This article was originally published here.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I greet you in his name and love on this The Feast of the Epiphany. Today we remember the visit of the magi, their adoration of the Christ Child, and the offering of their gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Church has come to think of them as
“Sacred gifts of mystic meaning
incense doth their God disclose
gold the King of Kings proclaimeth
myrrh his sepulchre foreshows”
(Hymn 158, Common Praise)
The word “epiphany” means to “manifest” or “show forth”. On this day the glory of the Lord was manifested to a world far beyond that manger where he had been laid as the Babe of Bethlehem. Now his glory was being revealed to the nations.
In this holy season we see the Child grow into adolescence and into adulthood. Luke writes he was strong, filled with wisdom and the favour of God was upon him”. (Luke 2:40) We see him leave his home in Nazareth and make his way to the edge of the River Jordan where John was preaching. We follow him in these coming weeks from his Baptism to his Transfiguration. We see him changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee and feeding a hungry multitude in a grassy place. We hear him calling his first disciples and see how he begins to nurture them as a community. We encounter him as Teacher and Lord, and come to know the power of his love to heal and reconcile, to re-set our relations, one with another, in the wondrous grace of God.
This year we are “in Epiphany” until the very last day of February, almost two months to watch the gospel that is at the very heart of God made known in our Lord’s ministry. And if we listen carefully we will hear his invitation to show forth that same gospel in the manner of our living, particularly through the vows of our baptism.
This year our country celebrates the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. In prayer for Canada we often say, “Make us who come from many nations with many different languages a united people”. (Prayer for the Nation, p. 678, BAS) Considering those many nations, we are more conscious than ever that they include the First Nations of this land – the Indigenous Peoples who lived here long before “settlers” from other places arrived. There is great hope all Canadians will recognize the contributions of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit to the cultural fabric of this country and that where that fabric has been torn, we will have more resolve than ever to mend it. The Calls to Action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission with respect to the sad and lingering legacy of the Indian Residential Schools are a declaration of what we need to do as a country. I ask your prayers for the Prime Minister, the Parliament of Canada, and for the Churches that our response to these Calls be worthy of the depth and integrity required. With respect to our own Church’s response I am pleased to say that within just a few weeks we will have appointed a full-time staff person whose work will be entirely dedicated to reconciliation. That individual will work in close consultation with the offices of the Primate and General Secretary, the National Indigenous Bishop and the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice.
In 2017 we will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation. In that time, the AFHR has provided grants of over 7 million dollars for 654 projects all across the country. They range from language and culture recovery to healing circles, supporting the healing journeys of Indigenous communities and their members.
Much of the money that supports this process was raised from Canadian Anglicans as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, and the Agreement stipulates that all of the money allocated in this way be spent before 2018. The Healing Fund Committee has faithfully fulfilled this mandate, but that means that as of the end of 2017, the funds raised as part of the Settlement Agreement will have been depleted and the fund will be empty.
Another twenty-fifth anniversary comes in 2017. The annual campaign originally known as “Anglican Appeal” and now called “Giving with Grace” began a direct appeal to Canadian Anglicans to support the ministries of the General Synod.
The convergence of these two anniversaries creates an opportunity for our beloved Church, an opportunity to replenish the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation and renew our commitment to healing. I am very pleased to tell you that the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation will be the focus for Giving with Grace in the twenty-fifth anniversary year that they share. We have begun good work in this ministry, and I am particularly grateful to Esther Wesley for her leadership in developing the AFHR and its relationships with indigenous communities and their members. In 2017, the generosity of Canadian Anglicans will allow a renewal and continuation of that ministry.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Installation of The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald as National Indigenous Anglican Bishop. Mark has travelled the country and met the some 120 Indigenous congregations. He has confirmed 100’s of young people and adults too. He has sat with Elders and Chiefs and Councils and listened to the needs of their people and the hopes they have for building a truly Indigenous Church within The Anglican Church of Canada. There is as the Anglican Council of People has said, “an urgency” to move ahead, and it is anticipated that year will see some significant progress.
In June, Bishop Mark and I are hosting an Indigenous Ministries Consultation. This will be a gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from across the country – laity, clergy, young people, elders, Indigenous Ministry Development Officers, Archdeacons for Indigenous Ministries, Bishops and staff of the General Synod. We will take time to reflect on where we are as a Church in partnership with Indigenous Peoples in the spirit of the Covenant of 1994, the 2014 Statement, “Where we are Now: Twenty Years after the Covenant”, and a 2016 document “Circles of Faith; A Jesus Plan for Indigenous Leadership”. We will celebrate some achievements, note disappointments and acknowledge failures. We hope to learn from them all. We hope to discern together next steps for honouring of the right of Indigenous Peoples to be self-determining with respect to meeting ministry needs, raising up leaders, and making decisions in keeping with aboriginal customs. I pray this conference will be another watershed moment in the Timeline of “Indigenous Peoples and The Anglican Church of Canada: An Emerging Relationship”.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Anglican Foundation which has eagerly come alongside thousands of individuals, parishes, dioceses and faith communities to help invigorate, rejuvenate and refresh ministry on all levels, whether it be infrastructure, innovation, or improvement. As AFC celebrates sixty years of generosity, it remembers with gratitude the foresight of its forebears who said in 1957, “the time to proceed is now” when referring to establishing a Foundation to provide Anglicans the opportunity to give to support ministry in Canada where need is greatest. Sixty years of generosity! Sixty years of believing that when we all give, we all benefit. In recent years our tag-line has been “Imagine More!” Now is a time to imagine yet more!
Our Church has long standing Global Relations – some exceed forty and fifty years – I think of Cuba and the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. This year marks the 10th anniversary of a resolution of the General Synod of 2007 to strengthen ties with the Diocese of Jerusalem. And in those years some amazing things have happened – visits I have made with Dr. Andrea Mann, our Director of Global Relations, the funding of a Canadian priest to serve as Chaplain to Archbishop Suheil Dawani, visits by Suheil to Canada, the forging of a very vibrant Companion Relationship between Jerusalem and Ottawa, the formation of Canadian Companions of Jerusalem, the establishing of Jerusalem Sunday (Easter 7). Within recent weeks we have appointed the Rev Canon Richard LaSueur as a Middle East Liaison volunteer. We will mark the 10th anniversary of this relationship by hosting Archbishop Suheil and his wife Shafeeqa for an extended visit throughout Canada this fall. We are grateful for the flourishing of this Global Partnership and we pray that we may be true companions in a diocese so committed to the ministries of hospitality for pilgrims, education and healthcare for all irrespective of their faith tradition, and reconciliation for a lasting peace in the Land of the Holy One.
I am also pleased to say that in recent years we have been able to rebuild a number of relationships with Churches throughout Africa. This is in no small measure a credit to the ministry of The Rev. Canon Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa who works for both our Church and The Episcopal Church (in the United Sates) nurturing these relationships. Eight of our dioceses are in companion relationships with diocese in five provinces throughout Africa. The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue continues strong and vibrant. This spring the bishops will gather in Nairobi in Kenya. This fall we will welcome to Canada the Chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, The Most Rev. Albert Chama (Primate of Central Africa) for a pastoral visit and engagement with our Church. There is much for which to be thankful and ever hopeful.
When we think of Africa, we often think of the amazing work the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) has done over the years – in food aid and security, in combating HIV AIDS, and especially in these times in extending Maternal Newborn and Child Heath. All these programs have the wonderful effect of nurturing good relations between our churches and the agencies we support. The “bonds of affection” between us are real and genuine.
For the Church Catholic 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Anniversary of the Reformation that followed Martin Luther’s act of nailing to the door of Cathedral Church in Wittenberg 95 Theses for reform in the Church. That Reformation brought with it many blessings but in time would be viewed as the first of many other movements by which the Church became very much divided. Lutherans around the world have been very clear in saying this anniversary is not a celebration. It is a commemoration that will be marked by numerous ecumenical gestures. A key element in holding these gestures together is the very theme of this commemoration, “Liberated by God’s Grace” and its three sub-themes – “Salvation not for sale, Human Beings not for Sale, Creation not for Sale”. Historically rooted, and biblically based these themes address some of the most pressing issues of our time – religiously motivated violence, human trafficking and Climate Change. Many Churches are partnering with Lutherans in marking this anniversary in such a way as to show our care and concern for our common humanity and our common home, the earth itself.
Fittingly, the World Council of Churches invited the Churches in Germany to prepare the resources for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25). The theme is “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us”. (2 Corinthians 5:14-20). In the midst of liturgies for this week, people will participate in the erecting of a wall confessing the many sins by which Christians have been so sadly divided – ignorance, contempt, intolerance, inquisition, persecution, and exclusion. Having looked upon this wall for a space of time they will move to a time of prayer for forgiveness of these sins. Then the wall will be slowly dismantled and its pieces quietly rearranged in the shape of a cross around which everyone will gather remembering that “Christ has broken down the dividing walls of hostility…that he might create in himself a new humanity, making peace, reconciling us to God in one body through his cross”. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
Within our own Church we look forward to the appointment of a new Coordinator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations with special responsibilities for our Full Communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; our dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church, the United Church of Canada, the Mennonite Central Committee Canada; and our work with the Ecumenical Councils and movements of which our Church is a member, the Canadian Council of Churches and KAIROS.
Like every year this one will mark significant anniversaries for some dioceses and parishes throughout our Church. It is my continuing joy to respond to a number of invitations to share in these celebrations. If I cannot be present I happily send greetings on behalf of the whole Church.
Like other years 2017 will also represent for countless men and women significant milestones in their ministries as lay readers, intercessors, sacristans, Sunday School teachers, catechists, musicians, choristers, pastoral care workers, advocates for compassion for the poor, champions for justice and peace, deacons, priests, bishops, and scholars of the Faith. For the Spirit’s grace at work in their lives we give thanks to God and pray that in every generation the Church may be so blessed for its ministries in the service of the Gospel.
Speaking personally 2017 is a year of several significant anniversaries in my life in Christ. It marks the 60th of my baptism – April 7, 1957 at Emmanuel Church in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. I was not quite 2 ½ at the time! As many of you know, I carry the certificate of my baptism in my Prayer Book and occasionally pull it out in the context of a chat with children or in preaching. It is old and yellowed. It is a bit frayed around the edges as indeed I am at times! I must unfold and refold it carefully lest it tears apart. I treasure this piece of paper, for it reminds me of who I am, to whom I belong, and that my life’s labour as Rowan Williams put it is “to take hold of him who first took hold of me” and to live by the principle that “only as a disciple can I lead, only as a learner can I teach”.
I share this baptismal anniversary with you not so much to draw attention to myself, as to lift up one of the current initiatives throughout our worldwide Anglican Communion, – “A Season of Intentional Discipleship”. It is an invitation to the Churches to ponder the holistic nature of discipleship and its impact on every aspect of our living – from our worship to our work and our service in the community, from our political choices to our care for the earth. It is an opportunity to ponder those great biblical texts that remind us that life as a disciple means life in a community of faith and all the joys and struggles that entails. It is a challenge to think afresh about how Anglicans understand the nature of the Church and its calling in Christ. I have great hope that our own Church will seize this opportunity. And in doing so will embrace the recently published text, “Intentional Discipleship and Disciple Making” – An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation, edited by The Rev. Canon John Kafwanka and The Rev Canon Mark Oxbrow. It is superb.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of my ordination as a Deacon-June 3, 1977 in the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I plan to keep this day in quiet at the Convent of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Toronto. It will be a time to give thanks for all those who nurtured my call to ordained ministry, all who taught me the Atlantic School of Theology all who mentored me through the years, and all the many people among who I served in parish ministries and in time episcopal ministry throughout Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Through the example of so many people so dedicated to Christ his gospel and his Church, I have been so blessed and even now as I begin to think of them all my heart overflows with gratitude.
A few weeks after that anniversary I will recall the 10th of my installation as Primate June 25, 2007 in Winnipeg. I have travelled much in these years and I give thanks for the warmth of hospitality with which I have been received in dioceses and hundreds of parishes across the country. I rejoice in the many ministries that bear such an incredible witness to the Gospel of Christ in your local context. For some of you that is a huge and densely populated urban sprawl, for others a vast expanse of communities scattered across Canada’s North. For some it is a ministry concentrated among the poor and destitute in the downtown core of our large cities, for others it is a chaplaincy in hospitals and in hospice, in shelters and in centres for recovery from addictions, in prisons and in half way houses. For some it is ministry on our streets with the homeless and for others it is ministry at our harbour fronts with mariners from all over the world.
As dedicated as you are to all these local ministries I recognize and appreciate your commitments to the work of the Church more broadly as well. Thank you for your support of the ministries of the General Synod, Anglican Foundation and PWRDF. I am so encouraged by all who embrace “the big picture” of what it means to be The Anglican Church of Canada.
I draw this pastoral letter to a close with reference to an initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby in “drawing together young Christians (age 20-35), from all over the world and all denominations and varieties of Christian expression, for one transformative year of prayer, theological reflection and service to the poor, in the heart of London”. The Community of St. Anselm as it is known is based at Lambeth Palace. These young people lead the liturgical life of the Chapel in the Palace crypt. They work in the community and on occasion some of their numbers accompany the Archbishop in his travels. In this “A Year in God’s Time” prayer is at the heart of their life and work. Their quest for a closer walk with the Lord, their openness to his leading in their lives is very much in the spirit of St. Anselm. (Archbishop of Canterbury 1093-1109, and Teacher of the Faith) Here is an excerpt from his great work, “Faith Seeking Understanding”.
“This is my prayer, O God: may I know you, may I love you, so that I may rejoice in you. And if in this life I cannot know, love, and rejoice in you fully, may I progress day by day until that joy comes to fullness. May knowledge of you advance in me here, and there be made full; may your love grow, and there be full; so that here my joy may be in great hope, and there may be full in reality. Lord, through your Son you command or rather counsel us to ask, and you promise that we shall receive, that our joy may be full (John 16:240. I ask, Lord, for what you counsel through our wonderful Counsellor (Isa 9.2) I shall receive what you promise through your truth, that my joy may be full. Faithful God, I ask to receive it that my joy may be full. In the meantime, may my mind meditate on your promise, may my tongue speak of it. May my heart love that joy, may my mouth talk of it. May my soul hunger for it, may my flesh thirst for it, may my whole being desire it, until I enter into the joy of my Lord, God three and one, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Rom 1.25).”
In so much as that was the prayer of Anselm and now that of a Community named after him, it is a fitting prayer for any and all of us who through our baptism endeavour to live more fully our life in Christ.
With blessings for Epiphany and this New Year,
Fred J. Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate