Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Henri Nouwen’s gift to Anne Lamott

Posted on: May 19th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Writer Anne Lamott, in Toronto Friday, May 13, says reading Henri Nouwen’s writings helped her begin a new life by assuring her of God’s infinite love. Photo: Tali Folkins

When Anne Lamott found herself, at age 31, a self-loathing drug and alcohol addict, it was the idea of “radical self-love,” as expressed by Henri Nouwen and writers like him, that allowed her to turn a corner on her life, the 62-year-old American writer told a Toronto audience last week.

“Little by little by little, I started being a resurrection story, and…it was self-love,” Lamott said. “I found out who I was, the Beloved…It loved me back to life.”

Lamott, author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction including the New York Times bestsellers Grace (Eventually) and Plan B, was speaking at a talk, “Henri & Me,” presented by the Henri Nouwen Society Friday, May 13.

Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest, was born in the Netherlands but lived much of his adult life in the U.S. and Canada. A professor and author of 39 books, he often wrote openly of his loneliness and other inner struggles. He was also, like his friend Jean Vanier, involved in L’Arche, a network of communities for disabled people.

In her talk, Lamott, whose non-fiction often deals with her own life struggles and spiritual life in a frank, humourous way, delivered, in somewhat stream-of-consciousness fashion, a loose spiritual and psychological autobiography of her earlier years, with a liberal mixture of often-dark wit that drew frequent laughter and, ultimately, a standing ovation from her audience.

From the beginning, Lamott said, she and her siblings faced the challenge of being born to mismatched parents.

“I had parents who never should have gotten married. They were married 27 years—they would have been better off raising orchids,” she quipped. “They didn’t love each other; what were they going to teach us?”

She and her siblings grew up “starving” to be loved for who they were, she said.

She developed her wit as a child, Lamott said, as a way of trying to hold the family together. “I got funny early on because it made everybody happy. It made my mum and dad laugh, and you’ve got to keep the parents alive—you’ve got to keep the ship afloat or you’re going to go down.”

Her parents were atheists, she said, and she was taught that religion and everything associated with it was stupid. “Spirit was just very suspicious,” she said.

Her mother and father filled the home with poetry, literature, jazz, classical music and gourmet food, but did not have “anything to fill a God-shaped hole,” Lamott said. They placed high demands on their children; growing up, Lamott was taught to see B+ as a bad grade.

Her parents, she said, were also alcoholics—but she felt she could not recognize their misery openly. As a child of alcoholics, she said, “you agree not to see what’s going on, because it makes your parents so miserable for you to notice how they treat each other, how they quibble, how contemptuous they feel toward each other.”

At age five, she said, she started to get migraine headaches; at 14, she began to be addicted to drugs; at 23, when her father was diagnosed with brain cancer, she developed bulimia.

Meanwhile, she was on a spiritual quest. She began associating with the family of a Christian Scientist friend, and secretly praying. But her search was fraught by the suspicion, planted in her by her parents, that she might not be lovable.

“I kind of, sort of, believed God loved me, but I also had this heavier message,” she said. “It’s hard to find God when you basically believe that your parents are mortified…by who you actually are.”

Alcohol and drugs—including cocaine and methamphetamines—actually gave her a taste of the spiritual, she said, in that they represented a wider reality than that of her troubled family.

At 31, a Jesuit friend told her that Americans are taught to feel shame if they can’t convincingly pretend there’s nothing wrong with them. It made her realize the fundamental loneliness of herself and those around her, and changed her life.

“That is what broke me open and gave me life…that we were all on the same boat, and were coming back from a very, very long distance away, in total isolation, separated not just from life and God, but from ourselves,” she said.

She realized the importance of seeking help—something that had been very difficult for her before—and began to ask for it. Friends began to suggest books to her, including those of Henri Nouwen.

Nouwen’s honesty about his own inner struggles and his conviction that we are all loved by God more than we can imagine helped her begin a new life, she said.

“He wrote about despair, and it was ‘me too,’ and he wrote about self-loathing and it was ‘me too,’ and it was about what life was like before he realized the truth of his spiritual identity.

“He was so honest about what a mess he was. It gives you life, for someone that you love to say ‘me too’…That’s what I understand Jesus’ message to be—‘me too.’ ”

She realized, also, that the success she had already enjoyed as a writer had not brought her happiness—this, she discovered, could only be the result of an inner transformation.

“The only thing that will work is Spirit, the universal donor,” she said. “It was all going to be an inside job…It was recognizing my truth, the truth of who I am. Not who I am, but whose I am.”

Nouwen’s admirers include Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who says he has almost every book Nouwen wrote, and likes to bring them with him on retreat.

Nouwen’s importance, Hiltz says, lies in his exploration of what it means to be fully human and to be fully alive, both to God and to other people—and in his openness.

“Nouwen wrote extensively about his own vulnerability, to depression and so on, and he speaks out of experience,” Hiltz said. “He knows of what he speaks, and he helps people realize that they can come through this, that there’s hope.

“I’m a great believer in Jean Vanier and a great believer in Henri Nouwen, and I really, really believe that anyone—anyone—in our church who is seeking ordination must know their writings.”

Lamott’s talk is not the only event planned this summer by the Henri Nouwen Society. From June 9–11, the society will hold an international conference, in Mississauga, Ont. Speakers will include author and activist Shane Claiborne, Anglican author Esther de Waal and Sister Sue Mosteller, one-time leader of the International Federation of L’Arche.

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, May 19, 2016

Social engagement shares Cuban perspectives

Posted on: May 16th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Justice Camp participants in the social engagement immersion group discuss the impact of Cuba's tourism industry at the Plaza America Centro de Convenciones y Comercial in Varadero.

Justice Camp participants in the social engagement immersion group discuss the impact of Cuba’s tourism industry at the Plaza America Centro de Convenciones y Comercial in Varadero.

Social engagement shares Cuban perspectives

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The following marks the fourth instalment of our report on Justice Camp 2016. Read parts one, two, and three.

The resort town of Varadero leaves a different impression than most cities in Cuba. Dominated by hotels, shops, and restaurants, its raison d’être is catering to the tourists who contribute valuable income to the island nation’s economy. Among the myriad souvenirs on display, the heroic, determined face of Che Guevara stared out at us from every conceivable product.

Che cropped
Wall display of Che Guevara at the Plaza America Centro de Convenciones y Comercial in Varadero.

It was in Varadero that the Anglican Video team and I planned to rendezvous with the Justice Camp social engagement immersion group on the evening of Wednesday, May 4. Having been unable to reach the group during the afternoon due to poor cell reception, we finally located them inside the Plaza America Centro de Convenciones y Comercial (Convention and Commerical Centre), where participants had congregated after an afternoon swim at the beach.

We moved outside to some stairs overlooking the beach and palm trees, the scenery beautiful even under rain and grey skies. Sipping from a can of Bucanero Fuerte beer, I took notes as we began a discussion about the economic, social and environmental impact of the tourism industry in Cuba.

Over the course of the dialogue between Canadian and Cuban participants, we learned much about the ambivalent effect of the tourism industry. Cuba had initially turned to tourism as a source of revenue during the “special period” of economic difficulties that followed the collapse of the USSR.

Left to right: Justice Camp participants Katelyn James, Sierra Robertson-Roper, and Jorge González Nuñez build a sand castle at a beach near Varadero.
L-R: Justice Camp participants Katelyn James, Sierra Robertson-Roper, and Jorge González Nuñez build a sand castle at a beach near Varadero.

While tourism had undeniably restored and strengthened the Cuban economy, it had also led to increasing social differences, since Cubans who work in the tourism sector tend to make a much higher income than the average citizen. Though Cubans have free access to the beach, they are not permitted to enter resorts and hotels in tourist areas, which remain prohibitively expensive for many. Meanwhile, tourist areas require a large amount of water and electricity and can impact surrounding ecosystems.

Offering a Canadian analog to the Cuban situation, the Rev. Bill Mous—director of justice, community, and global ministries for the diocese of Niagara—noted that many people living in poverty in Canada would not be able to afford a stay at a domestic tourist destination such as Niagara Falls.

“I think the tourism talk left a big impression on me,” Canadian participant and first-year Trent University student Sierra Robertson-Roper said.

“I have family who have all come here and been tourists and stayed in Varadero, and I was a bit frustrated before I came because they kept telling me what I should expect, but they didn’t really have any kind of real experience of Cuba outside of a resort, which is Canadianized and Westernized … It was really enlightening for me to find out that Cubans weren’t allowed in resorts in their own country. It just really shows you the degree of separation.”

Vegetable platter at Parroquia San Fracisco de Asis.
Vegetable platter at Parroquia San Francisco de Asis.

Climbing back aboard the bus, Justice Camp participants drove to Parroquia San Francisco de Asis (Parish of St. Francis of Assisi) in the nearby town of Cárdenas. There we enjoyed one of the best meals of many during the trip, with potatoes, salad, rice, tomatoes, what Bill and I agreed was some of the best fish we had ever eaten, and ice cream for dessert.

After filling our stomachs, church staff invited us to sit in the pews where we listened to Father Aurelio de la Paz Cot, translated by University of Havana professor Ida Ayala, describe different social ministries offered by the parish to the community. As rain poured down outside during a thunderstorm, we remained refreshingly cool despite the humid night air due to grates letting in breeze and electric fans installed on the church ceiling.

Father Aurelio de la Pazcot of Parroquia San Francisco de Asis in Cárdenas describes some of his church's social ministry with the local community.
Father Aurelio de la Paz Cot

Father Aurelio highlighted 26 different ministries offered by the church to the local community in Cardenas, driven by five core purposes: worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, and evangelism.

Among its various ministries are:

  • Open doors, inviting the community into church each day of the week;
  • Purified water, which provides clean drinking water to the community;
  • Assistance to the needy, operating both within and outside the congregation;
  • Clothing for babies;
  • Couples and marriage support, to help strengthen relationships;
  • Consolation to families who have recently lost loved ones;
  • Adult learning, offering lectures, dialogue and discussion; and
  • Craftroom, encouraging creativity by producing arts and crafts.

Parroquia San Francisco de Asis was not the only church that social engagement participants visited during the three days of their immersion group, which also included trips to a farm and ecumenical hubs such as the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue and the KAIROS Centre in Matanzas.

For Canadian participant Katelyn James—a member of St. John’s Church in Peterborough, Ont. who serves as program manager at the Warming Room, a winter response emergency shelter—being able to hear different perspectives was a major feature of the immersion experience.

“Definitely the highlight for me was spending time talking to the Cuban participants in our group about the realities in Cuba and some of the challenges and struggles that they face, and learning different stories that I really didn’t know anything about before coming here … It was humbling to have them share their stories with us.”

Read the conclusion of this report.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, May 12, 2016

Justice Camp 2016: Final days and reflections

Posted on: May 16th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Participants in Justice Camp 2016 were given a cross based on the event logo—a stylized image of Jesus on the cross that represents the reign of God and God’s personal relationship to humankind.

Participants in Justice Camp 2016 were given a cross based on the event logo—a stylized image of Jesus on the cross that represents the reign of God and God’s personal relationship to humankind.

Justice Camp 2016: Final days and reflections

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The following marks the fifth and final instalment of our report on Justice Camp 2016. Read parts one, two, three, and four.

Back at the Matanzas Retreat Centre, Canadian and Cuban participants assembled for morning prayer on Friday, May 6, the last full day of Justice Camp. After breakfast, they split into groups for a series of conversations about their immersion experiences.

Sitting in on an anglophone group discussion, I heard Canadian participants express how deeply moved they had been by interacting with Cubans and hearing their stories. They highlighted not only the Cubans’ generosity, but their sense of solidarity and community.

Justice Camp participants reflect on their experience.
Justice Camp participants reflect on their experience.

For many, their experiences had demonstrated how faith could be integrated with social justice, as illustrated by the work of Cuban churches. Canadian Anglicans spoke of the passion and ideas for mission and outreach that they would bring back to their home churches, as well as a love of Cuba and greater knowledge of conditions in that country.

One participant described the Justice Camp immersion as providing a “growth spurt” in becoming the person God created her to be. Others spoke of seeing God in the workers, in the animals, in their growing relationship and connection to their Cuban counterparts, and in the solidarity between people.

Representing "water," Canadian participant Robyn Michell raises two water bottles as part of the food security immersion group's report.
Canadian participant Robyn Michell raises two water bottles to represent “water” during the food security immersion group’s report.

Participants split into their immersion groups before lunch to create performance pieces that would serve as reports on their experiences, reconvening afterwards to display the results.

Food security group members wore signs with words such as seeds, water, prayer, and hospitality. Each performed a brief act representing their word, before joining hands, yelling “Hope!”/“Esperanza!” and singing Hallelujah. Other participants played the part of a tree whose branches gradually fell as it was defaced or littered upon, before growing again as people came together to clean it up.

Members of the social engagement immersion group give a report to fellow Justice Camp participants.
Members of the social engagement immersion group present their report.

The social engagement group produced a colourful sign connecting the letters in “SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT” to aspects of their experience, such as social service, organic farming, Matanzas, the Evangelical Seminary of Theology, and amor (love). After singing We Are Marching in the Light of God, they acted out watering a tree before joining hands around it and singing Let It Be.

The economic justice group described a culture of “survival and resistance” they had encountered in Cuba, and their growing understanding of Cuba’s history and economy, current work of the Cuban church, and the significance of the empowerment of women. Acting out experiences such as playing dominos and feeding residents at a Havana shelter, they concluded with a song sung to the tune of Ode to Joy.

Justice Camp participants read the liturgy in English and Spanish during the closing Eucharist.
Justice Camp participants read the liturgy in Spanish and English during the closing Eucharist.

Following the reports, we enjoyed some free time during which I headed for the beach with other participants. After a refreshing swim and some equally refreshing mojitos, we headed back to the retreat centre for the closing Eucharist.

With its liturgy in both Spanish and English, the Eucharist crystallized much of the cross-cultural experience of Justice Camp. Canadians used to shaking hands during the peace adopted the Cuban practice of a hug and kiss on the cheek. We exchanged with our Cuban counterparts crosses worn around our necks patterned after the Justice Camp logo.

Participants changed into slightly dressier clothes for that evening’s celebratory feast, which was followed by a gift exchange in which Canadian and Cuban participants exchanged mementos representing their home communities.

Dancing at the Matanzas Retreat Centre after the celebratory feast.
Dancing at the Matanzas Retreat Centre after the celebratory feast.

Looking around as the Canadians and Cubans laughed, talked and posed for pictures together, I marvelled at how much the language barrier of the first few days had eroded. Translating as they could and employing non-verbal communication when necessary, participants from the two countries had created a mutual bond through shared experiences.

As a local band performed, the Cuban participants once more demonstrated their masterful dancing ability, showing the Canadians how to salsa in true Latin style. Yet we Canucks had a few moves up our sleeves—showing off routines such as the electric slide, Hotline Bling, the “Molly Ringwald” (inspired by The Breakfast Club), and the Time Warp.

Ernesto 2 cropped

Walking back to the retreat centre with some participants the next morning after going to purchase a souvenir bottle of Havana Club, we befriended a stray puppy whom we quickly named Ernesto. In our brief time together, Ernesto left a place in all our hearts and was sorely missed as we packed our bags and climbed aboard the bus to the Varadero airport.

While waiting to board the plane home, several of us purchased copies of Fidel and Religion, a book recommended by plenary speaker Dr. Carlos Emilio Ham in which Fidel Castro discusses Marxism and liberation theology with Brazilian priest Frei Betto, identifying some interesting parallels between Christianity and communism. The Canadian Anglicans enjoyed each other’s company until our plane touched down in Toronto, when amongst many hugs I said farewell to the new friends I had made and whom I had grown so close to in such a short time.


Looking back on my experience of Cuba and Justice Camp, what can I add to the reflections of other camp participants? I am reminded of the words of the dismissal in the Anglican liturgy: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” One of the chief lessons of Justice Camp was that pursuing justice for every human being is the way we create God’s reign on earth.

Cuban coastline
Sunset in Cuba

Both in my work for the church and as an activist in my own time, the struggle for justice and against injustice are constant concerns. The lessons I learned at Justice Camp further cement the theological foundation for this struggle and inspired me to continue working towards this goal in my own community. But as an internationalist to the core, the experience of living and working with Cubans in pursuit of social and economic justice reminded me of the global nature of this task.

At the Colony shelter in Havana, I heard the facility’s director, Dr. Francisco Mouza, explain how the lives of his community had been transformed through service to others, quoting a Bible passage in which Jesus sums up the meaning of justice from a Christian perspective. Recalling the solidarity others showed him when he was most vulnerable, Jesus said:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Here is what it means to be a Christian seeking justice and to create God’s reign on earth. The struggle for social justice can be a long and difficult one, but there’s too much beauty on this earth and too much good in human beings for us to ever give up.

Let’s go change the world.

Canadian participants in Justice Camp 2016.
Canadian Anglicans at Justice Camp 2016.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, May 13, 2016










‘I thought I knew what prayer was all about’

Posted on: May 16th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Twenty oblates of the Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine (SSJD) assembled at the SSJD convent in Toronto for their triennial gathering April 30–May 6. Photo: Contributed

For Sandi Austin, the attraction of becoming an oblate was more than the idea of living life by a rule.It was also the idea of relearning how to commune with God.

“I thought I knew what prayer was all about until I came here,” says Austin, a retiree who made her life promise to serve as an oblate with the Toronto-based Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (SSJD) in 2010.

“I went to church every Sunday, and had since I was a child, and I knew all about intercessory prayer, and I prayed the Lord’s Prayer constantly,” she says. “But I came here and found out there were so many other ways to pray with God, many of them without words.”

A day spent in one such non-verbal form of prayer—prayer through the creation of art—was one item on the agenda as Austin and 19 other SSJD oblates from across Canada gathered at the order’s Toronto convent April 30 to May 6. Other items included an information session on spiritual formation, a visit to a Coptic Orthodox church, an update on developments in new monastic communities and a session on liturgy and music.

Instead of taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as do the sisters of the SSJD, oblates take promises to a life of prayer and service, and formulate, together with the SSJD oblate director, a rule of life. They ordinarily live in their own homes, but spend at least two weeks of the year at the convent working and praying with the sisters.

For Austin, the best part of the gathering was spending prayerful time with her counterparts across the country.

“We only get an opportunity to do this once every three years,” she says. “That was for me very energizing. Out in British Columbia, we do have five oblates and four of us who live in the vicinity of Victoria do get together on a fairly regular basis, but this was an opportunity to be with everyone.”

Fellow oblate Doreen Davidson, who lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C., says she liked the chance “to live and move amongst the sisters” at the convent.

Though Austin and Davidson became oblates only relatively recently—Davidson in 2007—both see their decisions as issuing from inclinations they first sensed earlier in their lives. Austin says she was interested in the monastic life as a teen, but was discouraged from taking that path by her rector at the time. Then, a dozen or so years ago, she says, “a monastic sister from this particular order walked into the course I was taking, and it just brought the whole thing back to me, so that started me on the path.”

Davidson says she first became aware of the SSJD in the 1960s when a friend joined; when another took her promises three decades later, her interest was piqued.

“It sparked something in me, to find out a bit more about the community, and for me it was an opening to finding a way to be contemplative out in a chaotic world…The rhythm of life that the sisters live just helped to ground me and to be able to live a much better and fuller life,” she says.

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, May 13, 2016

Cuban church farm bolsters food security

Posted on: May 11th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews


Justice Camp participants in the food security immersion program clear weeds from around yuca plants in the organic farm located behind the Iglesia Episcopal Santa Maria Virgen in Itabo, Cuba.

Justice Camp participants in the food security immersion program clear weeds from around yuca plants in the organic farm located behind the Iglesia Episcopal Santa Maria Virgen in Itabo, Cuba.

Cuban church farm bolsters food security

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I set out with the Anglican Video crew from Matanzas at the crack of dawn. Riding shotgun in the van, I was exhausted. Having failed to sleep at all the previous night due to constant crowing from the retreat centre rooster, I used the two-hour drive to Itabo to get some rest..

Refreshed once we arrived in Itabo, a small Cuban town with a population of approximately 5,000, I entered the Iglesia Episcopal Santa Maria Virgen, where we joined Justice Camp participants in the food security immersion program. Over a breakfast of eggs, ham and cheese sandwiches, mango juice, and coffee, Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio introduced us to the parish priest, the Rev. Gerardo Logilves.

After breakfast, the Rev. Logilves along with Enriqué, a local church member, took us on a tour of the organic farm behind the church, as Canadian participant Andrew Kuhl, parish administrator at St. George the Martyr Church in Toronto, translated from Spanish.

Left to right: Cuban planning team member Rosali Hardy Ramírez, local church member Enriqué, the Rev. Gerardo Logilves, and Justice Camp participant Andrew Kuhl tour the organic farm at Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen.

Left to right: Cuban planning team member Rosali Hardy Ramírez, local church member Enriqué, the Rev. Gerardo Logilves, and Justice Camp participant Andrew Kuhl tour the organic farm at Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen.




Within one hectare of land we found a dizzying array of crops—all native to Cuba—including limes, sweet mangoes, Caribbean pears, pineapples, plantains, bananas, guava, coffee, and green beans. Livestock were also being raised on-site, and the farm featured both a chicken coop and pigpen.

The church farm was made possible as a sustainable growth project through the Cuban Council of Churches. Everything grown is natural and organic. All organic materials are left to decompose before being reintroduced into the soil, while the church had recently constructed a biogas plant that will be filled with water and pig waste to produce methane and carbon dioxide as a renewable power source.

The sustainable nature of the project and its contribution to local food security has raised the profile of the Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen and drawn it closer to the surrounding neighbourhood. As part of its ministry, the church provides food for its community, offering fresh produce to the poor, needy, sick, and elderly, as well as the local elementary school. Such has been the high demand for its produce that the University of Matanzas has even taken an interest in the farm.

One of the residents in the pig pen at Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen.

One of the resident pigs in the pig pen at Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen in Itabo, Cuba.

Gerardo noted it was only a small vision of what was possible in a small piece of land, providing nourishment for the residents of Itabo and easing the pain caused by the economic embargo. Many young people work at the church farm.

Having given much thought to the issue of food security through his studies in eco-theology, work as a farmer’s market manager, and involvement in community-supported agriculture, Andrew, 27, was caught “off guard” by the success of the Itabo church farm project in providing food security to the surrounding community, suggesting it provided a model of “what the church should be about.”

“I think it’s so inspiring,” he said. “I think it is exciting to see a church that is able to create a vision for projects and follow through with the projects in ways that match up so incredibly to the community’s needs around them.”

Bishop Sue Moxley (ret’d), who has had a longstanding interest in food security as a church community garden developer and a Community Sustainability Agriculture shareholder, praised the Itabo church’s willingness to work to reclaim the land, while planting diverse crops to make the farm more sustainable.

“It’s one of the things that convinces me that there are ways to do things differently that can work,” she said of the farm project. “But they’re not big-scale things. They’re small-scale things, and in North America, we don’t seem to value small-scale farming, as agri-business has its fingers in all the pies, including advertising.”

Left to right: Justice Camp participants Sue Moxley, Devon Goldie, Matt Gardner, and Evie Creary listen to members of Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen discuss the church's organic farm.

Left to right: Justice Camp participants Sue Moxley, Devon Goldie, Matt Gardner, and Evie Creary listen to members of Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen discuss the church’s organic farm.


Following the tour, Justice Camp participants tried their hand at weeding the garden, clearing weeds from around the yuca (cassava) plants, which serve as food for both humans and livestock. Though we only weeded the crops for half an hour, sweltering under the blazing sun, it was more than enough to remind us of the hard manual labour required for farming.

We welcomed a break from our work in the stifling heat with a snack of Cuban crackers and cola, as Bishop Griselda re-joined us. Participants spent the next hour sitting in the shade, listening to the bishop, Gerardo, and volunteers speak about their experience of the farm.

Learning about the high cost of new projects in the garden, I wondered what kind of help the Anglican Church of Canada might be able to provide for our Cuban brothers and sisters. Looking to the future, the Itabo church is hoping to build a “shadehouse,” similar to a greenhouse, which will allow it to produce winter vegetables year-round.

A lunch of rice and beans preceded a siesta that lasted until the late afternoon, when camp participants hopped aboard a pair of horse-drawn wagons for a tour of Itabo.

A local resident walks down a street in Itabo, Cuba.

A local resident walks down a street in Itabo, Cuba.

The town was marked by cheap, worn-down housing, with few cars visible except for the occasional vintage models that are a fixture in Cuba as a result of the embargo. Only the main road through Itabo was paved. We passed people relaxing and working, animals by the roadside, and local points of interest including a place where youth enjoyed dances and socials, a secondary school, and the downtown. Before the lush forested hills in the distance, we could see fields full of sugar cane, a staple Cuban crop.

After a delicious supper made from food grown at the farm, I departed with the Anglican Video crew and returned to Matanzas. We retired to bed and rested up for the next day, when we would continue our exploration of the immersion programs that make up the heart of Justice Camp.

Visit the Anglican Church of Canada website tomorrow for the next instalment in this report from Justice Camp 2016. Read part one.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, May 10, 2016

Task group appointed to ‘maintain conversation’ among Anglican primates

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

By Gavin Drake/ACNS

The flag of the Anglican Communion.  Photo: ACNS

A task group has been appointed to “maintain conversation” among the Primates of the Anglican Communion as requested during the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting in Canterbury Cathedral in January. The Primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish the group as part of their commitment to “walk together” despite “deep differences”.

The primates requested the group “with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, confirmed during the recent Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka that the group had been established. Today, the Anglican Communion Office confirmed the membership of the group.

It includes seven primates, drawn from across the globe, a suffragan bishop, a provincial secretary and the former vice chair of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The group will meet together at least once each year; with additional meetings held electronically. Its terms of reference including working out “the modalities for the implementation of the requests from the Primates” and to provide regular briefings to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The members of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s task group are:

Archbishop Richard Clarke from the Church of Ireland; Presiding Bishop Michael Curry from the US-based Episcopal Church; Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam, Moderator of Church of South India;Archbishop Ian Ernest, from the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean; Archbishop Philip Freier, from the Anglican Church of Australia; Archbishop Ng Moon Hing, from the Province of South East Asia; Canon Rosemary Mbogo, the Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Kenya; the Rt Revd Linda Nicholls, Suffragan Bishop of Toronto in the Anglican Church of Canada; the former vice chair of the ACC, Canon Elizabeth Paver, from the Church of England; and Bishop Paul Sarker, the Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh.

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, will serve the group as secretary. No date has been set for the group’s first meeting.


Anglican Journal News, May 10, 2016

Church media in unique position to confront racism, says panel

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Lisa Sharon Harper (C) talks about race and religion in America with Leah Gunning Francis (R) and the Rev. Jerry van Marter (L). Photo: André Forget

St. Louis, Mo.

Church media have a vital role to play in combatting racism in North America, according to a panel discussion on race and religion held April 21 at the annual convention of the Associated Church Press (ACP).

The discussion was a topical one: not 20 km away from where ACP members met, the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., had become a flashpoint for protests over alleged police brutality across the U.S.

Panelists Lisa Sharon Harper and Leah Gunning Francis said the church press is in a unique position to change how faith communities think about race in America, because they tend to be more trusted by their constituents than their mainstream counterparts. Harper is chief church engagement officer at Sojourners, and Francis is professor of Christian education at Eden Seminary and author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community.

Presbyterian News Service editor the Rev. Jerry van Marter, who moderated the discussion, underscored the need for change.

Citing research done by the Public Religion Research Institute, he explained that while 80% of black protestants believe that police violence in the U.S. is part of a systemic pattern of racist treatment, 73% of white, mainline Christians in the U.S. believe they are isolated incidents—which is 11% and 14% more than those affiliated with non-Christian religions and the religiously unaffiliated, respectively.

“If we as writers and editors do not reflect the 73% who believe that state-sanctioned violence is isolated and unsystematic, and our readers do believe this, what explains the discrepancy? How does that disconnect with our own readers come to be?” Marter asked.

Francis suggested that part of the problem is the overwhelming appeal of simple narratives that tell a sensational story.

“The world saw the tanks and the teargas,” she said, speaking of the Ferguson protests of 2014 and 2015, in which she was involved as a community leader. “The world saw the same frame being looped over and over, of folks running in and stealing some things out of stores.” What it didn’t see, she argued, were the thousands of people who protested peacefully, or the people who are “actually collaborating and working in some constructive ways.”

Francis suggested that one of the most practical things the media can do to address misrepresentations is be more intentional about how it gathers information.

“If we’re going to think about constructing a more accurate view of the world, and helping challenge false realities—are we finding the same old sources that reinforce that narrative, or are we willing to expand that table and that pool to help construct a more accurate picture?”

Part of constructing a more accurate view of the world, Harper stressed, involves understanding the long and foundational history of racism and white supremacy in North American legal structures—structures that were sometimes explicitly set up to rob Indigenous people and African-Americans of their political rights and natural resources.

Using the police force as an example, Harper noted that it is an institution that was first organized to escort enslaved people from one farm to another. She said that white Americans need to understand why many African-Americans and Indigenous people might distrust the police before they can understand events like those that transpired in Ferguson.

“Unless we understand the actual history of why the police were invented—which probably wasn’t written down in any newspapers back then—then [we] aren’t going to understand the legacy…or how to change it,” she said.

For this reason, she said, church media must take its obligation to tell the whole story seriously.

“[Journalists] shape the narratives—you are writing history right now. When people look back 20 years on Ferguson, it will just be called history,” she said. “People are going to be reading about it and learning what happened based on what you wrote.”

The panel had originally been organized to include the Rev. Starsky Wilson, a St. Louis-based pastor who serves as co-chair for the Ferguson Commission, but he was unable to be present due to illness.

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, May 04, 2016