Sacred Circle must be ‘peace bringers,” Harper says in opening sermon
Sacred Circle has officially installed Chris Harper as the Anglican Church of Canada’s new national Indigenous Anglican archbishop, the first time the national gathering of Indigenous Anglicans has held a formal installation ceremony for its presiding elder.
Harper’s installation took place at the opening Eucharist of the 11th Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle, which is taking place from May 28 to June 2 at the Fern Resort in Ramara, Ont. Around 110 people have registered for Sacred Circle—including Indigenous Anglican clergy, elders, young adults, and members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), though not all were able to attend in person. The focus of the gathering is achieving consensus for the Covenant and Our Way of Life, founding documents of the Indigenous church.
Harper presided and delivered the sermon at the May 29 worship service, following the lighting of the Sacred Fire. In his sermon, the national Indigenous archbishop called on Sacred Circle to be “peace bringers”—drawing upon the day’s gospel reading in which the resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples and tells them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
He recalled another idea he heard in seminary: that “the best sermon is the one that’s not spoken or preached, but lived.”
“We are being sent in a glorious message and the glorious opportunity to build up the church and to show the unity of the church in our Indigenous ministries, as we find our own voice in our own communities … to say [this message] within our own languages and our own context in our own gatherings, to show some of the traditions that we have of the spirituality that we’ve had, to give thanksgiving for our relatives and our ancestors,” Harper said.
“This world needs peace,” he added. “We need peace, we need healing … I pray it is you, as a representative of the church, from wherever you come from, from all corners—that you are that message of peace.”
Sacred Circle participants from different communities presented symbols of ministry to Harper during the installation.
These included a Bible, representing “the gospel of hope and life”; a vessel of water, for baptismal fellowship; oil, for anointing of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of reconciliation and healing; a copy of the Covenant and Our Way of Life, representing ministry with ACIP and Indigenous communities; a prayer book, for leading worship; and bread and wine, for presiding at the Eucharist. Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, presented Harper with the metropolitical cross as “a sign of the ministry you share with Indigenous people across the land.”
Willard Martin, ACIP member for the ecclesiastical province of B.C. and Yukon and representing the Nisga’a Nation, bestowed Harper with the Nisga’a name Kalwilimlhkwhl Laxha, which means “Heavenly Servant.”
“Whenever Chris is in our midst in our homeland, he will be known by this name,” Martin said. The name is given by the Nisga’a Nation to succeeding bishops and was previously bestowed upon former primates Ted Scott, Michael Peers and Andrew Hutchison and former national Indigenous archbishop Mark MacDonald. Harper also received chief status within the nation, by which “Chris is granted the same status as any hereditary chief in our land when he visits us,” Martin said.
Chief Ted Williams, representing the Chippewas of the Rama First Nation, welcomed Sacred Circle to their territory. He noted his family’s links to different Christian denominations, including his grandparents who served as longtime stewards of the United Church of Canada in Rama. “The significance of the church in the community was very, very important,” Williams said.
The Anglican Journal will continue to cover Sacred Circle throughout the week. Watch the gathering online as it happens at anglican.ca/im/sacredcircles/sc11.