It was an amazing moment, among so many others, at this summer’s Sacred Circle in Pinawa, Man. Almost 250 men and women representing indigenous peoples across Canada gathered to “walk the dream” and take next steps in the shaping of a truly indigenous church.
In small talking circles, participants considered a number of important questions including: What does an effective church look like? What makes for effective ministry? How are we equipping men and women, ordained and lay, as servants of Christ? And finally, how are we equipping leaders to build healthy communities?
Co-chairs Archdeacon Sid Black and the Rev. Norm Casey facilitated a conversation on Canon 22, The National Indigenous Ministry, adopted by General Synod in 2010.
Particular attention was given to proposed procedures for the election of the national Anglican indigenous bishop and determining membership for the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the triennial gathering of Sacred Circle. A number of questions were addressed, and some suggestions for amending the proposed changes were readily endorsed. The evening’s work was carried into Night Prayer.
The next morning, the co-chairs proposed, in the interest of getting a read of the circle’s readiness to move ahead with the proposed amendments to the canon, that each person present come forward and state “yes” or “no.” As a guest sitting quietly in a back row, I watched and listened. It was a beautiful sight – men and women, elders and youth, lay readers and catechists, deacons, priests and bishops moving in sacred silence to the microphone. Each was saying “yes” in their own language: Ojibwe, Cree, Gwich’in, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk and Inuktitut, among others.It was a beautiful sound.
It was amazing moment, a truly pentecostal moment-many tongues, one voice faithful to the vision, born of the great spirit of God, carried in the hearts of the elders and continually upheld through the ministry of Bishop Mark MacDonald.
I was humbled to witness such a sacred moment. And when Archdeacon Black said, “The circle has spoken,” I was moved with everyone else to sing and dance.
The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples will carry their authoritative “yes” into the General Synod next year. I hope that in the continuing spirit of the 1994 Covenant, “A Journey of Spiritual Renewal,” we will all celebrate and by the grace of God live into this “yes.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.