An indigenous ministries presentation at the Council of General Synod meeting in Mississauga, Ont. included a preview of celebrations planned to mark the creation of a new indigenous diocese to be known as the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.
Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, currently the area bishop for Northern Ontario in the diocese of Keewatin, said June 1 will mark “a major milestone in the journey of establishing a self-determining, self-sustaining indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada” as the new diocese officially comes into being.
The proclamation of Mishamikoweesh will begin a week of special events in Kingfisher Lake First Nation, including the first meeting on June 3 of the Sacred Gathering, which will serve the new diocese as the synod meeting of the new diocese. Mamakwa will be formally installed as the first bishop of Mishamikoweesh on June 4. There will also be a gathering of elders sponsored by the Anglican Foundation and Council of the North, as well as nightly gospel jamborees during the five days of celebration.
Speaking to CoGS members on May 4, Mamakwa mentioned that it was the fourth anniversary of her consecration as area bishop. “It’s hard to believe it’s been four years, but more hard to believe we are going to have an indigenous diocese,” she said. “This is the first indigenous diocese in Canada and in North American and this is an exciting time for us indigenous Anglicans and the rest of the church.”
The June 4 date of her installation has special significance because it would have been the 93rd birthday of Archdeacon Dr. William Winter, who devoted his life to pursuing the dream of a self-determining indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada. Winter, who died in 2011, was Mamakwa’s spiritual director.
She told members of CoGS that the new diocese would include more than 25 aboriginal communities in Northwestern Ontario and Northern Manitoba. And according to a written statement she offered, “It’s structures and program will be uniquely aboriginal in that it will be an expression of indigenous self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada, committed to upholding the tradition, order and discipline of the Church, expressing that commitment in a manner that is consistent with the cultural and spiritual heritage of the indigenous people of the region.”
Mamakwa added that there is still a lot of work to be done in setting up the diocese. There is a need to train people for ministry because there are many communities without clergy and many clergy are retirement age. “There is a need for healing and continued gestures toward reconciliation,” she said.
Also as a part of the indigenous ministries presentation, Archdeacon Sidney Black, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) gave CoGS members an overview of the council’s work. National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald offered new CoGS members some of the history of the movement towards developing an self-governing indigenous Anglican church within the Anglican Church of Canada, including the 1994 Covenant and 2011 Mississauga Declaration. He said it was important for CoGS members to understand this history and the relationship between indigenous Anglicans and the broader church. “We have a sense that this triennium will be one of those most momentous in the past few decades.”
The Rev. Norman Wesley spoke of the importance of a self-determining indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada. “We still see many parts of the white man’s world as places where we are bystanders and we watch and we look at things happening around us. We are not part of them.” He spoke of his own experience of only in recent years feeling that the church he was baptized, confirmed and married in was truly his church and his place.
“We stand at new crossroads where this is a whole journey of spiritual renewal that’s so desperately needed by our people,” said Wesley. “We want to be able to do this within the Anglican Church.”