Emotional end for Cariboo

By on February 1, 2002

Canon Betty Gore of Cariboo, shown here with a book listing diocesan assets, says the end of the diocese was ‘not without tears.’

On December 21, three people sat in a small circle on wooden chairs in an empty, stripped office in Kamloops, B.C. and noted the passing of an era with sad smiles and prayers of thanksgiving for the past.

For Bishop Jim Cruickshank of the now-closed diocese of Cariboo, his part time secretary Marianne Boak and the diocese’s administrative assistant of 27 years, Betty Gore, this was their last weekly staff eucharist together.

Forever.

“It was very clear that something very beautiful was coming to an end,” said Bishop Cruickshank in a recent interview. “We knew that our relationship as a staff who respected and enjoyed each other, was over.”

The diocese decided to wind up its affairs rather than sink under the weight of further residential schools lawsuits.

(In a pastoral letter read in the diocese’s churches in September, the bishop wrote that the diocese “will have reached the point when damages claimed against us exceed our assets.”)

Cariboo, a mostly rural diocese, had an Anglican population of just more than 4,700. It had 45 congregations, 11 full-time clergy and nine more on a part-time basis, according to the Anglican Church Directory 2001.

Bishop Cruickshank said he worked with Mrs. Gore for 10 years and with Ms. Boak for almost as long. However, he quickly added that there was also a sense of “following Christ into a new future. Almost every parish without exception improved their property in recent years as a sign of hopefulness and moving forward.”

Mrs. Gore, who has since retired but was still working in January to tidy up administrative details and pay December’s office bills, said she could have retired two years ago, “but it didn’t seem right to leave. Would you bring somebody new into something that’s not going to be?”

There was no dramatic final locking of doors at the office, located in an office building in Kamloops, and no sign posted at eye level like a final poignant slap. “We knew the word was out and that was enough,” Mrs. Gore said.

Of the last staff eucharist, Mrs. Gore said: “It was difficult. We were all feeling it. There have been tears.”

Archbishop David Crawley, Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon, will look after the administrative details and give episcopal oversight to the newly named Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior in future.

The Anglican Directory for 2002, Mrs. Gore explained, will now have a page announcing that the diocese of Cariboo is no longer operating and then another, in its stead, listing the Parishes of the Central Interior.

Her voice shaking slightly, Mrs. Gore said that “there was no question that it had to end. One more bill and we were done.”

However, she emphasized there was also a sense of relief in closing down the diocesan office. “We are finally getting on with things. We’ve had enough and now the church can return to being what it’s all about, instead of just dealing with litigation.”

Bishop Cruickshank also spoke with resolve of lessons learned and fresh commitment within the parishes. “People have learned the very hard lesson that the church is more than buildings.”

As of Jan. 1 he is at the Vancouver School of Theology for a year as interim professor for pastoral theology, where he will also teach social ethics.

“Ironically, I have moved into the same office I started in 30 years ago,” he said.

He taught at the school for 10 years and was also vice-principal.

He noted that his parting gift from Mrs. Gore was symbolic of the spirit of the diocese. “She gave me a little carved bear. When you push it from behind, it lands on its feet.”

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