This marks the final editorial by Vianney Carriere, who is now General Synod’s acting director of communications (see story in Canada). THE PRIMATE has called this “a moment in time,” a phrase so simple and yet so evocative for members of the Anglican church that it begs further reflection. We are poised upon a moment, on a day which is neither yesterday nor yet tomorrow. The moment is many things, not the least of which is a time and a place of honour. A moment in time.
Yesterday was not a good day. Yesterday, we were afraid, we were troubled, we were uncertain, we were deeply hurt by wounds that have festered for a very long time. Yesterday, we were in another moment that threatened a great deal of what we hold dear. Yesterday, while nursing and feeling our own wounds, we carried with us other even greater wounds – those that we ourselves had, often unwillingly, often unwittingly, inflicted on generations of native children who attended the residential schools for which we shared responsibility. We felt for them yesterday and we feel for them still. It is said that pain is something that cannot be remembered. This particular pain can and will be.
Yesterday was not a good day. The General Synod, its staff depleted through attrition and cutbacks, its resources and assets expended, its programs cut to the bone, its services threatened, carried and nursed its own wounds. We were poised then too, but poised on the edge of something that offered the distinct possibility of a change no one wanted to contemplate but that everyone had to acknowledge. Yesterday was a frightening, painful and uncomfortable time.
On Nov. 20, Archbishop Michael Peers, the primate, Archdeacon Jim Boyles, the general secretary of General Synod, and Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale, in charge of residential schools resolution for the federal government, announced that the Cabinet had approved an agreement between government and church that would effectively end the residential schools litigation that has been draining the church’s resources for several years.
Things suddenly changed, though perhaps in ways we had not anticipated. Suddenly we were in a “moment in time.” Those of us who have watched this process and been involved in it in some way no matter how small, might have expected that this moment, when it came, would be both a dramatic end and an auspicious beginning. What it was instead was immeasurably simpler and yet more meaningful: a “moment in time.” There was relief more than celebration. There was a sudden clarity and resolve born of a realization that we had been given that rarest of gifts – a future. It was a quiet moment. A moment for reflection, for prayer, for resolve, and for more prayer.
It was, above all, a moment to pause upon and from which to look ahead – something which before Nov. 20 required singular courage and fortitude even to attempt. The moment hung, ever so briefly, poised between the pain of yesterday and the hope for tomorrow. A moment in time.
Looking at tomorrow from the vantage of this moment in time is not simple, not entirely comfortable, not wholly free of a kind of pain all its own. All we can tell, really, about tomorrow is that it will not be as yesterday and that it will move us, one way or another, beyond this moment in time.
The agreement the church and the government reached, a complicated, difficult and demanding document, now goes to 30 Anglican dioceses for ratification. The dioceses, as is explained elsewhere in this edition, are not only asked to sign on to the terms of the difficult agreement, but they are asked – each and every one of them – to make significant and painful financial contributions for the next five years. They are asked to find, amid their own scarce resources and finances, the money that ratification of the agreement requires them to commit for a considerable length of time. They are asked to do this while also maintaining their historical financial commitments to the General Synod, the embodiment of the national church. There is nothing, for the dioceses, that is especially comfortable about this moment in time, except that suddenly, it is the future that is being contemplated.
The General Synod shares in this malaise. It is asked, literally, to begin now to rise from the ashes. It too, sure enough, is asked for a significant financial contribution to feed a fund that will compensate people harmed in the residential schools it helped to run. More than that, General Synod is asked to continue providing the programs and the resources that it produces and manages so well and that make the Anglican Church of Canada something very special, very significant and very much worth revitalizing.
It is hardly the first time that the General Synod is called upon to “vision.” But never before, perhaps, has the potential of a vision been so great or so important. Tomorrow is not comfortable for the General Synod either, but it is so full of promise and of God’s grace that it can be greeted and embraced like the new day that all our tomorrows are. We have much to build, and yet our history and our resolve give us much to build on.
We are a reticent lot, we Anglicans, slow to voice plaudits onto ourselves and frequently ill at ease when others do so. When he announced the agreement, Mr. Goodale paid tribute to the “remarkable moral leadership” that the Anglican Church of Canada had exercised in the negotiation process that led up to Nov. 20. That tribute, too, is something we carry with us as we begin to formulate a vision of what our future will look like. Let us adopt Mr. Goodale’s words and let us apply them to the tomorrow that now looms beyond this moment in time. Moral leadership, after all, is not something that one discards when it has served a certain worldly purpose. Moral leadership is something a person, or an institution, or a church either has or lacks.
We move then, from a painful, frightening and tormenting yesterday, through a brief but momentous “moment in time,” to an uncomfortable but promising tomorrow, clad in the moral leadership that has seen us through an unprecedented crisis. Suddenly, the moment in time begins to fade. Suddenly, tomorrow is here.
We go on.