Bishop’s Address                                                                             Assembly 2019

“Build, Renew, Strengthen, by Walking Together in Unity”                                 

Your Grace(s) Archbishop Fred & Archbishop Melissa, Bishop Mary, Delegates and Guests

Let us pray:  Loving and Faithful God, through the ages you have nourished your people who have come to you for guidance; Lead and direct us in our present journey, that we may discern the way ahead as the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior; By your Spirit, help us to preserve the best of what we were, enable us to let go all that hinders love of you, and strengthen us as a community of living saints to minister with eager hearts and wills. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Who is our Way, our Truth and our Life. Amen.

This prayer was a gift given to us by Bishop Jim Cruickshank as we let go of the Diocese of Cariboo right here in Quesnel at the last Synod of the Diocese of Cariboo.  When Bud Smith, the Cariboo Chancellor, declared that Cariboo was toast….we began to wonder how we would gather as God’s faithful people in the Central Interior.  By morning a badge appeared – created by Betty Edwards – a long term member of St John’s - stating “We’re not toast – we’re yeast”.  And yeast we have been.  We prayed faithfully that the Holy Spirit would lead us into new ways with eager hearts and wills to build a new way of walking together in unity.  Tonight we can look back and see how God has renewed our spirit and has answered our faithfulness in prayer.

  • Ten years ago, at the time of my election, the Anglicans of the Central Interior made a commitment to the then Metropolitan Terry Buckle and the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia & Yukon (BCY) to begin a process of discernment to determine our future.  This took some time, but two important truths came out of the process.  First, we confirmed our desire to continue to live together following the affirmations we set together as we became the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior. Secondly, we wanted the right to elect our Bishop under our own terms which led us to the realization that to do so we would once again need to become an Anglican Institution recognized by the Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon, and General Synod.  The excellent work many engaged in to ensure this process was well thought out, was rewarded by a very smooth acceptance by the Province of BCY and the General Synod.  We thank them for their support and encouragement.
  • At the closing of the 2017 Assembly, we celebrated when Archbishop John Privett announced our formal recognition as the Territory of the People Anglican Church.  This was the result of many people working together to find a way forward by registering us under the BC Society Act, writing a new constitution which enshrined our unique governance model, and beginning the process of changing the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Charitable Status.  We did all this work following our principle of seeking approval by going first to the Indigenous community, the parishes and then the wider church.  It was a joy when last April 27, 2018, Director of the Society and Pastoral Elder, Amy Charlie, chaired the first Assembly (Annual General Meeting) of the new Society of the Territory of the People.
  • Before this Assembly 2019 will be a resolution asking us to approve the new Policy to Elect a Bishop for the Territory.  It has taken some time for the Task Force to work through our own constitution while being mindful of the Province of BCY Canons and those of the General Synod, to develop a policy that will work for us.  Once the Policy to Elect a Bishop is approved, we will be ready to make that final step to fully living into the Territory of the People with the right and a process to elect a Bishop on our terms. 
  • Before this Assembly we will also begin the next step by reviewing a new Territory Profile which has been written over the last months by an excellent team who was created by your Coordinating Council.  This Profile should serve us well as we begin the next stage of our life together in seeking new leadership. 

It is so right that we should be in Quesnel for this Assembly. When we met here last, as the Diocese of Cariboo, we entrusted Cariboo into the hands of four trustees…..The Venerable Peter Zimmer, Canon Betty-May Gore, the Rev Canon Trev Whiting and Canon Terry Bepple.  Over the last few months the Trustees, along with Bud Smith and Coordinating Council, have found a way to transfer to the Territory of the People the remaining financial obligations and funds of Cariboo.  That process is well in hand and soon we will announce how these funds will be used.  There is a strong commitment by Coordinating Council who has set up a Task Force, to work out the details for using the funds to honour those who have served throughout Cariboo, the Central Interior and the Territory, with an Award of Excellence, to ensure those in leadership within the parishes have access to funds to renew, refresh and re-educate themselves for ministry, and to ensure our parishes have the necessary capital funds to renew their church buildings as needed.

It is my hope we will always hold on to a part of Cariboo in some tangible way.  We have prayed faithfully….help us to preserve the best of what we were… and I believe Cariboo was so much more than the horror of the legacy of the Residential School.  For me the best of Cariboo was the way in which each parish church responded to our sad history and were deeply committed to continuing to be the family of God in this place.  The Cariboo way was to be family, delighting in sharing together and being a community built on trust.  There was a willingness to give up all to preserve the very best of who we are as we cared for one another within this new creation that was breaking forth. 

On Saturday afternoon we will see for the first time the video produced for us by Anglican Video which tells a part of our journey from Cariboo to the Territory of the People.  “Journeying together in Faith” captures a small part of our journey and it is our hope it will cause you to remember and write down all the stories we missed, so that in the future we might write a more complete telling of our journey.  It is my hope that when we speak of Cariboo in the future it will not just be associated with the demise of a diocese but of the people who journeyed together in faith.

On Saturday evening we will make the journey to Barkerville and join Rev Reynard in evening prayer as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Anglican Church presence in the northern region of the Territory.  This is a significate event for us – it is our Primate’s first visit to St Saviour’s and it is a delight for us to welcome Archbishop Fred to acknowledge with us the important role St Saviour’s played in the development of the church in this area. 

We are pleased to have from our partner Diocese of Montreal, Ben Stuchbery, as Rev Reynard, the first priest of the parish in 1869, sharing the story of the early history of the church and area with summer visitors to Barkerville this year.

Our Companion Diocese Partnership with the Diocese of Montreal has blessed us deeply over the past twelve years.  We welcome our partners with us at our Assembly and look forward to hearing from Bishop Mary Irwin Gibson on Saturday and again on Sunday as she presides at the closing Eucharist.  This year we also welcome the Ven Michael Robson member of the Companion Diocese Partnership of Montreal.  This year has been a hard year for our companion partnership team in the Territory; with the illness of Isabel Healy-Morrow and John Isaac, and Betty-May taking on more duties within her parish during a time of transition, resulted in a lack of leadership of our committee.  We will look for ways to strengthen again this important team to carry on the work of sharing with our friends in the Diocese of Montreal.  Our Companion Diocese covenant calls us to pray faithfully for one another and to share the stories of our communities and ministries.  We have prayed faithfully for you in our parish churches but the sharing of our stories needs to be revitalized in the coming year.

For some time now the Ministry Committee has been working out a plan to strengthen the vision of collaborative ministry we adopted at Assembly 2017.   That visions calls upon all baptized people to explore their gifts and talents and to ponder how they might offer them in new leadership roles within our faith communities.  The need for Christian formation, education and training for ministry, and the discernment of new vocations, is pressing us to give new attention to how we give leadership in ministry.  Along with the ministry of this Committee, I am also calling us to a time of prayer for new vocations within our midst.  I am asking that over the next two years our leadership within each parish find ways to develop good strategies for discerning new vocations, plan for educational events for parish teams who are called upon to help with the discernment of calls, and for all of us to pray weekly in our public worship for people to be inspired to respond to God’s call to give leadership in new ways throughout the life of the church.  On page 676 BAS there are prayers for the ministry of the Church which can be used.  Alexis Saunders, the rector of St Mark’s Woodpecker has composed a prayer for us – let us pray it now….

Holy God, we thank you for raising up among us faithful servants for the ministry of your word and sacraments.  Bless your church with an abundance of holy priests, deacons, brothers, sisters and lay leaders. Give those you have called to the married state and those you have chosen to live as single persons in the world, the special graces their lives require.

Form us all in the likeness of your Son, so that in him, with him, and through him, we may love you more deeply and serve you more faithfully, always and everywhere.  Amen.

The last two summers have been hard on all of us in the Territory with the wildfires which caused much anxiety for us all.  As hard as it was to leave our homes, deal with the smoke, and the many other ways we were challenged, we gave outstanding leadership in the communities throughout the Territory.  Every single Anglican I spoke with was doing something to ensure their neighbours were cared for in this extreme situation. 

We were blessed to be supported by Anglicans across the world during this devastating time for us.  The Primates World Relief and Development Funds (PWRDF), Council of the North, dioceses and individuals donated to support us so we could do the ministry God called of us in this time of disaster for our communities.  The prayers of the whole church kept us lifted up as we continued to deal with the effects of the fires. I am so proud of the ministry being done throughout our Territory around training in suicide prevention and pastoral care programs for those who continue to experience difficult times. 

During the past two years since we last met, we have continued to do much ministry despite all the challenges.  I commend to you the reports of all our organizations both within the Territory and beyond, through our commitment to The Provincial Archives, Sorrento Centre and Vancouver School of Theology.  In the pages of our reports we see much to celebrate, and give thanks for all who have given leadership by working on the various committees which give us a strong foundation to build, renew and strengthen our common life together.

We have been blessed with many people who help us on the journey, often quietly in the background supporting all of us.

  • The Pastoral Elders have been a strong support to all of us within the Territory and it was with real sadness that we said good bye to three of our Pastoral Elders this past year.  With the death of Bert Seymour, Jim White and Jimmy Toodlican we have been left without the wise counsel of three of our Elders and we will need to seek the wisdom of Dorothy Philips and Amy Charlie as we discern new Pastoral Elders to be raised up amongst us to continue this important tradition.
  • The many people who have given leadership as Directors of the Society, on the Administration Committee and Coordinating Council and the many task forces, committees, and sub groups who keep building, renewing and strengthening the Territory.
  • The Resource Centre staff – Gordon and Mary Dove who have developed a wide variety of resources to use in parishes, a network of parish coordinators, and have expanded their ministry to include the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer within the Territory. 
  • The Lay leadership who do countless tasks to ensure that worship, pastoral care, administration and property is cared for in parishes week after week by leading worship, visiting the sick and shut-in, doing the accounts and keeping the statistics, and the work of maintaining the parishes both spiritually and physically. 
  • The Ordained team of deacons and priests are a joy to share in ministry with around the Territory.  Despite the fact that many spend hours driving from one parish to another, their loyalty and devoted servant leadership is remarkable and serves our community and the wider church very well.
  • I want to especially acknowledge our retired clergy and our honourary assistants who these past two years willingly offered to do more ministry during times of transition in many of our parishes.  I want to give thanks tonight and to celebrate with one of these retired clergy who never fails to say, “Yes, Bishop” and to ask you to join me in the reception following the service to wish Bishop Gordon Light a happy 75th birthday and congratulations on the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a deacon, and 15th anniversary of his ordination as Bishop.  We have been truly blessed to have both Gordon and Barbara back home with us.
  • Archbishop Melissa Skelton’s leadership amongst us is remarkable.  Since her election as Metropolitan she has moved the ministry of the Province along for us.  Soon the new Safe Church training will be in place for our use and she continues to find ways for us to meet as dioceses and territory within the Province to find ways for us to work together on our common concerns.  Archbishop Melissa’s leadership within the Province is not the only place where she has shared her gifts of organization and leadership, but I have watched her leadership transform the National House of Bishops as well.  It has been a joy to share in ministry with her and to watch as she cares for the whole church.
  • I also want to thank my family for the support they give me. David, Patricia and Cam have been generous with their quiet presence in the background and their willingness to adjust their lives to fit my crazy schedule, often putting on hold family celebrations. 
  • The Territory staff need our thanks, Bonnie and Andy have served all of us well with their care of the payroll and accounts. Margaret Mitchell, as Office Coordinator, has been a valuable member of our leadership team within the office. She keeps us all informed and organized with her amazing ability of tracking our meetings and communicating the important work and events of the Territory through the Territory Bulletin.  I want you to help me give her a special thank you for her outstanding and patient ministry in seeing that the CRA charitable registration was completed for us this year and her diligent wordsmithing of our policies – sometimes over and over again.  Thank you Margaret!
  • The Financial Officer of the Territory, Dwight Oatway, has for the past nine years been the steady hand on all aspects of the life of the Territory.   Along with serving on the Administration Committee and Coordinating Council, he has travelled to events to represent the Territory at the Council of the North and the Provincial Consultation.  His work with the staff, auditors, investment advisors, insurance company, Council of the North, and the many other daily tasks he does on your behalf, deserves a special thank you from all of us. 

It is my privilege as your Bishop to recognize those in our community who have served us faithfully and with great distinction by their ministry over many years.   It was my hope that at this Assembly we would have in place a new Award of Excellence to honour those who have served us for many years.  The details of the award program have not been worked out at this point but if they were I would ask you to help me recognize as the first recipients of the Award, the faithful ministry of the Cariboo Trustees – Peter, Betty-May, Trev, Terry and Bud Smith who have continued to serve us all for many years.

I am pleased to announce I will be installing a new Canon of the Territory who has worked with real determination and faithfulness over the last 10 years on all levels of ministry within the Territory:  Len Fraser

And now I wish to invite Archbishop Fred to join me here and to help all of us acknowledge one who has not only served us well but who has been recognized for her ministry within the wider church by being awarded the Anglican Award of Merit.  Melissa Green. We are so proud of your ministry amongst us and wish to congratulate you with a little symbol of our affection for you.  We can’t wait for the time when we will formally gather with you as you receive your award of merit in your home parish of St Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops.

As we journey in faith to build, renew and strengthen God’s mission in the Territory of the People, let us do so as a community of faith, committed to walking together as we boldly proclaim a Risen Lord, and with the confidence that God’s Holy Spirit goes before us preparing the way and guiding our every step.