Friday, January 31, 2014

Primate Calls on Anglicans to Pray for South Sudan

A call for prayer from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Jeremiah 29:11

For more than a month, Anglicans, along with many other Canadians and people around the world, have watched as violence has ravaged South Sudan, and visited additional suffering upon peoples who have endured as much or more violence and upheaval as any in the world over the past five decades.

Through the appeal of the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, and his diocesan bishops, through the Anglican Peace and Justice Network and Anglican Alliance, and from Canadian Sudanese Anglican leaders, we have heard firsthand stories of how the senseless violence began in December, and how it has spread within and beyond South Sudan's borders. From a PWRDF partner in Kenya we are learning of increasing numbers of women and children fleeing Juba and other southern areas seeking shelter and food in overstretched refugee camps in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

The Anglican Church of Canada, with local and international ecumenical partners, and Episcopal and Anglican churches around the world, has responded to the pleas of South Sudan with calls for prayer for peace and donations toward immediate humanitarian relief. Delivery of the world's support of those most impacted by the violence, now well underway with local partners is an answer to prayer.

Indeed, the ceasefire announced on Thursday January 23, 2014 is an answer to prayer. Yet the coming days and weeks are critically important if the ceasefire is to hold.

I urge us all to continue to pray for this ceasefire and the opportunity it offers for lasting peace to the peoples of South Sudan and East Africa.

I urge us to learn about the Episcopal Church of Sudan and its courageous works of healing and reconciliation. We believe strongly the Episcopal Church of Sudan and other faith groups in South Sudan are among the most successful potential actors in leading and facilitating peace, humanitarian assistance and healing.

I urge us to contribute toward the immediate, most basic needs of peoples affected by violence in Juba and surrounding area, and those in nearby refugee camps.

I urge us to commend to the Government of Canada an active, strategic response to the needs and aspirations of the people of South Sudan. We believe urgent and intensified leadership from the Government of Canada and the international community is essential for supporting the ceasefire and building a future of peace.

We have recently called upon the Government of Canada (January 24, 2014) to:

* Lend diplomatic and financial support to the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) mediation efforts continuing in Addis Ababa;
* Develop a cohesive strategy for ensuring aid reaches those most in need and fulfills other strategic purposes without colluding in any way with the efforts of those who would bring greater instability;
* Continue to examine Canadian aid strategy to South Sudan;
* Hold South Sudanese political leaders accountable for not exacerbating ethnic tension;
* Provide support to those documenting human rights abuses that have occurred in the context of the conflict;
* Pay special attention to supporting the efforts of local civil-society leaders -particularly the faith communities of South Sudan — who have longstanding credibility as peacemakers; and
* Call for the release of South Sudanese prisoners now detained by the Government of South Sudan as an important gesture toward a lasting ceasefire and a negotiated peace.

Let us listen as one Anglican family in Canada to the concerns of Canadian Sudanese Anglican men and women seeking peace for their homeland and loved ones, and act together.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Apply Now: Stewards Programme 2014

Apply now: Stewards Programme 2014

Young Christians from around the world are invited to apply to the World Council of Churches (WCC) Stewards Programme for the WCC Central Committee meeting which will be held from 26 June to 10 July 2014. 

Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.

The WCC Central Committee meeting will take place in Geneva, Switzerland.
Before the meeting begins, stewards will follow an on-site ecumenical learning programme, exposing them to the key issues of the worldwide ecumenical movement.

During the Central Committee meeting stewards will assist in the areas of worship, floor management, documentation, communications and other administrative and support tasks.
Following the meeting, stewards will design ecumenical projects that they will implement in their churches and communities upon their return.

The WCC Stewards Programme is a unique ecumenical experience of togetherness with other young people from different churches, countries and cultures.

Applicants are invited to send a completed application form to the WCC youth programme no later than 21 February 2014.

More information on the WCC stewards programme
Download the application form as a pdf (681 KB) or as an MS Word document (68 KB)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Canadian Lutheran-Anglican Youth (CLAY) Gathering

Every two years, nearly 1,000 Anglican and Lutheran youth travel from across Canada to the Canadian Lutheran-Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering. CLAY gives youth the chance to meet other young Christians while learning, worshipping, and studying the Bible together.

Registration opens today for CLAY 2014, running August 14 to 17 on the campus of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C.

"It's probably one of the best experiences that a youth can have in their church life," says Aidan McBride, who was part of CLAY 2012's "specialist home team"—youth old enough to be CLAY delegates who instead help out behind the scenes.

"It's great for them to experience something more, something larger, something made especially for them. You come together with around 1,000-plus of your closest brothers and sisters in Christ. It is quite a powerful thing."

McBride will be returning to CLAY this year, but this time as a leader-bringing his own youth group along for the ride.

"Anyone who's thinking of taking a group should really try hard to make it accessible to anyone, without consideration of their financial situation," says McBride. "My church helped me to go to my first CLAY; I got hooked and went again and again. Money should never be a reason for someone not to go."

CLAY 2014 will offer participants similar events to those at previous CLAYs, including outreach, educational workshops, and late-night social events.

This year's new feature, however, is the "Ministry Project." Groups will spend some time exploring a particular interest in depth, such as art, drama, or social justice. At the end of the gathering each group will present a final project or performance.

The ministry project experience is designed to inspire and empower youth "to express their faith using their gifts," and make CLAY "more engaging, relevant, and accessible for all."

CLAY 2014's keynote speaker will be Irish blogger and author Scott Evans. Evans is known for his frank presentation of his own struggles with finding a place in the church, and organisers hope his experience will resonate with attendees. His blog, Falling from the Front, examines pop culture from a Christian perspective.

This year's event in Kamloops will be the third to include Anglican youth. Organisers are keen to point out that all aspects of CLAY reflect the Lutheran-Anglican full communion partnership, and hope Anglican attendance will continue to grow in 2014.

To register now for CLAY 2014, or to learn more, click here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Towards a Common Vision: A Study Guide

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) has produced a study guide to The Church: Towards a Common Vision. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity provides a wonderful starting point for renewing ecumenical discussion about what it means to be part of the Church of God today.

Last year, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches published The Church: Towards a Common Vision. This convergence text, the product of 20 years of careful study and dialogue among representatives of the vast majority of the world’s churches, has now been offered to member churches of the WCC for study and comment.

ACC-15 commended The Church: Towards a Common Vision to the churches of the Anglican Communion, including those that are not members of the WCC, for study.

IASCUFO has now produced a short study guide to the text. It hopes that this will help stimulate discussion about The Church (the text) – and about the Church (as we seek to follow Christ together) – among Anglicans and between Anglicans and their ecumenical partners.

The text of the study guide is available here as a pdf. It is designed to be printed on A4 paper and folded to make an A5 booklet.

Click here to download the text of "The Church: Towards a Common Vision."

The Little Things Really Matter

Hearts of Ice. Some rights reserved by Bart (Cayusa); (CC BY-NC 2.0); sourced from Flickr
In a number of conversations this week, there’s been an underlying and recurring theme: the little things are, in fact, the big things.

One friend, in reminiscing about a recent loss, remembered the fun times she had spent with that friend – of sharing an apartment and waking to hear the friend singing in the bathroom, the humourous fear of (and adamant avoidance of) mice, the shared emotion of a common experience. I didn’t hear what this person’s academic qualifications were, I’ve no idea what her CV would have said, but I heard how she touched a life for the better – with the little things.

My best friend celebrated her birthday this weekend; she sent through a series of pics of her weekend adventure… there was the gift I’d sent being received (and appreciated!), there was the champagne toast with on her weekend get-away, even the ice cream when she got home. Despite the ocean between us, it was as though I got to spend part of the celebrations with her – the little things of pictures and texts sent over the smart phone meant a lot to me – it was a big thing.

The phone call “just because”… the hug from a child… the long-overdue chat with a friend over a mug of tea or glass of wine… remembering to ask after someone’s family… they’re all little things, but they mean a lot.

They mean a lot because they speak of relationship. They acknowledge a shared history, the promise of a shared future. They indicate that the relationship will endure good and bad; that is based on respect and appreciation and genuine Christian love. The little things mean a lot because they hold within them the presence of love.

There are oodles of ways we can work to express this love – that has been first given to us by God – with the folks around us. It takes a little time, a little effort, maybe a little money. But it can mean a lot.
One of the active ministries in a parish I serve is the cards – there is a woman there who has a card ready for birthdays, anniversaries, losses, celebrations, you name it. She has them signed by the folks within the parish and sends them on. It’s a little thing, but I’ve seen folks receiving the cards gush about how lovely it is to be remembered, prayed for, appreciated.

The potential downside, of course, is that sometimes the little things can backfire – in a big way. I heard this week a person explain that she had received a thank-you card for a considerable piece of work she’d done – and her name in it was wrong. She was left feeling underappreciated, insulted, hurt – as though her time and efforts were too insignificant to even warrant the correct name. In another conversation someone had been told an outright lie – for no apparent reason – and felt that they could no longer trust what that person told them as a result. One little thing resulted in fairly big, fairly negative, ramifications.

So we do need to be careful, and intentional, in how we interact with folks. Sure, the big things will be remembered and appreciated – but so will the little things. It’s good to remind ourselves that our actions will have consequences, both good and bad – and make a concentrated effort to make them be good. We won’t be able to impress everyone all the time, but we can try to be authentic and caring in our relationships. And when we do that, we show that the other person is important enough to us to be worth the effort. And, ideally, our actions – no matter how little or how big – will bring a smile to their face – truly a little thing that means a lot.

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I'm a priest serving a 5-point parish in the Diocese of Brandon. I consider church to be a verb, and I'm passionate about PWRDF, eco-theology, and youth ministry. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, food, and playing with my dogs. 
Source: The Community

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Don de Dieu: The Primate on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

In services marking this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we will be exchanging a sign of peace with the greeting "Don de Dieu" which means "Gift of God". The peace and unity we share in Christ is God's gift to us and to the world. How we embrace and embody its beauty and grace is the opportunity this Week of Prayer affords the whole church.

Canadians prepared the resources for this year's liturgy and daily reflections. They chose as a theme Paul's rhetorical question in addressing divisions in the church in Corinth, "Has Christ been divided?" (1 Corinthians 1:13). The question calls us to confess the scandal of disunity and it's marring effect on the witness of the church catholic. This week always has about it a spirit of repentance and renewal.

There can and ought also to be a spirit of rejoicing in the work of the councils of the church that support ecumenical dialogue and foster a stronger common witness to the gospel of Christ.

I view the World Council of Churches (WCC), founded in 1948, as a "don de Dieu", a gift of God, an instrument for calling the churches into a more visible unity. In 2013 the WCC published a document entitled "The Church: Towards a Common Vision". The fruit of 20 years of ecumenical conversations, it is an extraordinary ecumenical achievement setting out an ecclesiology in which the church, serves the divine plan for the transformation of the world. We can be proud that several Canadian Anglicans are currently serving the World Council of Churches in very significant roles:

The Rev. Canon John Gibault is the Director of the Commission on Faith and Order:

Ms. Natasha Klukach is the Program Executive, Church and Ecumenical:

Bishop Mark MacDonald is the Regional President for North America. He was elected at the WCC Assembly in Busan, Korea last year.

Canadians have always had a deep commitment to ecumenism. Like the World Council of Churches, the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) is also a "don de Dieu", an instrument for drawing together Christians of many traditions: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Reformed, Evangelical, Free Church, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox. The CCC is in fact one of the broadest and most inclusive national councils of churches in the world.

Canadian ecumenism has been nurtured through the very fine work of the Canadian Center for Ecumenism in Montreal and the Prairie Center for Ecumenism in Saskatoon.

In the 1960s Christians in Canada were drawn together through a number of coalitions for social justice. Over time they evolved into movements like Project Ploughshares, the Women's Inter-Church Council of Canada, the Canadian Church's Forum for Global Ministries, and the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives commonly known as KAIROS.

A number of Canadians provide strong leadership in ecumenical conversations at every level. The Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, a Canadian priest, serves as the Director of Unity Faith and Order for the Anglican Communion. A huge piece of her work consists of staffing a number of international ecumenical dialogues.

Bishop Linda Nicholls of Toronto is a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. Only in Canada has there been a national dialogue spanning the 40 years of this international one. And it is becoming clear that with Pope Francis, there is more hope for these dialogues than ever.

The Rev. Canon Philip Hobson and Ms. Natasha Klukach, both of the Diocese of Toronto, serve as members of the international Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue. Two more Canadians will soon be named to international ecumenical dialogues being renewed between the Anglican Communion and the churches of the Oriental Orthodox and Reformed traditions.

Bishop Michael Pryse, of the Eastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, serves as co-chair of the International Anglican Lutheran Co-ordinating Committee which monitors and supports conversations between Anglicans and Lutherans in many parts of the world. Canada leads the way through its Full Communion relationship between our churches. It was our delight to meet in Joint Assembly in Ottawa in 2013. Our theme was "Together for the love of the world".

We are happily engaged in a new round of dialogue with the United Church of Canada, seeking new models to give visible expression to the unity our two churches share.

For many years we have partnered with other churches in ecumenical shared ministries that have proven to be a real blessing in many communities across the country.

The measure of the Anglican Church of Canada's commitment to ecumenism is reflected in our decision to make the Coordinator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Officer into a full-time position. Archdeacon Bruce Myers, a priest from the Diocese of Quebec, works with the ecumenical officers of the dioceses, staffs all our ecumenical dialogues, and co-ordinates faith and order conversations. With respect to peace and justice work, he works closely with the Primate, the General Secretary and our Director of Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice and our Special Advisor for Government Relations. Bruce has a great mind and a huge heart for this work. For our church he is a "don de Dieu", a gift of God in our midst. I ask for your prayers for him and his ministry.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to the local councils of churches and ecumenical ministries in communities all across Canada. These groups draw neighbourhood churches together for events like Christmas lessons and carols, Good Friday walks, Easter sunrise services. They draw communities together in prayer in times of civic or national celebration and in times of tragedy. They are on the frontline of many social services including food banks, breakfast for kids, or soup kitchens, community dinners and out of the cold or heat programs. They are supporting shelters for the homeless and safe havens for those who are escaping domestic violence. They are supporting community programs for those struggling with addictions. They give strength to a strong community voice for the most vulnerable in our society. Without a doubt, each of these local church councils and ecumenical ministerial is a "don de Dieu" in the community it serves.

In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity let us be mindful of the great "Don de Dieu" the great gift of God's peace and unity in Christ for us and for the world. And let us pray that as church leaders, church councils, and neighbours in faith we may embrace and embody that gift with passion and perseverance for the glory of Christ and the good of the world.

The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Church Financing: Working Together for God’s Mission

Parishes and dioceses across the Anglican Church of Canada have financial needs that can't be met by normal congregational giving—costly building repairs or improvements, expansion of community ministry initiatives, or other special projects that help the church to serve God's mission in Canada.

A concerted financial campaign takes a great deal of planning and work. The dioceses of Ottawa and Toronto have already begun their own campaigns—with Ottawa having met its goal, and Toronto close to meeting and exceeding its own.

Both Ottawa and Toronto made the decision to divide funds received among the needs of parishes, the diocese, and the broader church. On a national level, the Diocese of Toronto will support ministries in the north, and the Diocese of Ottawa is supporting PWRDF, the Bishop Ordinary, and Indigenous Ministries.

"We've really learned from Ottawa and Toronto," says Suzanne Lawson, coordinator of Together in Mission, General Synod's program to help dioceses begin their own financial campaigns.

"One of my jobs has been to codify what they learned so that we can share that information with other dioceses. It's a great example of how we can share knowledge and wisdom across the country. That experience will inform the work of financial development going forward," Lawson says.

"Fundraising is challenging. We offered to partner with dioceses on feasibility studies to help them determine whether a financial campaign would work for them and, if not, what needed to be done first."

The first step in the process—a feasibility study—consists of interviews with 80 to 120 people across the diocese. Interviewees are presented with a preliminary case for a financial campaign, and asked for their views on the campaign and the diocese's readiness to carry it out.

"The feasibility studies produce valuable information for the diocese, whether they decide to go ahead with a campaign or not," says Lawson. "It's been really important to not push dioceses into something that they are not ready for."

Once a feasibility study is over, dioceses choose consultants for the campaign-with the help of Together in Mission as required. Consultants guide dioceses in selecting volunteer leadership, drafting case statements to let people know exactly what the money would fund, and helping parishes run the campaign on a local level.

To date, three dioceses have completed feasibility studies with Together in Mission, and Lawson hopes two or three more will join them in 2014. For now, those dioceses that have completed studies—Edmonton, Kootenay, and Qu'Appelle—are moving into the campaign phase.

In Edmonton, Executive Archdeacon Alan Perry is enthusiastic about moving to the next phase. "It's exciting and terrifying at the same time, like any rollercoaster ride, but I think we've got a good consultant, a good team of people—and I think we've got a fundamentally good project," he says.

"The basic goal is to invest in mission within the diocese. It's not a bricks and mortar campaign; it's about investing in the development of our mission. We're putting energy and money into developing and supporting rural ministry, into clergy who are able to bring particular gifts and skills to parishes to help them to grow, into Aboriginal ministry. Those are the sorts of things that we'll look at continuing to build."

In Kootenay, the Rev. Yme Woensdregt chairs their campaign's volunteer committee.

"The exciting thing about it for me is that I've experienced first-hand what happens when people start talking about stewardship openly, and in helpful and healthy ways," he says. "The benefit to the church and the people's spiritual lives is beyond calculation."

Putting together a campaign can be difficult, says Woensdregt, but it's worth it.

"It's intensive, hard work. And yet the payoff for that, in things beyond dollars raised, is just immense. There really is a sense of the Holy Spirit leading this and helping us see things that we would never have seen in any other way."

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Diocese Names First Recipients of New Order

The Order of the Diocese of Toronto, created to honour laypeople who make outstanding contributions to the diocese, was awarded for the first time on New Years' Day at St. James' Cathedral in Toronto.

A list of 48 recipients-nominated by their parishes or Archbishop Colin Johnson-was published on the Diocese of Toronto website just before Christmas. Those named to the Order were honoured before a full house at the cathedral during the New Year's choral evensong, receiving a medallion and a pin from the archbishop.

Among the first recipients of the Order were Chris Ambidge (involved in leadership of Integrity Canada), members of General Synod Libby Salter and Peter Tavell, Elizabeth Loweth (active in leadership of the International Anglican Women's Network), Dorothy Peers, and General Synod's coordinator of Together in Mission Suzanne Lawson.

Peers, wife of former primate Archbishop Michael Peers, was honoured for her contributions to the diocese since moving here with her husband, including assisting parishes with development of better governance structures and growth strategies.

"She's been very active as a volunteer and it's nice to see her recognised recognized for that incredible contribution," said Lawson.

Lawson herself was taken by surprise when she heard she was going to receive the award. While participating in the service, she felt a little overwhelmed by the breadth of talent and hard work being publicly appreciated.

"When you heard the citations for other people, you realised realized what wonderful contributions and gifts they had brought to the church that they love," Lawson said. "Bishop Colin spoke about us not being super heroes, but ordinary people. You have that awful feeling of ‘Oh my goodness, if I get a medal I'm going to have to act differently. Don't they know I'm not perfect?' But really, he was disarming...honouring, but disarming."

Along with having their contributions to the diocese shared with the congregation at the service, each honoree will receive a written citation, and have a record of their award kept at the diocesan office.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Primate Asks Us to Pray for South Sudan

The following is an appeal from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada:

At the request of the Primate of South Sudan and Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Dang Bul Yak, I am issuing this urgent call for prayer for South Sudan.

Tragically this new nation, formed in 2011, is suffering through horrific in-fighting that is leaving hundreds dead and forcing thousands, 180,000 to date, to flee the violence.

There is a glimmer of hope in the peace talks scheduled in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Pray for those on both sides of the uprising between the supporters of the President, Salva Kiir and the former Deputy, Riek Machan, that they lay down their weapons and come to the table. Pray for the ministry of the mediator, Seyoum Mesfin. Pray for all affected by this fighting and especially those living in refugee camps where conditions are rapidly deteriorating due to overcrowding. Pray for all working to bring them emergency aid and relief.

May our prayers and those of so many others around the world rise to the throne of God's compassion, justice, and peace and then fall like a still dew of quietness on a land so troubled and a people hurting so deeply.

The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz
Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Primate's New Year's Day Address: Be Close to Jesus

What follows is the text of an address by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivered on New Year's Day 2014, at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.

One thing only is necessary...

"Be close to Jesus."

That was the word given to a religious community called the Ventrella Sisters who were looking for spiritual counsel in advance of Advent and Christmas some years ago. The word was that of Padre Pio of Pietrelciana. His counsel was in fact his own life-long quest and his premier advice to all his spiritual children.

"Be close to Jesus." The counsel is simple, direct, and engaging. It compels me to read the Christmas story in a way that sees how everyone is endeavouring to draw close to the Christ child. The angels are bending near the earth. The shepherds are lingering at the manger.

From a much greater distance the Magi who have seen his natal star begin a long journey to see the new born king.

When the child is presented in the temple, in accordance with the law, Simeon takes him in his arms and blesses God, declaring him to be the glory of Israel and a light to the nations.

Anna who spends all her days in the temple gives thanks to God for the child and she speaks of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

"Be close to Jesus," said the Padre. Be close to him in the manger, at the riverbank, on the mountain side, in the fields, in the market place, in the courts of the Lord, at the foot of his cross, and at the throne of his mercy. Be close to him in his deep love for the world for its redemption, healing and peace.

All our mothers and fathers in the Faith have encouraged us to be close to Christ so that "his sweet fragrance might linger wherever we go."

The Padre's counsel is reflected in the ministry of Pope Francis and the simplicity with which he lives and speaks to the masses who gather to hear him. They are hearing how important it is to be close to Jesus — and his words and ways with the world. The Padre's counsel is also reflected in the ministry of our Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, whose focus is on evangelism and reconciliation. Early in office, he said, "We are in a time of revolution in the world and we need another revolution in the Church. What it looks like I don't know, but I want to be in it. What it feels like is Jesus centered, fire filled, peace proclaiming, disciple making, and the church word for this revolution, is revival."

Our National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, Mark MacDonald, speaks of a spiritual movement among indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world — a revival of faith and hope, the heart of which is a way of engaging the scriptures called Gospel Based Discipleship. The gospel of the day is read three times. After the first reading this question is asked. "What word, idea, sentence, stands out for you?" After the second, "What is Jesus saying to you?" and the third, "What is Jesus calling you to do?"

This past summer I read a biography of Archbishop Howard Clarke the 9th Primate of our beloved church. When he was elected in 1959 he was asked what his vision for the church would be. He said "What I want to see is that the church bear the marks of its Lord and Head, Jesus the Son of God." Clarke often spoke of the great adventure that is Christ and he asked challenging questions of the Church.

•Do Christians really understand the world, and its social political, and economic realities? •Do we understand the sacrificial character of the actions that will meet these realities and help transform them? •Are we prepared to be a servant church? Clarke's own personal closeness to Christ proved to be a transforming influence not only in our own church, but within the Anglican Communion. The prayer he wrote for the Toronto Congress in 1963 continues to be prayed throughout the world.

"Draw your church together, O Lord, into one great company of disciples, together following our Lord Jesus Christ into every walk of life, together serving him in his mission to the world, and together witnessing to his love on every continent and island. We ask this in his name and for his sake."

Only as we are "close to Jesus" can we be this kind of a church.

I am happy to say that this coming Lent and Easter our church is being offered a wonderful opportunity to explore and deepen our discipleship as individuals and as parish communities. Heartily endorsed by all our bishops, it is entitled "Becoming the Story We Tell: Renewing our engagement with Christ crucified and risen." I commend this resource for widespread use across our beloved church, so that in our witness to Christ and his gospel, we may go from strength to strength.

I am also pleased to commend to our whole church the 2013 World Council of Churches publication, The Church: Towards a Common Vision. It is a 69-paragraph document, the result of some 20 years of convergence in ecumenical conversations around the world. It speaks to God's mission and the unity of the church, it celebrates a growing in that communion for which Jesus prays, and it speaks to the church's vocation in and for the world.

I must confess it's the fourth chapter "The Church In and For The World" that grabs my attention. Paragraph 64 reads, in part

"The world that God so loved is scarred with problems and tragedies which cry out for the compassionate engagement of Christians. The source of their passion for the transformation of the world lies in their communion with God in Jesus Christ. They live as disciples of the One who welcomed the poor and the outcast, and who challenged authorities who showed little regard for human dignity or the will of God. The church needs to help those without power in society to be heard; at times it must become a voice for those who are voiceless. Faith also impels them to work for a just social order, in which the goods of this earth may be shared equitably, the suffering of the poor eased and absolute destitution one day eliminated. The tremendous economic inequalities that plague the human family, such as those in our day that often differentiate the Global North from the Global South, need to be an abiding concern for all the churches."

There are my friends, so many issues that call for our attention as those who through vows in baptism are "close to Jesus." The one I want to lift up this New Year's Day is poverty.

In Canada poverty manifests itself in the increasing number of people who depend on food banks. In Ontario alone 375,000 people turn to food banks every month and more than a third of them are under the age of 18. In Canada the overall child poverty ratio is 13.5 per cent. Like you, I am not unfamiliar with these kind of statistics. It's when I come face to face with such a sad reality that I am deeply moved. I remember being at the [arish of St. John the Evangelist in London, Ont. in November. This is a parish like countless others across the church where a Saturday night dinner is provided for those who are homeless, working poor, or on social assistance that often runs out before the end of the month. I saw a mother coming through the line with her children. A chicken dinner was being offered and my job was to say "what kind of bread would you like with your dinner?" The very fact that there was a choice between white or whole wheat or multigrain bread was overwhelming to them. So also was the question, "Would you like butter for your vegetables?" I happily responded and confess that I gave them more than they asked for. Their eyes glistened with delight and off they went to find a table. About half an hour later I saw the same mother and her children back in the line for a second helping after everyone has enjoyed their first. As I offered them bread for a second time, I was mindful that this might be the most nutritious meal they have for the entire week -- freshly cooked and representing the balance in diet so many of us take for granted.

I am proud of the church that offers this kind of a meal in so many places across this country. I take this opportunity to thank every Anglican who is committed to this ministry. Truly it is offered in the spirit of Jesus' own compassion for the crowds. He said "If I send them away, they will surely faint on the way for they are hungry." (Matthew 15:32) May God continue to bless you in this good work to which you are so devoted.

Poverty in Canada is also manifested in the startling number of men and women and children who are homeless. That number is in the range of 400,000. This subject and that of affordable housing was a major theme of our Joint Assembly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada here in Ottawa last year. The presentation, focussed on the many faces of homelessness — the youth, the elderly, the addicted, those suffering with mental illness, the unemployed and the working poor. It also drew our attention to the "hidden homeless". Those living in cars, substandard motels, and those couch-surfing with friends compassionate enough to take them in. It also revealed the sad truth that in the homeless population in this country, aboriginal youth are highly over-represented. As churches in Full Communion, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada declared:

"Our local churches are amongst those who are providing a broad range of services and support for these individuals and families. While our efforts help them day by day, we firmly believe that a comprehensive, collaborative, and coordinated initiative among all levels of government and stakeholders is required to address the underlying causes of homelessness and the alarming statistics concerning substandard housing; and that an effective and accountable implementation process is required to meet our obligation ‘to respect, protect and fulfill the right to adequate housing', a motion passed unanimously in our Parliament in May, 2012.

My own hope is that this year will be a year of unprecedented advance in tackling issues associated with poverty. I pray there be many more initiatives like your Bishop's Appeal for Ending Child Poverty. I pray our faith, skill and passion for addressing these issues will be unleashed diocese by diocese across the country. I pray our voice can be co-ordinated, articulate, and effective in calling for measures that reverse the unacceptable trend of statistics on these matters.

I pray dear friends, that we be known as the church for the poor, that we be advocates for their cause and ambassadors for the justice which flows from the heart of God — a justice in which all have enough to live, — enough nutritious food, enough clean water, enough affordable housing and adequate health care, enough freedom to live in peace and without fear of violence in our streets.

"Be close to Jesus" said the Padre. That was his counsel to the Community of Sisters as they entered Advent and Christmas some years ago. May it be the counsel that guides the life and witness as our church in this New Year.

May we be close to Jesus...close enough to hear the beat of his heart...for us and for the world.


Source: Anglican Church of Canada