It was like a scene from a movie, except that it really happened, in the few short weeks before Christmas 2010.
A woman stood up in a crowded food court in the Seaway shopping mall in Welland, Ont. She appeared to be answering a call on her cell phone. Instead, she burst into “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. Shoppers everywhere stopped and stared. Some looked stunned; others, clearly delighted, joined in. Soon, dozens were on their feet, singing “King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
The scene, staged though it may have been, was captured on video and has now been viewed on the Internet by 29 million people worldwide. Dubbed the “Christmas Food Court Flash Mob,” the video spoke to the head of the Anglican Church of Canada. So much so that he shared the story in his opening remarks during a traditional New Year’s Day address at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.
“It doesn’t have all the finesse of a presentation of that great oratorio in a grand concert hall,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, “but it surely captures the spirit of its glorious finale.
“The Hallelujah Chorus,” he continued, “inspires the way we ponder the loving purposes of God in sending his Son into the world, and pray for that day when all the peoples of the earth will be reconciled and brought together under his gentle and loving reign.”
In outlining priorities for the church this year, Archbishop Fred Hiltz then turned his attention to enlivened worship, biblical literacy, renewed commitment to indigenous ministries and strong leadership in environmental advocacy.
“I envision a church in which worship…will be enlivened to meet the needs of our diverse membership,” he said. Texts will be revised, but “in accord with sound liturgical principles, sensitivity to the many languages and cultures within our church, and an unabashed drawing of resources from around the Anglican Communion and the ecumenical world.” Commitment to biblical literacy, theological education and preparation for ministries will also be renewed, said Archbishop Hiltz.
Anglicans have been “extraordinarily generous” in their support of victims of the earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan, he noted. Now, he added, church leaders must educate members about those displaced by droughts and famine resulting from climate change, and the need to exert pressure on government “to reduce gas emissions that escalate global warming.”
In 2011, the church will renew its commitment to indigenous ministries including those indigenous peoples living in large urban areas, said the primate. He reiterated the church’s support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and pledged to participate in all the regional gatherings over the next four years. Two of the gatherings-which are intended to hear, record and preserve the stories of Indian Residential Schools survivors-will take place in Nunavut and in Nova Scotia this year.
Archbishop Hiltz noted that in 2011, Anglicans and Lutherans will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their full communion. He also expressed confidence that the Anglican Communion-which has been plagued by disagreements over human sexuality-will strengthen “bonds of affection” through work on common issues of concern.
For the full text of the primate’s New Year’s Day address, go to www.anglican.ca