Sacred Circle: an epiphany for Indigenous Anglicans

A firekeeper lights the Sacred Fire at Sacred Circle, Pinawa, Man., 2012. PHOTO: GINNY DOCTOR
Published December 20, 2022

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one meaning of the word “epiphany” is “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.” In the case of the Church, the feast of Epiphany is celebrated Jan. 6 to commemorate the coming of the Magi as a “manifestation of Christ” to the Gentiles.

In a sense, the season of Epiphany continues beyond Jan. 6, as Christ continues to be manifest and made known to us. Indigenous Anglicans in Canada have met in a sacred gathering for more than 30 years, starting with the National Native Convocation in 1988 at Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask. In all that time, Christ has been made known in these gatherings through Word and sacrament and heard in the voices of many who called for self-determination within the church.

Today, the convocations are known as the Sacred Circle and they have traditionally been held every three years, usually ahead of General Synod. The last time Indigenous Anglicans from coast to coast to coast met was 2018 in Prince George, B.C. In 2020 the whole of the Anglican Church of Canada was forced to modify its approach to business and ministry as a result of the pandemic. The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), which is elected at Sacred Circle to continue its work between gatherings, moved online to conduct meetings, provide worship and, most recently, to raise up the next Indigenous archbishop.

ACIP also wrote the equivalent of a constitution and bylaws for the Indigenous Anglican church, called “The Covenant and Our Way of Life.” This document, found on the Anglican Church of Canada website, guides Indigenous Anglicans in our quest for self-determination. Two virtual Sacred Circles were called to complete the document, which will now go to an in-person Sacred Circle to be held this spring in Ontario.

Through it all, Christ has been with us, leading us in the hope of achieving the vision of our elders for self-determination. Colonization, the residential schools, youth suicides, the Sixties Scoop and COVID-19 have been challenges, but our persistence has proven we are a resilient people, a people of the land and waters who want to return to our Indigenous ways of being.

As the Epiphany season approaches, we look forward to the ways we will continue our journey, shaped by the Holy Spirit manifest among us. May our Creator bless our vision and bless us all with healing, reconciliation and new life.

Author

  • Murray Still

    Canon Murray Still traces his heritage from Peguis First Nation and serves as incumbent of the Church of St. Stephen and St. Bede in Winnipeg. He is chair of the Rupert’s Land Elder’s Circle and also serves as co-chair of ACIP.

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