Archive for March 2011

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!