Governor General celebrates New Year’s Day at Anglican cathedral

Bishop John Chapman greets Governor General David Johnston on his arrival at Christ Church Cathedral on New Year’s Day. Photo: Art Babych
Bishop John Chapman greets Governor General David Johnston on his arrival at Christ Church Cathedral on New Year’s Day. Photo: Art Babych
Published January 4, 2017

Anglicans at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa rang in the New Year along with Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife, Sharon, at a noon Choral Eucharist Jan. 1.

It was an unofficial visit for Johnston, an Anglican, who gave the first reading at the service and later visited informally with guests at the annual New Year’s Day Levee in the new cathedral hall.

Cathedral Dean Shane Parker and diocese of Ottawa Bishop John Chapman greeted the couple on their arrival. Johnston then added his signature to a special guest book for dignitaries that was first signed by the Queen Mother and former governor general Vincent Massey during the royal visit to the cathedral in 1954.

Before the service began, Chapman delivered a pastoral address to the congregation in which he said the global community “is in crisis,” with world leaders not behaving as they ought to. He called attention to “tens of thousands of Christians murdered, climate change, terrorism, war,” and said, “We must not be spectators, commentators or passive critics of a time we wish was otherwise.”

The clarion call voiced by the prophets, Jesus and the prophetic voices in contemporary society resound today even louder, he said. “It is the call of God to deep prayers, compassionate outreach amongst the marginalized and disenfranchised.” The call is also to “seek peace, faithful adherence to the Truth and Reconciliation [Commission of Canada’s] directives, and sensible, thoughtful and articulate teaching that reflects not just our longing and work toward a civil society, but more important, the mission of God,” Chapman said.

David Selzer, executive archdeacon of the diocese of Ottawa, gave the sermon, asking, “If we claim the Prince of Peace as our saviour, what are we going to do about peacemaking in our world that so absolutely, desperately needs it?”

He also wondered where Anglicans stand when it comes to truth and reconciliation “not only with our Aboriginal sisters and brothers, but with those we despise or ridicule or see as less than who we are?

“Where are we in terms of justice, dignity for all people so that no one goes hungry, and lacks shelter and medical care?” he asked.

God is not just for a select group of people, but for all humanity, said Selzer, as he urged the faithful not just to see God on Sunday mornings “when we’re feeling pious.”

Following the service, members of the cathedral choirs presented the governor general with the gift of a CD showcasing their musical talents.

Guests at the levee said they were surprised but pleased that the governor general and his wife broke from their schedule to visit with them in the cathedral hall for almost an hour, chatting, shaking hands and posing for photos with children and adults alike. Other guests included Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the Pope’s representative as Apostolic Nuncio in Canada.

Accompanying the couple throughout the Johnstons’ visit was an RCMP security team.

Traditionally, the Canadian primate preaches at the cathedral of Canada’s capital on January 1. But this year the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, and his spouse, Lynne Samways Hiltz, travelled to Corner Brook, Nfld., for a family wedding.

In a note December 21 advising of his plans, Hiltz said he and his wife have enjoyed the nine New Year’s Day celebrations at the Ottawa cathedral. “Please receive our very best wishes for a year that for our Church is marked by numerous anniversaries and for our country the 150th of Confederation,” he wrote. “May you enjoy good health and happiness this year and God willing we will see you on New Year’s Day in 2018.”

A copy of the note was sent to the levee hosts, Bishop John and Catherine Chapman, and Cathedral Dean Shane Parker and his wife, Katherine Shadbolt Parker.


  • Art Babych

    Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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