Niagara Falls, Ont.
Proceeds from the recent Amazing Grace project, which captured the interest of Anglicans across Canada and raised more than $91,000 for the Council of the North, will go towards the establishment of a suicide prevention program with paid staff.
The council, which met in February, decided that the donations “had to be spent for a project that would really address the needs of its members,” Keewatin bishop and council co-chair David Ashdown told the house of bishops at its spring meeting here.
“The issue of suicide is one that we deal with all the time. The council struggles with trying to find ways of preventing suicide,” said Bishop Ashdown. “It’s one thing to minister to communities and individuals after a suicide has taken place. But we’d rather find help and focus the energy on preventing it as much as we can.”
The council “never had the resources until the Amazing Grace (project),” Bishop Ashdown said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “It is amazing that we’ve now received the grace that will enable us to go forward and bring grace into other people’s lives,” he said. “I genuinely believe that, as a result of the Amazing Grace contributions, lives are actually going to be saved and enhanced.”
An initiative of the communications and information resources committee, the Amazing Grace project invited Anglican parishes and groups across Canada to sing the hymn Amazing Grace last Nov. 23, videotape it, and then send videos to the General Synod church office in Toronto. It also asked each participant to give at least a toonie ($2) towards the work of the Council of the North.
Bishop Ashdown said that the suicide rate in northern communities is often “four or five times higher than the national average.”
“We’re concerned about all suicides, obviously, but what’s particularly concerning is when you have children as young as 11 and 12 who commit suicide. We’re concerned, too, about teenagers and young adults,” he said.
He said that the council wants “to identify and evaluate the resources that are available, working in partnership with government, health units, social agencies, tribal councils and other churches.”
The council intends to hire a part-time suicide prevention co-ordinator by Sept. 1 who will lay the foundation for the program. The co-ordinator will be hired for a two-year contract and will work out of the synod office of a council member diocese.