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MY RUBBER DUCKY BAPTISM

Rubber Ducky you're so fine,

And I'm lucky that you're mine,

Rubber Ducky I'm awfully fond of you!

So goes the lyrics of that wonderful children’s song made famous some years ago by “Sesame Street”. Many of us who gathered at the celebration of Holy Baptism on December 29th, 2013, certainly recalled the song and smiled at the recollection.

Some weeks previous to the day I had been asked if my might officiate at the baptism of a little boy. I discovered after I had agreed that the candidate was a little boy of two and a half years old. It was too late to back out of the event by the time I learned the child’s age. I would never have done that anyway. It certainly is not that I dislike baptizing older children, but children of such an age can certainly make the celebration difficult.

I have been blessed in that throughout the years of my ministry I have usually had success in my ability to baptize children. Very few have struggled with me and usually the celebration is a wonderfully positive experience. My own first son was an exception however, never to be forgotten. He was dressed too warmly for the early onslaught of warm spring weather and the overheated church. He screamed…and the louder he screamed the louder the officiant countered (my predecessor!). It was not the best baptismal moment!

I admit that there have been times when I have actually been afraid of officiating at the baptism of some little ones. One frightening experience was with a little year-old girl. She was a delight as she unsteadily toddled around her father’s legs as we all stood at the font. At that moment when I picked her up for the “deed”, she screamed. In fact she screamed louder and louder and fought against me with a remarkable strength. It was all I could do to hang onto her! At one point, I thought the little girl was going to go into convulsions. The poor parents stood in stoic silence, probably thinking that I was the absolute worse cleric they had ever met! It was actually a relief for both me and the child when I gave her back to her mother. The whole fiasco brought the congregation to their knees, not so much in prayer as in laughter! At the door one parishioner commented that he was quite sure that the child had not, in fact, been actually baptized. She had fought so hard he was sure I didn’t manage to even get any water on her, let alone make the sign of the cross on her forehead!

As we approached December 29th the prospective candidate’s grandmother felt that she needed to warn me that her grandson was a busy little boy and hated getting his face washed. Oh no, I thought, and remembered back to the disastrous baptism of the little girl years earlier! I wracked my head thinking how I was going to manage baptizing this reportedly “active” little man “in his horrible twos”. Somewhat flippantly I mentioned to my wife that maybe I needed to get some kind of little rubber toy and entice the boy to the font. God bless her, a few days later she presented me with a little rubber duck. We laughed but I thought that it was somewhat a lessening of the sacred sacrament and put the duck in the closet.

The day prior to the scheduled baptism I finally met the candidate. Indeed, he was a bright and outgoing little fellow and showed absolutely no concern at me. Indeed, he was “busy” and so on my way home I was convinced more than ever that the sacred celebration was going to be a challenge. At home I quietly put the rubber ducky in my bag along with my vestments and my sermon! Rubber ducky might very well be needed, I thought.

I admit to tossing often during my sleep that night. People know me as not approving of sloppy liturgy, especially with my own leadership and sometimes baptisms can run roughshod over the best liturgical intentions. So, I fretted!

I need not have worried. I awaited the baptismal family at the entrance to the church in my episcopal vestments, sure that I would appear as an overblown giant to any little child. But upon entering the church with his family the candidate looked up at me and clearly remembering my visit the day before (and obviously coached by his mother), reached up his little hand and said “Hi Tom”! That was a good start, I thought and remarkably our celebration went very well. Parents worked at keeping our active candidate busy during the service until it was time to gather at the font. I quietly asked him if he might like to help me and he, with a mild quizzical look on his face, nodded ‘yes’. I hurriedly grabbed a nearby chair and had him crawl up. He seemed interested for the moment but it became lengthy during the liturgical promises and prayers and he began to become fidgety. That’s when I grabbed the duck and sat it on the lip of the font. Our candidate stared in fascination so I asked him if he wanted to play with my duck and with a quick nod I invited him to go ahead and put the duck into the water. Except for a slight jerk when I sprinkled water on his head the first time, Our new member was too busy with little yellow ducky to have bothered with getting wet. With all of the liturgical dignity and conviction of the celebration our little man was signed with the cross and made “Christ’s own forever”. Clutching the little yellow ducky he even agreed to walk with me down to isle to be presented to the community.

The congregation laughed and applauded and we all joined our newest Christian is passing Christ’s peace with a little more joy on that Christmas morning. I suppose the liturgical purists might frown upon such an action, but on that day my little rubber ducky was a wonderful assistance in a moving baptismal celebration and the words of the little song ran happily through my mind, “Rubber ducky, I’m awfully fond of you”!

One last note, our newest member of the Christian family turned out to be the great-grandson of Moosonee’s former Suffragan Bishop, Neville Clarke (1951-1975). I could hear the old Bishop roaring in laughter and agreeing with the moment!

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Enjoy a “Silent” Lent

 

I recently went on a much needed retreat. Not many people today go on retreat, certainly of the kind of which I speak. Many retreat today to the warmer climates of the south to sit in hotel casinos, nightclubs and sandy beaches. I went on a spiritual retreat and was resident in the monastic community of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA. Some will remember when the Cowley Fathers had a Canadian monastery at Bracebridge, Ontario. The American community is the same order.

Going on retreat to be rekindled and renewed spiritually has always been a part of my ministry. It is a time I consciously turn off the noise of the world and enter into a time of silence, study and prayer. It is not easy. It takes me at least a day or more to slow down and allow myself to be absorbed into the moment. The monastery is a good place for me. No radio, television, computers to distract. The place is steeped in prayer and holiness. On this retreat I entered into the worship cycle of the Chapel with the monks, read a couple of books, slept, went for walks (The monastery borders the campus of Harvard University), joined other retreatants every morning under the spiritual direction of one of the monks. When my time came to an end, all too soon, it was difficult to leave and “re-enter the world” (especially as it was -40C at home!).

The most important aspect of a retreat, especially in a monastic community, is the silence that engulfs you. The monks tell guests that they offer the “gift of silence”. For many of us silence as a gift is not something coveted. In our world so many people either know very little of silence or are frightened of it. Just look around….most of us spend part of every waking hour on cellphones, usually saying nothing important. If that isn’t the case, a growing majority cannot leave home without plugging earphones in to their heads to listen to music to drown out the world around them. I admit to participating in some of that lifestyle myself as I struggle when I am without my computer or my cellphone is down.

Part of me, however, likes the silence and I feel comfortable when I can turn off the car radio in my long drives across this Diocese, and simply enjoy the scenery in silence. It always moves me to praise God for the rugged beauty of our area. Part of my present life requires me to spend a good deal of my time living alone and in silence. I can’t read or pray unless I have silence. I like it.

Once again we have entered the holy season of Lent. Today there is a decreasing population, even within the Church, who pay much attention to this season. Nevertheless, it is a holy season during which we are called to take time in our lives to focus on our Christian journey…to study, pray, and spiritually enrich our lives. As the liturgy for Ash Wednesday tells us, we are called “to observe a holy Lent…to renew our life…”

This Lent I invite you…nay, “challenge” you to unplug…turn off…remove all those modern conveniences that fill your waking moments with noise, and take time to enter the silence. Take just an hour each day to silently meditate, pray, read the scriptures. Make your Lenten experience a time of renewal so that Easter becomes the celebration it really is and not just another day as it has become to much of the world.

“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces…but the Lord was not in the wind;  and after the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, the sound of sheer silence…and when Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out”.(1 kings 19:11-12) 

 

 

  

The “F” Word

THE ‘F’ WORD

 

I admit to having used the ”F” word from time to time, in my youth and hastily in periods of frustration, but I hate the “F” word.

 

One day I was walking past a small restaurant during the lunch-hour. Out of the restaurant came three, well-dressed women who were presumably office workers returning to work from their lunch break. As they walked behind me I could easily overhear their conversation. I was taken aback by their freely use of the “F” word in their conversation. I wondered if any of them had children and if they accepted that kind of language at home.

 

Of course, I hear the use of the word often. During my ministry at Sudbury’s downtown parish many people who lived on the street came through our doors for the numerous outreach endeavours we had to be an assistance to them. Some would use the word freely. I was always pleasantly surprised when one of them would use the word in my presence and then quickly apologize to me for having uttered it.

 

I am no prude by any means, but I become upset anyway by the use of this word. The entertainment industry today is first to include the use of the “F” word. I remember watching the late Comedian, Red Skelton, near the end of his life, sharing that he did not like the comedians who were eclipsing him for their use of foul, offensive language to get a laugh. A few years ago at a youth movie night I had chosen a feature without having seen it first. One of my more precocious youth counted the number of times the “F” word was used and told me that he was going to tell his mother that I had chosen a bad movie!

 

A couple of recent events have upset me. A couple of weeks ago I took my wife to see the movie “Dark Thirty Down”. I knew it was really not the kind of movie she would enjoy, but as it has an historical connection, she decided to join me. The use of the “F” word in the movie’s script is legion, well over 100 times, I am sure. By the time the movie concluded, that’s all my poor wife could comment on!

 

The most recent event was a CBC Radio discussion on the frequent use of a new term by many…”MILF”. With our society’s obsession with “the body beautiful” bringing huge financial gains to the fitness industry, many women who have given birth to one or two children have admiringly gone to the local gym and worked to get into shape to regain the physical beauty they had before the birth of their children. They take pride in their appearance. I am not upset by that at all. But, these women are now termed as “MILF” women…”A Mother I’d Like to F—“

According to the radio discussion, many women in that situation today like the term and do not find it abhorrent. I admired the woman in the discussion who reminded people that while the use of the “F” word “has softened” in today’s society, it is still a disgusting word and all kinds of disgusting connotations associated with it. I spend a lot of time listening to the CBC with the driving I do in this Diocese and I have to say that the once morally upstanding Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has succumbed to the “softening” of our society by much of the programming I hear today. There are times when in frustration at what I am hearing, I simply turn the radio off and drive in the bliss of silence!

 

Well, as I have said, I am not a prude and not innocent when it comes to my own occasional slip of the tongue and use of less-than-wholesome language, but the “softening” of society’s use of the “F” word has me rankled. We need to be reminded that it is a disgusting word, associated with all things disgusting. To be sure, we need to stop people who freely use the word in our hearing and remind them that there are far better ways to communicate!

 

 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”  Ephesians 4:29

BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY RANT!!!

BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY

September 30th is this year’s “Back to Church” Sunday. I hope that our congregations will participate. Most of our congregations are in small communities where, with some good communication and good ideas, most local residents will know something of the invitation by the time the day rolls around. There are all sorts and conditions of ideas that can be used to draw the attention of the community toward the church.

It can start with an invitation posted in all the local areas where people will see it. You can do such things as set of a display of your congregation in the local mall or popular store for a weekend. You can affix colourful balloons to your church with a large invitation so people will see it. Of course, even more simply is to encourage those of your regular communicants to invite members of their families and their friends to join them that day. Then, on the 30th, try things a little differently. Explain what it is we are doing with our worship, our books, the Sacraments, etc.. Invite them to stay for a social time after service. Encourage guests to ask questions at the coffee-hour. Make sure they go home with a friendly invitation to return and with a printed information piece in their hands that outlines your regular services and events. It really doesn’t take a great deal or much expense to make this day work for your congregation. If you want help, you can order materials online or through the Anglican Book Centre.

Being an inviting congregation , however, goes further (and perhaps this is the “rant” part of my thinking!). Throughout the past few weeks I have been conducting a little survey of our churches as I travel around the Diocese. It is a concern to me that many of our churches are looking tired and in ill repair. It appears that no one cares.

In my travels I have noticed our “signage” most of all. Many of our churchs, if they have a sign at all, have signs that are outdated, drab, faded and even unreadable. In one of our communities where our church has no sign and needs a paint-job, the little fundamentalist church located nearby, which is obviously poor because it had plastic covering the roof, had painted their building with fresh paint and had erected a large, colourful sign. In another community recently the grass had not been cut and the sign was two years out-of-date. The place looked closed! In another parish where there is an interchangeable letters sign, my predecessor is still advertised as Bishop. In that case I went to the warden and updated the sign myself! In more than one of our communities the signage indicates the name of the former Incumbent. In too many of our congregations, there is no sign at all.

Andrew Weeks, an Episcopal workshop leader and consultant, of “The Magnetic Church” program, says that our signage is the most vital invitational and informational tool we have to attract the passer-by and the seeker. There is a thinking that by erecting a sign is like raising a flag for it indicates not only that this congregation is alive but it is a declaration that “the ‘King’ is in residence here”.

I goes further. I have noticed churches in need of a little paint…fences in need of repair…grass in need of cutting…empty, weed-filled flowerbeds in need of work…and flags in need of replacing. I am not talking about major building repairs, I am only speaking of touching up the building.

Of course I realize that many of our parishes are financially strapped, but a gallon of paint to touch up the door or the window trim or eves is surely not much! If it is too much, I’ll buy you a gallon of paint myself! A number of years ago in the American Episcopal (Anglican) Church a decision was made that every church in America should paint their doors fire-engine red as an indication to the world that the Holy Spirit is present. When you travel to the US, you’ll notice it if you look. We should do that!!! They also suggested that when churches needed to be re-roofed they should use red shingles. Wow!!!

Let’s stop being lax with our message to the world. “Greater is He that is within us that he that is in the world”. Let’s show the world that it is an alive Lord Jesus Christ that we love and worship. Open our doors, stand outside Sunday morning and let the world see you and that you just might have something they are missing. Be a lively, visible witness that, “The King is in residence here”.

End of rant!!!

The Bishop Has No Crosier

If the Bishop has no crosier is he or she any less a Bishop? I hope not!  But, for some weeks now I have not had a crozier.

 "What is a crozier?", you might ask. Well, putting it officially, the crosier is the symbol of the governing office of the Bishop.The crozier is shaped like a shepherd's crook. A bishop of the church bears this staff as "shepherd of the flock of God”. Interestingly, the traditional explanation for the form of crosiers is that the crook at the top symbolizes the Bishop’s obligation to draw back those who stray from the faith and the staff itself symbolizes his obligation to stand as a firm support for the faithful. It is considered to be both a rod and a staff (Psalm 23:4): a rod for punishing the recalcitrant, and a staff for leading the faithful. There are a few names associated with it including, “staff", "crook” and even “battle axe” as one marvelous old legend holds in Moosonee when one former Bishop, upon vesting for service asked the Layreader “Now, where is that old battle axe?”, whereupon the poor Layreader, thinking the Bishop was referring to his wife, declared “Oh Bishop, she’s sitting out in your car”!!!

 Well all of that if fine, but the present Bishop of Moosonee has no crosier. Thankfully, the situation is not permanent. Actually I have two! The Diocesan Crosier, which sits next to the Cathedra (Bishop's chair) in the Cathedral, was originally given to the fourth Bishop, John Anderson. It is a simple yet elegant design of silver, with a small crook that includes a tiny celtic cross within it and an ebony staff. Since Archbishop Anderson’s day, each successive Bishop has had a silver band affixed to the staff that bears their name and years of service. Through the many years of its use it has had its share of battered moments. At one time it came apart into four sections for easy transport. Alas, it kept falling apart and had to be fused together. On one occasion the staff came apart just before the Bishop needed it for a blessing. It was one of those hilarious moments to see three clergy on their knees trying to put the staff together in time! In the end the Bishop just ignored the staff and the clergy! It now sits permanently in the Cathedral and is used only at Diocesan celebrations. 

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The Diocesan Crosier

Like Bishop Lawrence before me, I carry my own “travelling crosier”. It is a beautiful piece of art designed by my sister and crafted by her husband who presented it to me at my Consecration. It is made of dark mahogany and the crook has within it the First Nation symbol of the medicine wheel and feathers. The crook is made of pure bronze (and as a result is very heavy to carry). I am so very proud of it and carry it with immense gratitude.

My 'travelling' crosier

So, why am I without a crosier?…

Well, presently the Diocesan Crosier is with a jeweler having two more sterling silver rings affixed to it that will bear the names of Caleb Lawrence and myself. The project has, unfortunately, taken months to accomplish in that the staff was removed from the Cathedral in early May and is still not complete. And my travelling crosier is broken. It happened when I was at Wemindji in June. I had just pronounced the final blessing and placed the staff on the altar as the Rector had announcements to make. As I proceeded to my seat I heard behind me a thunderous crash. A young boy had walked up to the altar and reached up to grab the staff. He was no more than 3 years old and naturally, the staff fell. The wood holding the bronze crook was split. Presently the man who originally made it for me is trying to repair it. I hope I get it back!

I own a third staff…it is a real beauty. At the top of the staff is the carved head of a fox. I wonder if that is appropriate in the interim!!!

 

 

  

SAM

We laid him to rest in the only land he really knew…certainly the land he loved, amidst the people he loved and who loved him. Some 700 people attended his funeral from Wemindji, Chisasibi, Eastmain, Waskaganish and Moose Factory. Usually when a person reaches the grand age of 95 years, there aren't many friends left to honour the deceased, but that was not the case with Sam!

Samuel Samson Hughboy was born at Fort George on a cold winter day on January 14, 1916 to Betsy and Matthew Hughboy, one of seven children. He grew up and learned how to live "on the land". When still a young man he married Frances Gilpin and Nellie was born. Tragedy struck, however, when both mother and baby died in the harshness of life in those days. He later married Sarah Visitor who was to be his life partner until her own death on December 6, 1995, after 52 years of marriage. Together they had eleven children. At his death, Sam was survived by nine of them as well as 45 grandchildren, 87 great-grandchildren, 7 great, great-grandchildren, (a great, great, great grandchild was days away from birth when he died). In 2001 his son Matthew died and a second son, Walter, died in 2004. While Sam remained strong he felt that losing a child was like a piece of himself was taken and the void could not be filled.

Samuel loved to hunt and trap having learned from his father and his grandfather, providing for his family throughout the years. Even in old age, Sam would still head out across the river with a strong stride on his snowshoes to set and check his snares. His children and grandchildren have many happy memories of living out on the land with Sam, listening to his story-telling as he carved a figure or made a new tool. Hours were enjoyed as he read the Bible and said the prayers with his family and then sang a few hymns. It was said that Sam knew every hymn in both the Horden and the Walton Cree hymn books.

Sam's career in the church started in the 1960s when he served at Paint Hills (the early name for Wemindji) as one of the Catechists. He later expressed his desire to be ordained so in 1972 he was sent to Moose Factory for two years of training under the guidance of Canon Redfern Louttit. He was ordained to the Diaconate in 1974 at Rupert's House (now Waskaganish) and then raised to the Priesthood by Archbishop James Watton on Holy Cross Day, September 14, 1975 at Diocesan Synod in Kirkland Lake. Following ordination Sam was appointed the Incumbent at Eastmain, where many of his family joined him and enjoyed a happy and fulfilling ministry for seven years. Memories of time in Eastmain include stories of Sam owning a truck in which he drove around the community. It was a tribute to Samuel  that so many came to his funeral from Eastmain.

In 1981 Sam retired and returned to Wemindji, but of course, he continued to assist at services, officiate at weddings and baptisms until he felt he could no longer do so after the passing of his wife Sarah. He married most of his children and great grandchildren, the final one being in 1998. In 2008 he agreed to baptize his two great grandaughters.

My own association with Sam began when we were both "students" in 1973…he at Moose Factory and myself at Moosonee for a summer. Both of us sat under Canon Louttit for part of our training. Then, in September, 1974, we were ordained to the priesthood together, along with Lowell Satre (deceased) and Jim Collins (now in California). A portrait of the four of us with Archbishop Watton hangs in my office today. I was so moved when Sam endured a 14-hour bus trip from Wemindji to Timmins last July to be part of my Consecration. During my two visits to Wemindji in the past year, Sam was vested and participated in the services, just as he had done every week until just before his death. I had noticed in June at the Confirmation celebration that he was failing, but he was present in the Sanctuary nonetheless and joined in greeting each of the candidates and the large congregation.

 

Sam and Me, Moose Factory, 1973

Sam at Wemindji Confirmation service, June 2011

  In 2009 Sam underwent a bout of gall bladder surgery from which it was said that he really never recovered, even though he never complained. In fact, he disliked being fussed over. Then, this summer he began to fail quickly. In the last couple of weeks of his life he lost weight and began to ask when the Rector would return from vacation. On Tuesday, August 23, the family gathered, the Eucharist was shared and Sam was able to take Communion, and hymns were sung at which Sam seemed to be happy. At 4 am, Wednesday, August 24, Sam quietly slipped out into the mystery.

We gathered and celebrated Sam's life for a whole day on Friday, August 26, beginning with the visitation as his body was laid out in the church, a family Communion in a packed church, the funeral at the Community hall, the burial beside one of his great grandchildren and not far from Sarah, a feast and a final, closing service.The clergy from Chisasibi were present and shared in the leadership of the service and others from around the Bay called to express condolences.The Cathecists, now elderly themselves, vested and shared in the service, John Matches among them who had served as a young man with Sam, frail now and in a wheelchair, sat beside the casket of his friend. Sam would have enjoyed it all and I could hear his strong, resounding voice above the rest of us as we sang his favourite hymns.

With his passing we see the end in this Diocese of the missionary, indigenous clergy of the former days of our ministry. Sam's name and faithful ministry join those who have gone before, Fred Mark, Samuel Iserhoff, John Gull, John Wesley and Redfern Louttit. Certainly to me, all of them giants of the faith and of the Church. Surely, we shall not look upon the likes of them again.

 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day"  (2 Timothy 4:7-8) 

SYNOD OFFICES I HAVE KNOWN!

There is that old addage that "when God created the world, he didn't create a committee". We all know that nothing ever gets accomplished in the life of the Church without the need to first run one's idea or plan or thought by a committee…or a whole host of committees.  If you are at all like me, waiting for a committee to come to a decision causes you to grind your teeth and lay awake at night!

That thought came to me in the past couple of weeks as we packed up mountains of dusty files in the process of moving our Synod office. Every Diocese needs to have an office from which its operations can be administered. As we combed through the mountains of  files sitting in more filing cabinets than I realized we even had in our office, I wondered what would have ever become of the Church had it not been for files and filing cabinets. I am sure the staff went home frustrated with my attempts to pitch files that I felt were of little importance. In some cases, (actually, in a whole lot of cases), we compromised and I took 4 car-loads of files to our Archivist  in Sudbury and one day the Archivest even came to us and loaded up her brand new car. By the time the moving truck pulled up to the door, even with many files removed, those that we did move to the new office filled a good third of the truck!

While I was doing my share of moving (which occasionally meant simply staying out of the way!) I also started to think of the Synod offices I have seen in my day. The first Synod office I ever saw was comprised three rooms above a store in Sault Ste. Marie's downtown. I remember one Diocese having their office in the basement of the Cathedral, beside the gymnasium. In one Diocese where I have served the Synod office was located in the back yard of the Bishop's residence in the garage, and always had the smell of gasoline mixed with the aroma of the Bishop's pipe! How good it was when the office was moved into a grand 200-year-old mansion. In another Diocese the office is located on the ground floor of a senior's apartment complex. Of course, our larger and more financially well-off Dioceses have offices in handsome complexes. How I envie the offices of the Diocese of Toronto! The first time I was invted to see the Bishop of Toronto when I was a student, I thought I was being ushed into Buckingham Palace. The best, by far (in my opinion), are the offices of the Diocese of Montreal. I would have a hard time doing any work at all if I were to sit in front of the beautiful window that overlooks Montreal's Cathedral grounds! Then, a few months ago I was ushered into Lambeth Palace to the offices of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I had the rather silly thought  that I coud actually ride a bike through the halls of Lambeth…but the bike would likely get stuck in the plush of the carpets!!!

But, I digress…

Here in Moosonee Diocese, we have had rather more humble surroundings throughout our history.  I can imagine the Bishop's offices were very simple rooms in the early days of the Diocese with none of the modern office tools that we have today. In my own experience in this Diocese, I know that the office was once the Bishop's private study, attached to the front of Bishopstope. Bishops Renison and Robinson, the first residents of the house after it was built in 1946, held regular office hours in the large room that was attached to the house by a short hall to the kitchen and left into the Dining Room. The office had a seperate exterior entrance so that persons coming to see the Bishop did not have to disturb the rest of the house. How I remember being summoned to a meeting with the Bishop and told to come to the Bishopstope office and use the office door! In the early days of Bishopstope the Secretary-Treasurer worked with the Bishop in the one-room office and had to run an errand on those occasions when the Bishop needed to speak with a person privately. Canon Cushing was the first to hold that office, followed by Canon Harold Shail who also headed up the building of St. Chad's Church in Schumacher.

The first Synod Office was to the right of Bishopstope's main door

By the time James Watton became Bishop the decision was made to rent a small portion of St. Chad's Church hall. A room was built at the rear of the hall, beside the furnace room, with easy access to the washrooms. The Secretary-Treasurer worked in that windowless, airless room and enjoyed the assistance of a full-time Administrative Assistant. I will always remember droping in to visit Alex Cameron and Vicky McShane and later Peter Colbert in the basement office. The Bishop still used his study at Bishopstope as his main office, but dropped into the basement daily to "pick up the mail and sign the cheques".

The Second Synod Office in St. Chad's Parish Hall

When Caleb Lawrence became the Bishop, having a young family at home, he decided to move to St. Chad's as well and for a few years took over the Rector's Vestry office upstairs in the church as the Rector really only used the space at service-time. Then, with the assistance of the Anglican Foundation and the agreement of the Schumacher congregation, half of the nave of the church was transformed into the excellent offices we have enjoyed until this month. St. Chad's was transformed into a small chapel. The former office in the basement became the library and storage facility for our files.

Moving day from the third Synod Office

Now thar St. Chad's is closed and the building has been sold, we are fortunate to have been able to arrange a rental agreement with the Cathedral parish for the use of their Rectory on Hemlock Street (across the the Timmins Karate Club Gymnasium!) as our new home. We have made application to the City of Timmins for the necessary rezoning of the street to allow us to use the house as a office. Our offices are smaller, but we do have the use of extra space. The main floor accomodates the offices and the filing room and in the basement we now have a good sized meeting room for small committees. There is even a furnished bedroom for any of our clergy needing accomodation. The house has two bathrooms and there is plenty of room for storage. We are very happy. Come by and see us anytime!

The new Synod Office at 435 Hemlock Street, Timmins…Come by anytime!

LIFE ABOUNDS

A good deal of my administrative time in recent months have involved our Executive Council's decision to examine the use of and saleability of our Diocesan buildings and properties. In some cases we have already put some up for sale and in case of two or three other decisions have been made to close church buildings as the remaining congregations feel they simply cannot continue to maintain them. It becomes so difficult…tears are shed…frustrations are voiced… and a deep yearning for the former days fills out thoughts. As one faithful person said to me, "It all feels like we have been defeated". Indeed, it does, in spite of our determination that ministry will continue in places where the church building is gone.

Two recent events in the Diocese of Moosonee have, however,  gone a long way to bolster flagging spirts…certainly mine. Indeed, I have been so thrilled by these events that I have come away realizing that in fact, in this Diocesan family, "life abounds" and has nothing to do with buildings but with faith, enthusiasm and ministry.

On the weekend of Febuary 18-20 the yearly meeting of the James Bay Deanery Greater Chapter was convened in the parish of St. Barnabas’ Church, Waswanipi. The James Bay Deanery is the largest and most active number of communities of the Diocese, in spite of the the remoteness of all of the area parishes.  Delegates  look forward with eagerness to their yearly gathering and come from all the parishes on both coasts of the James Bay and inland Quebec.

In February most of the Diocese experienced the usual “February thaw”, giving those of us tired of winter a little hint that spring is on its way. Then, on the 18th, just as we were to gather in Waswanipi, there was a sudden freeze and winter returned. The James Bay highway had to be closed as it had iced over and in one place there had been an accident. Unfortunately most of the delegates from the James Bay communities could not attend. In a couple of communites respected Elders had passed away and there were funerals. Thankfully the Regional Dean and his wife were able to make it out because they had started out a day earlier. The three communities on the west side of the Bay had come out to Timmins where a bus had been hired to bring them on the eight-hour drive. The Kashechewan delegates, along with their new minister, the Rev. Phelan Scanlon, drove over their winter road across the James Bay ice three hours to Moosonee in order to catch the train south and then board the bus. I joined them in Timmins and enjoyed the bus trip.

The host parish was ready with a gift bag for each guest and then a welcoming feast in their church. There was a mixture of traditional and non-traditional dishes to tempt everyone. Prior to the feast I was taken to the community’s “Elder’s Centre” to have my beaded pectoral cross repaired, which has broken on the trip. One of the ladies volunteered to repair the cross and did such a good job on it I was unable to tell where it had broken. Of course, while he waited, I was offered tea and bannock and was taken to the “kitchen” outside in a large tent where more of the Elders were preparing beaver for one of the feasts to come. A piece of freshly roasted beaver was another treat.

Following dinner the first of the weekend’s sessions began with a talking circle when everyone was asked to share a positive experience in their life or parish. The evening came to a conclusion with singing and prayer and then billets were assigned and delegates were chauffered to various parts of the community.

Saturday broke with deep cold again and ice abounded. Highways were open though and slowly more delegates started to arrive, especially from Mistissini three hours north. The rest of the deanery’s business took place at Waswanipi’s beautiful Youth Centre. Following morning prayers, officiated over by the Moosonee-Moose Factory delegates, The Regional Dean, The Rev. Rod BrantFrancis, led a Bible study on the theme of “change”, using Abraham’s call as the example of one who experienced many changes in his response to God. The Bishop then took the floor and for the next hour explained some of the decisions being made for the future ministry of the Diocese, particularly outlined by the new “Vision Quest 2015” proposals. Opportunity was provided  for the delegates to ask their questions and make comments about the future of their ministries. The afternoon session was taken with more explanation of the Vision Quest’s proposals in preparation for the upcoming Synod. The afternoon was filled with other presentations and time for singing and fellowship. The evening feast saw others from the host community join the delegates, including Waswanipi’s band council Chief who brought greetings and told us that the community is thankful for the presence and leadership of the Anglican Church.

Sunday morning saw everyone back at St. Barnabas’ church for the Eucharist. Bishop Corston presided and was assisted by a number of the clergy and people, with the lessons being read by the youth. The Rev. John Edmonds of Mistissini delivered a thought-provoking sermon on change  and culture. During the service the Bishop blessed two new traditional sacred drums that have been made for the parish in their decision to use them regularly in their worship. Following the dedication Parish Layreader Helen Otter sang a moving drumsong.

Lunch and the deanery’s afternoon session was held back at the Youth Centre. Various elections took place for positions in the Diocese. A spirited competition took place at the end of the sessions by the parishes of Moosonee and Mistissini as to which would host next year’s meeting. By the time the decision was put to everyone, the promises of the Mistissini delegates that they would provide better oatmeal, bannock and baked beans won the day! All too soon the weekend came to an end with a hymn-sing, traditional feast and closing worhip. In spite of the fact that we missed many friends, it was a good weekend of fellowship, business, and worship. The people of Waswanipi were the very best hosts. 

 It was a long bus-ride back to Timmins but the delegates came away having enjoyed an uplifting event. It had been my first experience with the James Bay Deanery and I found myself bouyed by the reality that the church in these remote communities is very much alive and busy.

                                                        The new sacred drum is explained to the meeting

                                                                        The James Bay Clergy & Layreaders

                                                            Singing was an important part of our meeting

The other event that has been significant for us was the Lay Readers training weekend that took place in the parish of Hearst over the weekend of March 4-6. We had been planning this event for the Lay Readers of the two southern Deaneries of Kenogami and Cochrane since last fall. It had come a realization that there had not been such an event for some years due to the financial costs involved. Thanks to the Council of the North and a further gift from an American Episcopal Church, funds were made available. The wonderful thing about it was that we hoped to be able to see 20-25 people participate but by the time we gathered on Friday evening, some 42 Lay Readers registered, joined by a half dozen of the clergy who agreed to help provide some of the training.

Bishop Bill Hockin

We were thrilled at the speakers who were able to provide teaching. The Rev. Dr. John Hurd, retired Professor of New Testament a Toronto's Trinity College gave three lectures, two on St. Mark's writings and one on the writings of St. Paul. Dr. Hurd's  presentations were challenging for some but certainly informative for everyone. Bishop Bill Hockin, retired Bishop of Fredericton, shared his experience on preaching, outlining for the participants how they can easily prepare sermons. He ably demonstrated it when he delivered the sermon at Sunday's Eucharist. Dav id Macdonald, Long Distence Education Coordinator at Sudbury's Thorneloe University provided a detailed explanation of the courses available to the Lay readers should they desire to continue upgrading on their own. Diocesan clergy and some Lay Reders provided other sessions on the liturgcal aspects of our Anglican life. By the time the day ended the participants had been working almost a full 12 hours. We were exhaisted but all returned to their accomodations feeling uplifted and enthused about ministry.

Dr. John Hurd

Sunday morning's Eucharistic celebration saw the Church of St. Matthew & St. Paul filled to capacity, with many of the Lay Readers and vested and actively involved in the liturgical leadership. The weekend was a full one not only with teaching and discussions, but with marvelous fellowship. The Chef-du-Jour was James, the busy husband of Heart's Incumbent, Deborah Lonergan-Freake, who, along with the assistance of the parish's ladies,  delighted the crowd with his culinary expertize. Indeed, the little parish of Hearst outshone themselves in their hosting of this busy weekend.

 The participants at the layreader's weekend.

I came away from the weekend, and shared my thoughts with the gathering, that their presence and dedication to their ministry has given me huge hope for the Church in Moosonee. In many of our communities it is our Layreaders who are the front-line minsters of the Gospel, as our clergy are not present every week.

 

Both these winter events up here have shown me that, in the midst of some of the difficult decisons and work we are doing, "life abounds" and the Church in the diocese of Moosonee is alive and moving ahead. Laus Deo!

 

 

 

 

 

In the Birthplace of Anglicanism

I saw Ruth off at London's Heathrow airport after a great little holiday in celebration of our 25th weddings anniversary and a day later made my way to Canterbury. My purpose was to participate in the annual conference hosted by the staff at Canterbury Cathedral for new Bishops of the Anglican Communion. I enjoyed my train ride through the English countryside…Wow, those English trains go fast!!! Upon my arrival at the Cathedral Lodge I was immediately met by two other Canadian Bishops. We were given our instructions and the keys to our rooms and were told to enjoy ourselves and relax until Evensong and dinner. I was thrilled at my room. Besides being modern with a beautiful view of the Cathedral, it was warm!!! I was so cold in England that by the time of my arrival at Canterbury I had a cold. Thankfully, it did not amount to much and did not hinder the week.

The traditional Prayer Book Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral is truely a treat. I was thrilled to be sitting in this oldest Cathedral of England and the very birthplace of the Anglican Communion. The men & boys choir were superb. I looked forward to the week ahead and to worshipping daily in this holy place. At dinner were began to meet the others who were to be part of the course. We were all men, except for one, and all relatively new Bishops from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Ireland, USA, India, the South Pacific, numerous parts of Africa and Canada. 

 The view from my room 

The week  had a timetabled structure to the day. We began with Morning Prayer in the Cathedral "Quire" and then Eucharist in the ancient Crypt. Each day we ate, we sat round in chairs, we took notes as various people winged in for the event, gave us their opinions and winged away again. For me the highlights of the content were Bishop David Picket who enthusiastically told us about new initiatives in parts of the Church, Jane Williams, wife of the archbishop who reminded us to stay "human" in the episcopal ministry, and  John Rees, an English Canon lawyer. The content was good, but as far as courses go, truth be told, it was just another one of the many courses I have attended in my career. What made being here worth the cost of an air ticket were those things that money can't buy.

One of these was the company I kept.  In other words, thirty other people with long and varied careers in the church and who, for better or worse, have been seen by their dioceses as worthy of pinning places for hope and aspiration.  Amongst them were some remarkable people. I have been in the Anglican church for almost 40 years now, and for me "the Anglican Communion" has never been quite real; it is a bunch of committees that other people go to; it is a plethora of wordy and unreadable statements on various things and something so far removed from the Church in Canada's north that I have never really paid it much heed. But here, with this diverse group of very human men and women struggling to advance the Kingdom against often overwhelming odds, it suddenly all made sense.

And I loved being in this place. For a week I was part of the community life of a great Cathedral. With a million visitors a year, a paid staff of over 300 and a volunteer staff of twice that, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the world's most important holy places. Just through the wall from the place I sat for evensong was the spot where Thomas A' Becket was murdered. The shrine is no longer there, removed like so many other precious things by the reformers, but the tiles worn smooth by the knees of praying pilgrims remain. The stones tower skyward and are steeped in the prayers of millions of people, so that although there is evidence of conflict and death all around, this is a beneficent place. Several times a day I sat in the warm embrace of centuries of my ancestors to pray and think and be.

The four Canadian Bishops with the Archbishop of Canterbury

Every afternoon we were given some free time . Most days I used it to keep in touch via the internet with home, but I went out for a walk daily. The streets of Canterbury are a maze of shops and pubs, always with the Cathedral spires towering overhead.  The city is crowded with peoppe daily, especially at the end of the school day. Other highlights included a bus trip back to London to visit two important sites. The first was the Anglican Communion Office where we met many of the staff who work to bring the diverse world-wide Communion together. One staff member is a Canadian, The Rev. Allison Barnett-Cowan, with whom I attended Seminary. We Canadians  were so pleased to have our picture taken together with Allison. Then we were driven through London traffic to Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. What a thrill it was for all of us to be met at the Palace door by the Archbishop who  immediately posed with us for a group photo. He them hosted us in the "Guard's Room" for a chat and high tea. After tea the staff took us on a tour of the Palace and then, prior to our departure, the Archbishop again joined us for Evensing Prayer in his private crypt Chapel.

I was priviledged to be present when the Archbishop baptized five teens and confirmed another 85 young people.

Back at the Cathedral we enjoyed a number of other highlights…a visit to the Deanery where the Dean of Canterbury welcomed us with wine and dinner…a candlelight vigil in the Cathedral at the site of the memorial to Thomas A Becket…and on Sunday being a part of the morning congregation and receiving a small gift from the Sunday School children and then later being a guest at a service of Baptism and Confirmation with the Archbishop officiating for 85 teenagers, five of whom he baptised first. I was intrigued that the service follwed the Book of Common Prayer and the decision to do so was made by the candidates. We were told that there is an increase in young people coming to the Cathedrals across Britain, because they are looking for something different than the world they live in. In 2010 they have seen a 10% increase in attendance. Alleluia!!! The Church lives!!!

So my days filled out and the week passed. I thought, listened, prayed, walked in the picturesque little city, even drank a glass of good English beer, joked and discussed and listened, thought, and prayed some more. I am indebted to the Primate's office and to others for providing me with the financial ability to have this experience. I hope I have come home a better bishop for being there, which was the whole point I suppose and is all too valuable. But even more valuable is the sense I carry of having been gifted with enormous process in my walk as a Christian and a man.  

It is an experience I won't soon forget.

Laus Deo.

Bishop Tom