Moosonee bishop founded influential school of ministry
Retired Indigenous bishop Tom Corston died on Jan. 7 after a struggle against cancer. He was 72 years old.
Elected the ninth bishop of the diocese of Moosonee in 2010, Corston was a long-serving member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. He served as bishop until his 2013 retirement, when the diocese was reorganized as a mission area of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario and the metropolitan became Moosonee bishop. Thereafter Corston served as an assisting bishop.
“Bishop Tom is remembered as being a kind, dependable man who served his convictions and Christian beliefs well and who loved to tell a good story,” Archbishop Anne Germond wrote in an online tribute Jan. 13. “He is appreciated for his warmth, humility, honesty [and] sense of humour, and for being a mentor to many laity and clergy in the church.”
In 2017, Corston established the Moosonee School of Ministry to help train local lay leaders and encourage theological education, with many of its alumni later becoming ordained. Archbishop Colin Johnson, retired metropolitan of Ontario, called the school “perhaps [Corston’s] most enduring legacy” in one of many tributes posted on the diocese of Algoma website.
One of the first students at Moosonee School of Ministry was the Rev. Grace Delaney, a resident of Moose Factory, Ont. who is affiliated with Wemindji Cree First Nation. A longtime volunteer in her parish, Delaney became a licensed lay reader at the school and was later ordained as a deacon.
Corston, she says, “was the principal for the program and he was the one that encouraged the local people to be raised up … Tom was very meticulous in many things and he expected us to be.”
Ordained in the diocese of Moosonee in 1975, Corston spent his first 12 years of ministry there as an incumbent, rector and regional dean. Later he served various communities in the dioceses of Fredericton and Algoma as rector and regional dean. He held the position of rector at the Church of the Epiphany in Sudbury starting in 1998 and as an archdeacon in Sudbury and Manitoulin in 2002 until his election as bishop.
Journalism was another major element in Corston’s ministry. His career included stints as editor of the diocese of Moosonee’s newsletter, The Northland (1976-1982) and the diocese of Fredericton’s monthly newspaper the New Brunswick Anglican (1988-1992), and as a member of the Anglican Journal board.
Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said she was inspired by the “gentle grace” with which Corston met the challenges of his ministry.
“Whether driving through snowstorms or travelling by skidoo; facing the challenges of isolated communities or the ongoing healing needs of Indigenous communities, Bishop Tom had good humour, an inner peace and constant grace that those around him felt,” Nicholls posted.