Now abstracts and principles were made real. I was in a place of crushing disappointment for me–for my friends and fellow parishioners who I carried with me to General Synod knowing how deeply they needed to hear that their experience of how their committed relationships indeed bear the same marked of covenant and sacrament as a heterosexual marriage, for the new friends I had made at General Synod as fellow members of Synod who had bravely and beautifully shared their stories with us all.

And so I wanted out.

I wasn’t just there as a delegate, I was also at General Synod as Chair of the Worship Committee. I had felt myself grinding against the liturgical nature of our church’s worship at times throughout our planning. It could feel an impossible task to plan our worship months in advance, trying to guess what might be needed or required as our meeting unfolded. We had considered many different possibilities for Monday night of General Synod, imagining that after such a difficult afternoon legislative session, it would be appropriate to clear our evening agenda and to simply dwell in a time of extended corporate worship together. I had imagined a sort of free-form, non-liturgical time of extemporaneous prayer and hymn singing. But the wisdom of the group settled instead on a traditional service of Chorale Evensong, hearkening back to the older language and prayer that had been common to the entire body of Anglicanism for centuries.

Now here we were, almost 10pm, the conversation having swelled far outside of the scheduling confines we had initially imagined, all of us exhausted, not one person in that assembly showing any outward signs of celebration and happiness that “their side had won,” and clearly I wasn’t the only person who wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. “We’re not still going to do Evensong, are we?” my neighbor whispered harshly to me.   “Let’s just have a hymn and a prayer and get on with it.” He sounded as frantic as I felt.

But our Evensong Officiant was already standing up, already vested, the bells were beginning to ring, and we were going through with the prayer plan we had.

“It was too much,” someone commented to me the next day. “It was too long, it was too heavy after everything we had been through.”

True. It was all too much. It was too much, and I spent a lot of our worship crying, leaning on the person next to me, existing in choked up silence, or trying to absorb the tears and devastation all around me. I came in and out of being able to join in the responses and song of the church, and when I did, my voice was frayed and fragile. I was trapped by my own big proclamations from earlier in the week about needing to continue to walk together. I didn’t want to walk together. I wanted to leave.   But somehow I understood that I had made a promise and now payment on that promise was being asked of me.

It was the hardest worship in which I have ever participated. It made me angry and sad. And it confronted me with truths I didn’t want to hear and needed to more than ever. We began with words of confession, and I understood in a new way why we choose to acknowledge our sins before God together: because our inability to see God’s goodness in one another is a reality that we bear collectively, and because ultimately a new path must be found through God’s grace and in one another’s presence. My voice failed me, and the voices of others lifted me. I was held up by others, and at times I realized I was able to be part of how others in that space were held. And through those ancient words and in that most broken of places, I felt this strong sense that we were being joined in our prayer by the angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven–this great cloud of witnesses surrounding us–and there was a depth and a yearning and a resonance to our voice that I had never heard before.

I don’t know exactly what the Spirit was up to with us through the confusion of General Synod that ended up being our headline story. Yes, there was human error that led to the mis-filing of one vote. But we had also made the commitment to one another that we were placing ourselves in the embrace of the Holy Spirit in going forward. “The Spirit will speak,” one prophetic voice had said in Monday’s break-out group. “And then we need to attend to how we respond to that.” When a new outcome to this vote was announced within minutes of the close of General Synod, when we discovered that the motion had indeed passed, there were still glimmers of grace and loveliness at work in our collective disbelief:

  • again it was a thunderous silence that fell over us, there was nothing of the unbridled victor present in that room.
  • every single person in that assembly would walk away knowing what it was to be hurt and disappointed. Every person there had now been faced with a choice – to let that hurt and disappointment rule, or to stay together.
  • and before us again was the invitation of our common prayer. Now it was God’s table to which we were called. Our liturgical Anglican character asked that we trust in how God’s Spirit might be present, not through our spontaneous prayer, but in the ancient signs and symbols, stories and prayers, that have always needed to be big enough to hold and bless every human fear and hope and loss and joy.

Where do we go from here? was the question posed to us by our remarkable Primate, Fred Hiltz, through this most painful twenty-four hours of our church’s life recently.   It strikes me that the great teacher of the church, Thomas Merton, reflected on this question decades ago:

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is a resetting of a Body of broken bones. Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish, without some pain at the differences that come between them. There are two things which men can do about the pain of disunion with other men. They can love or they can hate. Hatred recoils from the sacrifice and the sorrow that are the price of this resetting of bones. It refuses the pain of reunion. But love by the acceptance of the pain of reunion, begins to heal all wounds.”

At the end of the day, the body is undeniably, visibly, broken. There is no victory, except in the cross of Christ. These are not new realities. And the way forward is always the same: trusting that the Spirit has our back, and allowing ourselves to hold, and be held by, one another.

About Martha Tatarnic

The Reverend Martha Tatarnic serves as the rector of St. George’s Anglican Church in St. Catharines. Previously, she has served in congregations in Orillia and Oakville. Her focus in congregational leadership has been in empowering justice initiatives and outreach in the small church, starting a new service, the possibilities and potentials of Anglican-Lutheran partnership, and forming disciples through the power of music. As a young mother navigating family life through the continually changing waters of modern-day life, she is passionate about connecting the dots between faith – worship – Scripture, and exploring the concerns, joys, questions, stresses, worries, celebrations, of Right Here, Right Now.

The Community, An update from The Community, July 22, 2016

Congregational development: On the rediscovery of Anglican identity

Posted on: July 27th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Bishop Melissa Skelton (front, third from right) attends a stewardship conference with participants from East Vancouver. Submitted photo courtesy of the Diocese of New Westminster Communications Office

Bishop Melissa Skelton (front, third from right) attends a stewardship conference with participants from East Vancouver. Submitted photo courtesy of the Diocese of New Westminster Communications Office

Congregational development: On the rediscovery of Anglican identity

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The following is part of an ongoing monthly series on congregational development, which features reflections from Anglicans on how they are responding to the challenges facing churches today.

Decades of building congregations in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church (in the United States) have left Bishop Melissa Skelton with some expansive views on the subject of congregational development, including the creation of related training programs on both sides of the border.

As the bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, Skelton now champions what she found to be a nearly universal quality of developing congregations—“the rediscovery of this thing we called an Anglican ethos, Anglican spirituality, Anglican identity.”

“The loss of confidence that we as a church have had in the goodness of our own identity sorely grieves me,” Bishop Skelton says. “At the heart of what I think good congregational development is, is [that] it is about getting the knowledge, skills, and the ability to put into action the expression of who we most deeply are—and that we need to trust that, and we need to help people do it.”

The bishop’s interest in parish and congregational development are longstanding. After receiving her M. Div. in seminary, Skelton received a certificate in organizational development from the National Training Laboratories (NTL) Institute.

Through hands-on ministry including as rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, Washington from 2005 to 2013, and as the canon for congregational development and leadership in the Diocese of Olympia from 2008 to 2014, Skelton was able to apply lessons learned at the NTL Institute to work in her diocese.

At the time she arrived in Seattle, St. Paul’s was $70,000 in debt on a yearly operating basis, with an average Sunday attendance of 89 people for the day’s two liturgies.

Three years later, the church’s finances were back in the black. By the end of Skelton’s nine-year tenure as rector, average Sunday attendance had grown to approximately 275 people over four liturgies (which has since increased to five).

While acknowledging that congregational development is about more than numerical growth, Bishop Skelton notes that at St. Paul’s—which is situated in an urban neighbourhood near the foot of the Space Needle—there was a clear desire among parishioners that the church needed to grow.

She credits its growth in subsequent years to a readiness on the part of the congregation and its leaders to learn to engage newcomers to the church, along with help from God.

“They were focused on [growth], and together we trusted each other to wade into water they hadn’t been in forever, because it was a very shy congregation … just figuring out how to talk to people who visited was a stretch,” Skelton recalls.

Based on her training and experience in Seattle, Skelton helped create a training program in the United States called the College for Parish Development and its Canadian counterpart, the School for Parish Development.

In gauging successful congregational development, Bishop Skelton focuses on five major factors:

  • Focusing on the core purpose of the congregation and working towards it in a deeper, more connected way;
  • Deepening ecclesial identity, in this case Anglican identity, so that parishes and congregations reflect more deeply on who they are;
  • Creating congregations that respond to the challenges and opportunities in front of them;
  • Working on congruence of multiple factors in a congregation, such as identity, vision, building, neighbourhood, finances, ministry, and people;
  • Working on the culture of the congregation to be more transparent, collaborative, forgiving, and to engage people and offer them greater choice.

Today, as a diocesan bishop, Skelton has a broader systemic perspective from which to encourage parish development across the Diocese of New Westminster. A key element in her approach is finding the best possible clergy leaders, who have demonstrated they can develop congregations and are willing to learn more.

“That’s at the top of the list, because leadership means everything,” Bishop Skelton says.

Another priority is substantial training in congregational development for lay and clergy leaders over time, which aims to create a common language for development within the Diocese of New Westminster.

Other initiatives taken by the diocese include: a consulting network to provide a framework for third-party consultants and facilitators to assist congregations in development; establishing modest grants for parishes wanting to focus on a particular area of development work; and practitioners’ groups to work on common practice in key areas, such as membership growth, preaching excellence, and Godly Play.

Clergy leaders must be equipped to engage in congregational development, the bishop says, due to the relative lack of instruction in the subject in seminary.

“I think I’m just a real advocate that this is a missing piece of the praxis of being a clergy leader … It’s also something to do in teams of people from parishes or faith communities, because that’s how they’ll figure out how to actually implement it.”


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, July 26, 2016

Frederick Buechner at 90: The road goes on

Posted on: July 26th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Photo courtesy of The Frederick Buechner Center

Ministry is “a business that breaks the heart for the sake of the heart,” the theologian said in a commencement address. The address is reprinted in a new book marking Buechner’s 90th birthday.

Frederick Buechner is a theologian, ordained Presbyterian minister and writer. He’s also an unlikely social media sensation, with more than 1.5 million followers.

On July 11, 2016, he turned 90, an occasion marked by the publication of “Buechner 101: Essays and Sermons by Frederick Buechner.” (link is external)

Edited by writer Anne Lamott, the volume features a selection of Buechner’s essays and sermons, as well as excerpts from his memoirs and novels. It also offers tributes by others, including Barbara Brown Taylor and Brian McLaren.

In the introduction, Lamott says that Buechner “writes of the truth, both of the Gospel, and of his own damaged family, and of our truth, sight unseen, … in a way that is so precise, revelatory and profound, that it makes me experience an awakening to spiritual reality all over again, each time.”

The following excerpt is Buechner’s commencement address at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, originally published in “A Room Called Remember.”

JOHN 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Here I am, and there you are. That is the crux of it. Here I am, the stranger in your midst. There you are, who are the midst, who are the graduating class, who are friends and classmates and sweethearts of each other, who have brought your friends and families with you and yet who are — all of you, even those of you who have known each other for years and whose hearts are sweetest — as much strangers to each other in many ways as I am a stranger to you all. Because how can we be other than strangers when at those rare moments of our lives when we stop hiding from each other and try instead passionately and profoundly to make ourselves known to each other, we find this is precisely what we cannot do?

As ministers, preachers, prophets, pastors, teachers, administrators and who knows what-all else of churches, you will be leaving this lovely place for places as lovely or lovelier yet or not lovely at all where you will take your turn at doing essentially what I am here to do now, which is one way or another to be, however inadequately, a servant of Christ.

And yet in another sense we are none of us strangers. Not even I. Not even you. Because how can we be strangers when, for all these years, we have ridden on the back of this same rogue planet, when we have awakened to the same sun and dreamed the same dreams under the same moon? How can we be strangers when we are all of us in the same interior war and do battle with the same interior enemy, which is most of the time ourselves? How can we be strangers when we laugh and cry at the same things and have the same bad habits and occasionally astonish ourselves and everybody else by performing the same uncharacteristic deeds of disinterested kindness and love?

We are strangers and we are not strangers. The question is: Can anything that really matters humanly pass between us? The question is: Can God in his grace and power speak anything that matters ultimately through the likes of me to the likes of you? And I am saying all these things not just to point up the difficulties of delivering a commencement address like this. Who cares about that? I am saying them because in the place where I am standing now, or places just as improbable, you will be standing soon enough as your turn comes. And much of what this day means is that your turn has come at last.

As ministers, preachers, prophets, pastors, teachers, administrators and who knows what-all else of churches, you will be leaving this lovely place for places as lovely or lovelier yet or not lovely at all where you will take your turn at doing essentially what I am here to do now, which is one way or another to be, however inadequately, a servant of Christ. I wouldn’t have dreamed of packing my bag and driving a thousand miles except for Christ. I wouldn’t have the brass to stand here before you now if the only words I had to speak were the ones I had cooked up for the occasion. I am here, Heaven help me, because I believe that from time to time we are given something of Christ’s word to speak if we can only get it out through the clutter and cleverness of our own speaking. And I believe that in the last analysis, whatever other reasons you have for being here yourselves, Christ is at the bottom of why you are here too. We are all here because of him. This is his day as much as, if not more than, it is ours. If it weren’t for him, we would be somewhere else.

Our business is to be the hands and feet and mouths of one who has no other hands or feet or mouth except our own. It gives you pause. Our business is to work for Christ as surely as men and women in other trades work for presidents of banks or managers of stores or principals of high schools. Whatever salaries you draw, whatever fringe benefits you receive, your recompense will be ultimately from Christ, and a strange and unforeseeable and wondrous recompense I suspect it will be, and with many a string attached to it too. Whatever real success you have will be measured finally in terms of how well you please not anyone else in all this world — including your presbyteries, your bishops, your congregations — but only Christ, and I suspect that the successes that please him best are very often the ones that we don’t even notice. Christ is the one who will be hurt, finally, by your failures. If you are to be healed, comforted, sustained during the dark times that will come to you as surely as they have come to everyone else who has ever gone into this strange trade, Christ will be the one to sustain you because there is no one else in all this world with love enough and power enough to do so. It is worth thinking about.

Christ is our employer as surely as the general contractor is the carpenter’s employer, only the chances are that this side of Paradise we will never see his face except mirrored darkly in dreams and shadows, if we’re lucky, and in each other’s faces. He is our general, but the chances are that this side of Paradise we will never hear his voice except in the depth of our own inner silence and in each other’s voices. He is our shepherd, but the chances are we will never feel his touch except as we are touched by the joy and pain and holiness of our own life and each other’s lives. He is our pilot, our guide, our true, fast, final friend and judge, but often when we need him most, he seems farthest away because he will always have gone on ahead, leaving only the faint print of his feet on the path to follow. And the world blows leaves across the path. And branches fall. And darkness falls. We are, all of us, Mary Magdalene, who reached out to him at the end only to embrace the empty air. We are the ones who stopped for a bite to eat that evening at Emmaus and, as soon as they saw who it was that was sitting there at the table with them, found him vanished from their sight. Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Rahab, Sarah are our brothers and sisters because, like them, we all must live in faith, as the great chapter puts it with a staggering honesty that should be a lesson to us all, “not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar,” and only from afar. And yet the country we seek and do not truly find, at least not here, not now, the heavenly country and homeland, is there somewhere as surely as our yearning for it is there; and I think that our yearning for it is itself as much a part of the truth of it as our yearning for love or beauty or peace is a part of those truths. And Christ is there with us on our way as surely as the way itself is there that has brought us to this place. It has brought us. We are here. He is with us — that is our faith — but only in unseen ways, as subtle and pervasive as air. As for what it remains for you and me to do, maybe T. S. Eliot says it as poignantly as anybody.

… wait without hope
For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing.

It’s a queer business that you have chosen or that has chosen you. It’s a business that breaks the heart for the sake of the heart. It’s a hard and chancy business whose risks are as great even as its rewards. Above all else, perhaps, it is a crazy business. It is a foolish business. It is a crazy and foolish business to work for Christ in a world where most people most of the time don’t give a hoot in hell whether you work for him or not. It is crazy and foolish to offer a service that most people most of the time think they need like a hole in the head. As long as there are bones to set and drains to unclog and children to tame and boredom to survive, we need doctors and plumbers and teachers and people who play the musical saw; but when it comes to the business of Christ and his church, how unreal and irrelevant a service that seems even, and at times especially, to the ones who are called to work at it.

“We are fools for Christ’s sake,” Paul says. You can’t put it much more plainly than that. God is foolish too, he says — “the foolishness of God” — just as plainly. God is foolish to choose for his holy work in the world the kind of lamebrains and misfits and nitpickers and holier-than-thous and stuffed shirts and odd ducks and egomaniacs and milquetoasts and closet sensualists as are vividly represented here by you and me this spring evening. God is foolish to send us out to speak hope to a world that slogs along heart-deep in the conviction that from here on out things can only get worse. To speak of realities we cannot see when the realities we see all too well are already more than we can handle. To speak of loving our enemies when we have a hard enough time of it just loving our friends.

To be all things to all people when it’s usually all we can do to be anything that matters much to anybody. To proclaim eternal life in a world that is as obsessed with death as a quick browse through TV Guide or the newspapers or the drugstore paperbacks make plain enough. God is foolish to send us out on a journey for which there are no sure maps. Such is the foolishness of God.

And yet. The “and yet” of it is our faith, of course. And yet, Paul says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” which is to say that in some unsearchable way he may even know what he is doing. Praise him.

If I were braver than I am, I would sing you a song at this point. If you were braver than you are, you might even encourage me to. But let me at least say you a song. It is from The Lord of the Rings, and Bilbo Baggins sings it. It goes like this.

The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then?
I cannot say.

“I am the way,” Jesus said. I am the road. And in some foolish fashion, we are all on the road that is his, that is he, or such at least is our hope and prayer. That is why we are here at this turning of the road. There is not a single shoe in this place that does not contain a foot of clay, a foot that drags, a foot that stumbles; but on just such feet we all seek to follow that road through a world where there are many other roads to follow, and hardly a one of them that is not more clearly marked and easier to tramp and toward an end more known, more assured, more realizable. But we have picked this road, or been picked by it. “I am the way,” he said, “the truth and the life.” We have come this far along the way. From time to time, when we have our wits about us, when our hearts are in the right place, when nothing more enticing or immediate shows up to distract us, we have glimpsed that truth. From time to time when the complex and wearisome and seductive business of living doesn’t get in our way, our pulses have quickened and gladdened to the pulse of that life. Who knows what the mysteries of our faith mean? Who knows what the Holy Spirit means? Who knows what the Resurrection means? Who knows what he means when he tells us that whenever two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be with them? But what at the very least they seem to mean is that there winds through all we think of as real life a way of life, a way to life, that is so vastly realer still that we cannot think of him, whose way it is, as anything less than vastly alive.

It’s a business that breaks the heart for the sake of the heart. It’s a hard and chancy business whose risks are as great even as its rewards. Above all else, perhaps, it is a crazy business. It is a foolish business. It is a crazy and foolish business to work for Christ in a world where most people most of the time don’t give a hoot in hell whether you work for him or not.

By grace we are on that way. By grace there come unbidden moments when we feel in our bones what it is like to be on that way. Our clay feet drag us to the bedroom of the garrulous old woman, to the alcoholic who for the tenth time has phoned to threaten suicide just as we are sitting down to supper, to the laying of the cornerstone of the new gym to deliver ourselves of a prayer that nobody much listens to, to the Bible study group where nobody has done any studying, to the Xerox machine. We don’t want to go. We go in fear of the terrible needs of the ones we go to. We go in fear of our own emptiness from which it is hard to believe that any word or deed of help or hope or healing can come. But we go because it is where his way leads us; and again and again we are blessed by our going in ways we can never anticipate, and our going becomes a blessing to the ones we go to because when we follow his way, we never go entirely alone, and it is always something more than just ourselves and our own emptiness that we bring. Is that true? Is it true in the sense that it is true that there are seven days in a week and that light travels faster than sound? Maybe the final answer that faith can give to that awesome and final question occurs in a letter that Dostoevski wrote to a friend in 1854. “If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside the truth,” he wrote, “and it really was so that the truth was outside Christ, then I would prefer to remain with Christ than with the truth.”

“The road goes ever on and on,” the song says, “down from the door where it began,” and for each of us there was a different door, and we all have different tales to tell of where and when and how our journeys began. Perhaps there was no single moment but rather a series of moments that together started us off. For me, there was hearing a drunken blasphemy in a bar. There was a dream where I found myself writing down a name which, though I couldn’t remember it when I woke up, I knew was the true and secret name of everything that matters or could ever matter. As I lay on the grass one afternoon thinking that if ever I was going to know the truth in all its fullness, it was going to be then, there was a stirring in the air that made two apple branches strike against each other with a wooden clack, and I suspect that any more of the truth than that would have been the end of me instead of, as it turned out, part of the beginning.

Such moments as those, and others no less foolish, were, together, the door from which the road began for me, and who knows where it began for each of you. But this much at least, I think, would be true for us all: that one way or another the road starts off from passion — a passion for what is holy and hidden, a passion for Christ. It is a little like falling in love, or, to put it more accurately, I suppose, falling in love is a little like it. The breath quickens. Scales fall from the eyes. A world within the world flames up. If you are Simeon Stylites, you spend the rest of your days perched on a flagpole. If you are Saint Francis, you go out and preach to the red-winged blackbirds. If you are Albert Schweitzer, you give up theology and Bach and go to medical school. And if that sort of thing is too rich for your blood, you go to a seminary. You did. I did. And for some of us, it’s not all that crazy a thing to do.

It’s not such a crazy thing to do because if seminaries don’t as a rule turn out saints and heroes, they at least teach you a thing or two. “God has made foolish the wisdom of the world,” Paul says, but not until wisdom has served its purpose. Passion is all very well. It is all very well to fall in love. But passion must be grounded, or like lightning without a lightning rod it can blow fuses and burn the house down. Passion must be related not just to the world inside your skin where it is born but to the world outside your skin where it has to learn to walk and talk and act in terms of social justice and human need and politics and nuclear power and God knows what-all else or otherwise become as shadowy and irrelevant as all the other good intentions that the way to hell is paved with. Passion must be harnessed and put to work, and the power that first stirs the heart must become the power that also stirs the hands and feet because it is the places your feet take you to and the work you find for your hands that finally proclaim who you are and who Christ is. Passion without wisdom to give it shape and direction is as empty as wisdom without passion to give it power and purpose. So you sit at the feet of the wise and learn what they have to teach, and our debts to them are so great that, if your experience is like mine, even twenty-five years later you will draw on the depth and breadth of their insights, and their voices will speak in you still, and again and again you will find yourself speaking in their voices. You learn as much as you can from the wise until finally, if you do it right and things break your way, you are wise enough to be yourself, and brave enough to speak with your own voice, and foolish enough, for Christ’s sake, to live and serve out of the uniqueness of your own vision of him and out of your own passion.

“And whither then?” the song asks. The world of The Lord of the Rings is an enchanted world. It is a shadowy world where life and death are at stake and where things are seldom what they seem. It is a dangerous and beautiful world in which great evil and great good are engaged in a battle where more often than not the odds are heavily in favor of great evil. It is a world where enormous burdens are loaded on small shoulders and where the most fateful issues hang on what are apparently the most homely and insignificant decisions. And thus it is through a world in many ways much like our own that the road winds.

Strange things happen. Again and again Christ is present not where, as priests, you would be apt to look for him but precisely where you wouldn’t have thought to look for him in a thousand years.

You will be ordained, many of you, or have been already, and if again your experience is anything like mine, you will find, or have found, that something more even than an outlandish new title and an outlandish new set of responsibilities is conferred in that outlandish ceremony. Without wanting to sound unduly fanciful, I think it is fair to say that an extraordinary new adventure begins with ordination, a new stretch of the road, that is unlike any other that you have either experienced or imagined. Your life is no longer your own in the same sense. You are not any more virtuous than you ever were — certainly no new sanctity or wisdom or power suddenly descends — but you are nonetheless “on call” in a new way. You start moving through the world as the declared representative of what people variously see as either the world’s oldest and most persistent and superannuated superstition, or the world’s wildest and most improbable dream, or the holy, living truth itself. In unexpected ways and at unexpected times people of all sorts, believers and unbelievers alike, make their way to you looking for something that often they themselves can’t name any more than you can well name it to them. Often their lives touch yours at the moments when they are most vulnerable, when some great grief or gladness or perplexity has swept away all the usual barriers we erect between each other so that you see them for a little as who they really are, and you yourself are stripped naked by their nakedness.

Strange things happen. Again and again Christ is present not where, as priests, you would be apt to look for him but precisely where you wouldn’t have thought to look for him in a thousand years. The great preacher, the sunset, the Mozart Requiem can leave you cold, but the child in the doorway, the rain on the roof, the half-remembered dream, can speak of him and for him with an eloquence that turns your knees to water. The decisions you think are most important turn out not to matter so much after all, but whether or not you mail the letter, the way you say goodbye or decide not to say it, the afternoon you cancel everything and drive out to the beach to watch the tide come in — these are apt to be the moments when souls are won or lost, including quite possibly your own.

You come to places where many paths and errands meet, as the song says, as all our paths meet for a moment here, we friends who are strangers, we strangers who are friends. Great possibilities for good or for ill may come of the meeting, and often it is the leaden casket rather than the golden casket that contains the treasure, and the one who seems to have least to offer turns out to be the one who has most.

“And whither then?” Whither now? “I cannot say,” the singer says, nor yet can I. But far ahead the road goes on anyway, and we must follow if we can because it is our road, it is his road, it is the only road that matters when you come right down to it. Let me finally say only this one thing more.

I was sitting by the side of the road one day last fall. It was a dark time in my life. I was full of anxiety, full of fear and uncertainty. The world within seemed as shadowy as the world without. And then, as I sat there, I spotted a car coming down the road toward me with one of those license plates that you can get by paying a little extra with a word on it instead of just numbers and a letter or two. And of all the words the license plate might have had on it, the word that it did have was the word T-R-U-S-T: TRUST. And as it came close enough for me to read, it became suddenly for me a word from on high, and I give it to you here as a word from on high also for you, a kind of graduation present.

The world is full of dark shadows to be sure, both the world without and the world within, and the road we’ve all set off on is long and hard and often hard to find, but the word is trust. Trust the deepest intuitions of your own heart. Trust the source of your own truest gladness. Trust the road. Above all else, trust him. Trust him. Amen.

“The Road Goes On” from “A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces” by Frederick Buechner, copyright © 1984 by Frederick Buechner. Courtesy of HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Featured in Buechner 101: Essays and Sermons by Frederick Buechner (link is external) (Frederick Buechner Center, 2016), available in paperback or Kindle edition from (link is external).


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith & Leadership, July 12, 2016

A passion for quilting

Posted on: July 26th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Joanne Turner still honours the venerable folk art of quilt. Photo: Contributed

Robert Louis Stevenson celebrated the imaginative magic of the comforter in his famous children’s poem “The Land of Counterpane.” And down on Cape Breton Island, Joanne Turner is still honouring the venerable folk art of the quilt. Each year, the 75-year-old member of Trinity Anglican Church, in the parish of Sydney Mines with Baddeck, crafts several beautiful patterned comforters and gives them away to charity or nursing home residents.

“I work on them over the winter and into the spring. It probably takes me about three or four months,” said Turner, who returned to Cape Breton in 1995 after a career as a medical lab technician in cities all over Canada.

Last year, with bids starting at $300, one of her inspirational quilts ultimately fetched $5,000 in a silent auction that travelled church to church the length and breadth of the island. Turner had donated the queen-size coverlet to the Anglican Church Women Nova Scotia Board’s annual project, 2015-16, entitled “Ability to Live with Spirit,” with proceeds going to the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The design, “Desert Flower,” breathes the spare, spiritual quality of the American Southwest. “It was developed by Elizabeth Whitehead, based, I think, on designs of the Navajo Indians,” said Turner, who takes her overall concepts from magazines such as American Quilt Sampler. Then she brings a lab technician’s precision to cutting her own work patterns for the appliqués.

Designs aside, Turner’s comforters are meant to be warm and practical. “I make those quilts to be on the bed,” she said flatly.

A member of the Golden Arm Quilters, based at St. James Presbyterian Church in Sydney Mines, Turner recently donated a quilt that raised $1,300 for a local nursing home. And another piece is destined to raise funds to help her granddaughter’s Irish dance troupe visit Ireland next year. Taking shape now on her frame is a butterfly quilt, based on a delicate design inspired by ladies’ antique handkerchiefs.

The winning quilt. Photo: Contributed

But Turner’s Christian charity extends far beyond donating her finely crafted quilts. She also volunteers at Alderwood Nursing Home several times a week, serves as a lay reader at Trinity and gives presentations to the children of the church. “One time, she told them the story of pretzel making and actually gave them a lesson in how to make pretzels,” said the Rev. Stacey LeMoine, rector of Trinity Anglican’s 100-plus family parish. “She’s an amazing, positive, creative person. Everyone just loves Joanne— especially her infectious laugh. What a laugh she has!”

And quilt making seems to run in Cape Bretoners’ blood. Trinity’s own quilting group makes “touch quilts” for local Alzheimer’s patients. “They are very tactile, and the patients like to trace the square with their fingers,” said LeMoine.

About the Author

Diana Swift

Diana Swift

Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.


Anglican Journal News, July 25, 2016

Resolution C003: The inside story

Posted on: July 6th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Michelle Bull introduces Resolution C003 to amend the marriage canon. Photo: Art Babych

(This story first appeared in the June 2016 issue of the Anglican Journal.)

What is an aspiring minister to do when the authority of the church calls her to go against the dictates of her conscience?

It was this tension that drove Michelle Bull to stand up at General Synod 2013 and bring Resolution C003, asking the Anglican Church of Canada to allow same-gendered marriages. She knew it would be polarizing—but as someone taking the first steps on the path toward ordination, she felt she had no choice.

“If I’m ordained, I have to promise to follow the doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada, and that’s going to be a pretty major conflict for me,” Bull  said in an interview. “If I’m ordained and someone asks me to marry them and they’re gay, and the Anglican church says that I can’t, that’s going to rip me to pieces—because I would take that vow seriously, but I also would feel that it was the wrong thing to be doing.”  [Editor’s note: In a subsequent Letter to the Editor  Bull clarified that although she would be “in the invidious position of having to choose between my conscience and my ordination vows  if this change does not happen, that was never my motivation. It was never actually about me.”]

Bull, now a candidate for ordination and the wife of a priest in the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, has long been convinced that homosexuality is a “natural, normal part of God’s creation,” and has been advocating for the church’s acceptance of gay Christians for almost 30 years now. But it was at the General Synod held in her hometown of Halifax, N.S., in 2010 when she started seriously thinking about how she could bring about a change in the way the Canadian Anglican church treats its gay members.

Jennifer Warren says she seconded Resolution C003 because she saw it as “an extension of my ministry on behalf of the youth in our diocese.”

While watching a performance of a play put on during the synod called Roots Among the Rocks, which features a story about a young woman coming out as a lesbian in the context of the Anglican church, she was moved to tears by the exclusion and estrangement some young gay Anglicans feel growing up in the church.

“My daughter, at that point, was in a lesbian relationship…and she was engaged,” Bull explained. “My husband wasn’t going to be able to marry her, and that grieved me. It grieved me that she had left the church.”

Although her daughter ended up getting married by a United Church minister, Bull said she felt she had to take a more active role in changing the church’s treatment of same-sex couples.  “We have a polity that allows laity to take part in the decisions,” she noted. “In our church, the laity have voice…so you can do something about this.”

Bull proceeded to secure a place as delegate to the Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island diocesan synod in 2011, when the diocese voted to allow same-sex blessings, and then to General Synod in 2013.

When the convening circular (which contains the resolutions and reports going to synod) came out, she worried that she had missed her chance—until she received a response to a query she had made about the process for bringing motions to synod, which outlined some of the options still open to her.

With help from members of her diocesan delegation, Bull crafted a motion that reflected the changes she wanted to see, and then set out to find a seconder, eventually approaching Jennifer Warren, another member of the delegation.

Warren did not have a personal connection to the issue, but she had experience working in youth ministry, and was convinced she needed to take a stand in support of same-sex marriage.

Warren recalled being at an earlier diocesan synod where a delegate questioned same-sex blessings by stressing the importance of reading the Bible literally, citing Old Testament texts that seem to condemn homosexuality. A youth delegate stood up and said that by the same logic, she should be stoned to death for not being a virgin.

“I thought, ‘Wow—this is a young person who is really drawing our attention to things that people just might not think of: the consequences of literal interpretation, and the consequences of convenient literal interpretation of the Bible,’ ” she said. “When [Bull] approached me with this resolution, I saw [seconding] that as an extension of my ministry on behalf of the youth in our diocese.”

This left only the most frightening part of the process: bringing the motion forward. “I was shaking in my boots,” said Bull. “We were both really scared, actually, and even though it felt like the right thing, I knew that there would be people who [would hate] my guts after that.”

In the brief amount of time she was given to present her motion, Bull opted against venturing into the weeds of biblical and theological argument—instead, she advocated for change as a matter of freedom of conscience.

Presenting the motion was just the beginning, though. Bull’s and Warren’s original motion had asked that CoGS bring a motion to General Synod 2016 to amend the marriage canon to make it available for all legally married people—which, in Canada, includes gay couples. But amendments were suggested by Bishop Stephen Andrews of the diocese of Algoma, requiring CoGS to also consider the Solemn Declaration and to undertake consultations within the Canadian Anglican church and the wider Anglican Communion.

Dean Peter Elliot of the diocese of New Westminster  seconded the amendments, which, he said, seemed to be “quite reasonable requests for the council to consider, and for members of General Synod to have before them as they contemplated making a decision.”

Bull and Warren were at first unsure about what was being recommended, and Warren made a motion to amend the amendments, feeling the issue of homosexuality in the church had been discussed sufficiently. But this motion was defeated, and eventually Bull and Warren opted to accept the amendments. Following some procedural hiccups, the amendment passed.

“I was overjoyed,” Bull recalled. “There was this dogpile of people from my delegation hugging me, starting with my bishops. Everybody was really happy, our group was really happy—others, not so much.”

Bull said she knows that accepting same-sex marriage in Canada will cause “international problems” with the worldwide Anglican Communion, but this has not shaken her resolve.

“I would rather be booted out with the people who are being booted out than be on the side with the people doing the booting,” she said. “When it comes down to it, that’s where I think Jesus would be.”

Bull will not be at General Synod 2016, but she says,  “I really feel like I played the part I was called to play, and it’s not in my hands anymore. If it passes before I make my ordination vows [this summer], it’s going to make it easy; if it doesn’t pass, it’s going to make it really, really difficult.”

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.


Anglican Journal News, July 06, 2016

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