The challenge of Cariboo

Published November 1, 2003

Shulus, B.C.
One theme of the first assembly of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) was “healing and reconciliation” – a theme running through much of the Canadian church’s work. The theme was particularly significant since this area was the site of the school that was the start of the residential school crisis in the Canadian church.

The Anglican churches at Lytton, a community of about 500, get 10 or 12 people at Sunday worship, said Rev. Gordon Lines, who was ordained to the priesthood along with aboriginal priest Rev. Jean Stenhouse at the end of the assembly. However, Mr. Lines will be Lytton’s full-time priest, his salary subsidized by the national church, he said.

(The clergy position had been vacant since the departure of Rev. Catherine Morrison and Rev. Will Hubbard, a clergy couple whose 1999 appointment to the Lytton parishes had been celebrated by the church as an opportunity for healing and new beginnings in the region. Ms. Morrison, now a military chaplain, was the youngest ordained aboriginal woman in the church at the time.)

“Some people are still bitter and always will be,” said Dorothy Phillips, 64, who attended St. George’s School from age six to 17 and lives in Lytton. The school building was destroyed by arson, but a stone chapel survives and Ms. Phillips said in an interview that the, “the elders there have said they can hear the children crying.” She and a Cree minister walked around and “blessed the grounds,” she said.

She doesn’t see many native people in church. “he only time people go to church is a funeral, marriage or baptism. I don’t know if it will survive,” she said. However, she said, when church leaders asked Lytton elders what kind of minister they wanted, the elders asked for a full-time minister.

Although she was subjected to harsh discipline at the school, she did not sue, she said. “I believe in both my native traditional way and the Anglican parishes. I still stay in it … in both the white man’s ways and the Indian ways,” she said.

In recognition of the two cultures, the APCI assembly included many expressions of native life – a healing circle led by Ms. Stenhouse, bannock-making with elder Ethel Isaac, drumming at worship services, a workshop with a group called Aboriginal Neighbours from Victoria .

Some members of the diocese say they have heard expressions of resentment from white Anglicans towards native people. But Ms. Roff, of St. Paul ‘s, said she didn’t feel that way. “I felt we needed to move together with the First Nations people. I felt it was the right thing (to close the diocese). If the price for Jesus was to give up his life, what is the price for St. Paul ‘s and us?” said Ms. Roff.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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