An individual donor has given the Anglican Foundation of Canada (AFC) $150,000 toward an effort to help house retired, non-stipendiary clergy in Council of the North dioceses, Scott Brubacher, the AFC’s executive director, says. Combined with a $100,000 gift earlier this year from the Anglican Church Women (ACW) of the diocese of New Westminster and some donations still being confirmed, the new money will put the total raised somewhere between $255,000 and $265,000, Brubacher says.
The donor, who asked in her correspondence with the AFC to remain anonymous, reached out to the AFC through the Council of the North around the time when the Anglican Journal published a story announcing the ACW’s gift, says Brubacher.
“I was moved to make this donation because my parents were generous people and they would have found a project of providing housing to people who have generously served the church as a fitting way to give to others what God gave to them,” she wrote in an email excerpt Brubacher shared with the Journal.
The diocese of New Westminster ACW gave $100,000 to the AFC last spring with the intention of kick-starting a fund for housing in the North, and challenged other ACWs across Canada to contribute what they could to the fund. The idea was that the Council of the North would work with the AFC to distribute the money raised.
The AFC will begin putting the money to use in 2023, said Brubacher, through a process the organization is still working out with the Council of the North. It is expected that the council will receive requests from retired clergy in need of housing assistance, then pass them on to the AFC, who will dispense funds directly to the beneficiaries.
Between now and its next meeting in March, says Council of the North Vice Chair and diocese of Brandon Bishop William Cliff, the council will be working on the logistics and legal aspects of how those requests will be processed.
“I suspect by March we will have at least a draft of a process. If the process can be sorted out between now and our next meeting, I can see a situation where people would be able to begin to apply,” he says.
The difficult and often very expensive conditions of northern Canada have many of its clergy in dire need of financial help, Cliff says. Living and working in the North requires an extraordinary commitment, he says, and the work of clergy in particular may not even end with official retirement, as many bishops and priests continue to serve the communities in their parishes thereafter.
“The clergy in the North worked and served many years in some cases and have sacrificed a great deal, and … they may not have housing at the end of their clerical service,” he says. “This [donation] is a profoundly generous act. There are all manner of generous people in the church and there’s need everywhere, so we’re very grateful when our need is seen.”
Aside from the fact that many clergy in the North are non-stipendiary—unpaid—and do not receive a pension when they retire. They also have to contend with the fact that, as Cliff puts it, “everything is ruinously expensive” in much of northern Canada. Due to the lack of infrastructure, distance from major shipping hubs and fuel costs, it’s not unusual to find milk in Churchill, Man. priced at $26 a jug, he says. Many clergy who serve northern parishes or dioceses live in rectories provided by the church while they serve. But once they officially retire, there’s no house for them to sell up and downsize.
At November’s meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), Council of the North chair and diocese of Caledonia Bishop David Lehmann expressed his deep thanks for the money donated to the fund, but also said the cost of housing even a few clergy would eat into it quickly.
Normally, says Brubacher, the AFC does not directly provide funds to service recipients the way it will with this project. More frequently, he says, it disburses the funds it receives to charities run by parishes and local church organizations who then put it directly to work in their communities.
“We are not ourselves a drop-in centre or a soup kitchen or something where our benefit goes directly to individual people,” he says. But for this project, the foundation is trying something extraordinary. “There is a particular need here and as one of the national bodies, we are able to cross those diocesan borders and help people in various areas of the country in this particular way.”