A couple of potted crocuses in the newspaper office have just opened their petals, their rich purple brightening up the dreary late weeks of winter. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind knew what it was doing when it set up tables in nearby subways and office towers, selling the plants as a fundraiser. Who could resist such compelling signs of new life in the darkest days of chilly February?
Looking around us, there are many encouraging signs of new life. In this issue, there is a story of a city parish in the Prairies that was rejuvenated in recent years simply by opening its doors and casting a glance around its artsy neighbourhood. The parish hall now vibrates with a lively blend of arts and community groups and the spillover effect has meant that in less than a decade, while losing 90 families to death, new members have joined in almost equal numbers. “The point is the number hasn’t gone down even after we lost all those people,” said the priest, Rev. Michael Stonhouse.
What better way to show the church’s relevance to the wider society? Rather than look out longingly at the world around them, the parish instead decided to do something about their declining numbers, identified a need in the neighbourhood and invited that world in.
Similarly, the national church’s Volunteers in Mission (VIM) program, which appeared to be all but dormant in late 2001, has recently perked up and is seeing renewed interest from Canadian Anglicans.
Approved as an outreach program by General Synod in 1986 and started two years later, VIM matches skilled volunteers with assignments overseas for one to two years. Volunteers have served as English instructors, lay and ordained teachers for theological colleges and diocesan schools, medical personnel, accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors.
Also, as many have observed, there is some hope that has come out of the utter devastation of the tsunami disaster last December. The continued generosity of people has astonished many charities, including Médecins Sans Frontiars, which announced only weeks after the disaster that it was suspending its tsunami appeal as it had reached its financial target. The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), meanwhile, had raised more than $800,000 at press time – by far a record for the Canadian church’s relief and development arm for any disaster relief effort.
Will there be some hope that emerges from the meeting of the Anglican primates, scheduled to meet late last month? Certainly, keen observers of the Anglican Communion have a lot of expectations from the meeting – conservatives hope that the pressure of the church in the Global South will be enough to convince the wider church to insist repentance from the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) and on the Windsor Report’s recommendations of a communion-wide moratorium on same-sex blessings. Both groups, say some (including the report’s authors), breached the “bonds of communion” by approving same-sex blessings and, in the case of ECUSA, moving ahead with the consecration of a gay bishop. Still, others hope that the primates of the Global South will come away from the meeting with some understanding of the polity of our churches in the West. The Canadian church, for instance, has found remarkable ways of working through our differences, living with the diversity that is the hallmark of the way we “do” church – witness the healthy way the church dealt with the sometimes divisive debate about the ordination of women.
Finally, there is the tantalizing prospect for peace in the Middle East with the signing of yet another peace accord. The new hope, however, stems from the fact that Ariel Sharon has promised Mahmoud Abbas, the newly-elected Palestinian leader, that Israel would make concessions that would eventually lead to an independent Palestinian state. Mr. Abbas, meanwhile, travelled recently to Gaza to demand that militants stop attacking Israelis and obey the truce he has negotiated. Mr. Abbas also sacked a number of his security chiefs over their failure to prevent militants from lobbing mortars and rockets on a Jewish settlement.
After years of bloodshed, we hold our breath again, hoping against hope that it will be a lasting peace.
Simply because we are an Easter people. We believe in renewal. We have reason to hope.