More than a quarter of a million dollars has been raised so far this year for the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation through the Giving with Grace campaign, Council of General Synod (CoGS) heard Sunday, June 25.
Healing Fund co-ordinator Esther Wesley told CoGS that, as of June 22, Giving with Grace, the Anglican Church of Canada’s annual fundraising campaign, had raised $26,000 in money directly designated for the fund, which supports Indigenous healing projects.
Funds donated without any specified designation totalled $249,000, Wesley said. Following an electronic vote by CoGS last December, such undesignated campaign proceeds this year are to go toward replenishing the Healing Fund. Thus, a total of $275,000 has been raised for the fund by Giving with Grace to date in 2017.
June 22 was a day after the conclusion of General Synod’s 22 Days campaign, an initiative urging support, through prayer, awareness-raising and donations, of the Healing Fund.
In 2015, Giving with Grace raised $515,000. In January, however, Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he hoped that with the Healing Fund now the campaign’s focus, Anglicans would be motivated to give $1 million, enough to allow the fund to continue its work for five more years.
Since the Healing Fund began in 1992, Wesley said, it has funded 705 projects totalling just over $8 million.
“I have to say, Anglicans are doing very well in this work—amazing work,” she said.
Much of the money in the fund in recent years originated from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, according to which a lump sum of $4 million was deposited into the fund. But this money is now almost entirely depleted, Wesley said.
A key focus of the fund remains keeping Indigenous languages alive as many of them reach a critical point in their existence.
“Many of them are on the verge of dying, because of the elderly people dying—they’re the ones that hold the language,” Wesley said.
Depending on how they are classified, there are between 60 and 65 Indigenous languages in Canada, she said—and many of these are further broken down into distinct dialects. This vast number of languages, she added, points in turn to the diversity of Indigenous culture and Indigenous concerns.
“When people come up to me and say, ‘Okay, what do Indigenous people want?’ or ‘What are the Indigenous issues?’ Well, there isn’t one issue, there isn’t one thing,” she said.
Reconciliation was the theme of a number of sessions at last weekend’s meeting of CoGS. On Saturday, June 24, Melanie Delva, named the church’s reconciliation animator last April, gave a presentation introducing her role. Much of it, she said, would consist in “forming, equipping and resourcing a national team to encourage and sustain local engagement in the work of reconciliation.” Quoting Chris Hiller, the church’s former Indigenous justice co-ordinator, Delva described the reversal of a system of oppression as “an ethical practice in which we listen repeatedly and with humility in a desire not to master but to be undone by the other.” She then asked members of CoGS in table groups to reflect on what needed to be “undone” in this context in themselves and their communities.
One table representative said that since reconciliation needed relationships, what most needed to be undone was the tendency of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to live in “separate worlds.”
“There are people coming from Indigenous communities into non-Indigenous communities all the time. Perhaps we could be intentional about inviting them to come and to speak in our churches…to share what life is like, to share what’s on their mind, their heart, to answer questions or just say what they have to say,” the representative said.
Another table representative, who identified herself as a survivor of an Indian residential school, said one thing she thought should be undone was the tendency of Indigenous children in her community to learn the history of their people as told by non-Indigenous people, not by Indigenous people themselves.
She added that she herself had to undergo a kind of reconciliation with her own non-Indigenous husband because of unpleasant associations she had acquired of non-Indigenous people from her school days.
“I had to reconcile because I looked at him the way I looked at the principals and the teachers that taught me,” she said. “Every day I reconcile with God, I reconcile with the people I hurt, I recognize with myself if I hurt myself or if I think less of me than God may think of me…And I feel reconciliation is to be proud of who we are, and not of what someone else tells us we are.”
CoGS members also observed a milestone—the 10th anniversary of the installation of Mark MacDonald as National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. MacDonald was installed as bishop at General Synod on June 22, 2007, after being appointed in January of that year.
“As we all know, that was a very historic moment in the life of our church—it was a very holy moment in the journey that we’ve all been on, particularly since 1994 and the covenant,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. (In 1994, Canadian Indigenous Anglican leaders made a covenant to work toward a self-determining Indigenous church.)
In addition to this role, Hiltz said, MacDonald also serves as area bishop of northern Manitoba—and is also known as “the rock ’n’ roll bishop.” MacDonald “loves a guitar, he loves a gospel jam, and he loves to lead us in singing,” Hiltz said.
Hiltz praised MacDonald as a scholar and as a well-travelled “apostle” for the church, before he and Sidney Black, Indigenous bishop for Treaty 7 territory in the diocese of Calgary, presented him with a certificate and a gift—an iPad tablet.
“Now I have to get rid of my Flintstone computer!” MacDonald quipped.