The ecclesiastical province of Canada is seeking six Council of the North parishes to take part in a parish-to-parish partnership pilot project that will involve the sharing of stories, prayers and exchange visits, Saskatchewan diocesan Bishop Michael Hawkins told members of the council at their fall meeting in Calgary September 28-30.
“I am convinced that visiting each other as host and guest could connect Anglicans across the country in a most powerful way,” said Hawkins, adding it might even begin with bishops. “It would be wonderful to extend an invitation to the entire House of Bishops to visit a Council of the North diocese in the next two years. Many of us have great experience and stories of folks who worked in or visited a part of our diocese and remain our greatest advocates both in prayer to God and in speaking to the church.”
Council members expressed support for the project, saying diocesan support would be essential for northern parishes, which are perpetually struggling with a lack of resources.
The Council of the North, which receives financial support from the rest of the church, includes the dioceses of Caledonia, Yukon, Arctic, Athabasca, Saskatchewan, Brandon, Moosonee, Quebec, the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior and the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, as well as the Archdeaconry of Labrador. The ecclesiastical province of Canada includes the dioceses of Montreal, Quebec, Fredericton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who spoke later in the meeting, also endorsed the proposal, which he said would allow others to witness “the courage of those who serve in the north and the sacrificial nature of their commitment.” He noted that many of the priests in the North are non-stipendiary (without pay), while those who are in paid ministry “receive the minimum of any in the country.”
Hiltz spoke of the intense challenges faced in the ministry of the North and the lack of opportunities for breaks, which accelerates the rate of burnout. “Everyone deserves rest, refreshment and renewal. They need the refreshment of education, theology and pastoral training,” he said.
The primate also said that from reading reports, travelling in the North and encountering the need for training programs for ministry leaders, it is clear that specialized skills and talents are demanded for these remote parishes. While ACPO (Anglican Advisory Committee for Postulants for Ordination) supports and advocates discernment for northern ministry, adjustments in the process would consider these unique needs more thoroughly, he said.
The council also discussed the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples’ (ACIP) call for greater self-determination, which was contained in the statement, “Where We Are Today: Twenty Years after the Covenant,” submitted to Council of General Synod (COGS) in November 2014.
The statement urged the creation of self-determining Indigenous ministries within the Anglican Church of Canada, including the creation of a fifth ecclesiastical province, composed of Indigenous parishes.
Hawkins said in an interview that the statement was received with thanks and that the Council’s new vice-chair, Arctic suffragan Bishop Darren McCarthy, will begin discussions with representatives from concerned parties. He said, “People had some fears, but there was lots of support for this as the spiritual way forward…There will be many changes for the dioceses and the council, but I detected nothing protective,” said Hawkins. He added, “The Council will co-operate with the Sacred Circle as part of its commitment to General Synod.” (The Sacred Circle is a national Native gathering held every two or three years. During its most recent meeting, the Sacred Circle gave its support for the proposal of a fifth Indigenous province.)
Meanwhile, in his report as chair, Hawkins reminded the gathering that the council “is not another layer or level between the Anglican Church of Canada and our dioceses. It is a ministry of General Synod, and the largest, single budget item and priority of our General Synod.” As such, he added, “we are bound together by a covenant of mutual support and accountability.
At their meeting, Hawkins was re-elected as chair for another three-year term.