Amazing Grace: The Sequel — transforming lives

Published April 1, 2009


Imagine one young aboriginal teenager who, while contemplating suicide, heard words of hope and encouragement from a church leader.

Imagine a community support group for mothers struggling with depression and hopelessness over the future of their children.

Imagine a host of church leaders across the country who are being trained and equipped to develop aboriginal-specific programs.

This seed of hope is germinating across the country, thanks to an Anglican community that has provided some seed money through the Amazing Grace project.

The genius lay in its simplicity: groups of men and women across the country singing and recording Amazing Grace. Almost incidental to the singing was the fundraising effort in support of the Council of the North. Anglicans responded with $80,000 in donations to accompany their video submissions and another $80,000 came in from individuals and groups. The response was deemed “amazing.”

Council of the North has gratefully received the $160,000 and will use those funds to launch programs dealing with suicide prevention and intervention as well as provide leadership development within the 300 parishes across the North.

One wonders just how far that $160,000 will go. Will that even begin to cover the cost of hiring qualified writers to develop the resources? Will it provide suitable training and office space for those called upon to provide career counselling and suicide-prevention counselling? And what about those thousands of aboriginal teens and young families who live in Canada’s larger urban areas, well beyond the Council of the North dioceses?

The Amazing Grace Project is over: We’ve produced the DVD and collected a few dollars. Some are already suggesting the next hymn to be sung. Imagine, though, if Amazing Grace is seen as the beginning of a much longer initiative. What if the project is viewed as a spark plug; a tool to ignite the Amazing Grace flame across Canada? What if this somewhat incidental gift to the Council of the North is seen as seed money for a much more significant initiative?

While not trying to minimize the significance of the gift, the $160,000 came from only a few of the 640,000 members on the parish rolls. It represents, on average, just 25 cents per member.

Imagine if, on a given Sunday this year, we all give just a loonie; a solitary loonie, less than the price of a cup of coffee. And imagine if 640,000 loonies were poured out onto the desk of Bishop David Ashdown, the chair of the Council of the North, or National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald. That would truly be an outpouring of God’s amazing grace and our amazing generosity! Giving, after all, comes naturally to Anglicans. It is our covenantal response.

Amazing Grace: The Sequel would allow us to truly imagine how lives can be transformed in aboriginal communities across Canada, one loonie at a time and one person at a time.

The Council of the North is a grouping of nine financially assisted dioceses plus the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior. It consists of that wide swath of parishes from coast to coast to coast. These are tiny, struggling churches where clergy receive a pittance in stipend and where unemployment and suicide among youth are rampant.

The Council of the North is not some obscure mission field. We all share in this ministry to and with aboriginal communities. Romans 12 defines it well: “We, who are many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another.”

First Nations Sunday and the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer fall on June 21. What an appropriate way to show God’s amazing grace by setting aside a loonie (or more) specifically for the ministry of the Council of the North on that day.


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