Canon M. Philip Poole outside a clinic at the diocese of the Highveld, South Africa, which teaches family members how to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Canon M. Philip Poole of Trinity church, Aurora, Ont., was recently elected president of the international Compass Rose Society, the first Canadian Anglican to sit in that post.
The society, which was established to provide financial support for the work of the worldwide Anglican Communion, was inspired by a 1994 visit that then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey made to the war-ravaged province of the Sudan. “It was a risky visit, and what he saw there both appalled and saddened him,” said Canon Poole. “He felt that the rest of the communion needed to hear the story of the Sudan church and at the same time, to find ways to help.”
(Based in England, the Anglican Communion is a federation of 38 national or regional churches.)
The desire to help Sudanese Anglicans led to the birth in 1997 of the Compass Rose Society, which takes its name from the symbol of the Anglican Communion.
“It’s a privilege beyond words,” said Canon Poole of his election. He said that his parish, which now has a society membership of more than 35 parishioners, has gained much from its involvement. “It’s given our parish an international focus. I always think that communities that are inward-looking implode while those that are outward-looking explode.”
Aside from Canon Poole, Archbishop Terence Finlay of the diocese of Toronto was elected member of the board of the society, making him the second Canadian to serve on the board.
Canon Poole said his involvement with the Compass Rose Society began after he heard Canon John Peterson, general secretary of the Anglican Communion, talk about the work of the society during a national stewardship conference in Halifax. “I was touched by the stories that he told and wanted to get involved,” said Canon Poole. The stories included mission trips to areas ravaged not only by war but also poverty, neglect, and repression from political regimes.
Canon Poole himself later joined a mission visit to the diocese of the Highveld in South Africa, where he saw firsthand how the HIV-AIDS pandemic was playing out. “The church there was dealing with the AIDS pandemic right on its ground floor,” recalled Canon Poole of the 2002 trip. “They were providing primary care for the infected and at the same time, teaching women how to use contraceptives in an environment where women are not regarded highly and are often victims of violence. They were providing respite for grandparents who were caring for grandchildren orphaned by HIV-AIDS. It was atrocious in my eyes.”
His involvement with the Compass Rose Society, said Canon Poole, “helped me to understand that I am part of a world family. I realized that I have the opportunity to be involved in what goes on in the lives of my brother and sister Anglicans in other parts of the world.”
Canon Poole said that the society is not in competition with the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the Canadian church’s relief and development arm. “We only go where we are invited, except in places where the Archbishop of Canterbury wants us to go.”
One of Canon Poole’s priorities is to carry out the desire of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, for the Compass Rose Society to be involved in theological education. At the same time, he added, the society would continue to endow the work of the Anglican Communion Office.
At home, he said, one of his goals is to provide more opportunities for Canadian Anglicans to “broaden their horizons” by participating in mission visits around the world. He cites his favorite line from Helen Keller, ” I can’t do everything. I must do something.”