National Indigenous Bishop Visits Edmonton

Creator God, from you every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. You have rooted and grounded us in your covenant love, and empowered us by your spirit to speak the truth in love, and to walk in your ways towards justice and wholeness.
Mercifully grant that your people journeying together in partnership, may be strengthened and guided to help one another, to grow into the full stature of Christ, who is our light and our life. Amen.  

It is our privilege to welcome National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald to the Edmonton diocese this week. During an impromptu coffee-and-doughnut-visit at the Synod Office Wednesday morning, he told Bishop Jane and a small group of urban and rural clergy, that he is amazed at the level of “mature conversation” and action around indigenous culture and reconciliation in the Edmonton diocese.  

“In a singular place there’s nothing like St. Faith’s anywhere in the Anglican Church of Canada,” he said having spent Tuesday afternoon with the parish’s rector Travis Enright, Archdeacon for Indigenous Ministry. He attributed our diocese’s strong awareness and understanding of indigenous issues to the leadership of Bishop Jane, Archdeacon Travis Enright and the Indigenous Ministry team.  

To the east of Alberta Avenue, St. Mary’s, Edmonton has operated a Food Bank Depot for several years. Former rector Elizabeth Metcalfe observed that many of its visitors are indigenous. Inspired by her own experience of the National Truth and Reconciliation event in 2014, she invited Diocese of Edmonton Oskapewis Sharon Pasula to offer a smudge.  

“That act changed the whole atmosphere and shifted the ministry to a community gathering place,” said Elizabeth. “People started bringing their children and grandchildren. It was a real gift.” 

Elizabeth says she can sense “a new awareness of our true history” in her current parish of St. Saviour’s, Vermilion. “Something I hear often is ‘I didn’t know.’” The parish recently hosted a KAIROS Blanket Exercise, co-facilitated by Fiona Brownlee, Rural Communities Liaison; and Kevin John, a Cree instructor at Lakeland College. Every Sunday morning, the congregation acknowledges its presence on Treaty Six land and last Sunday, for the first time, parishioners were invited to smudge.  

“That sense of welcome – saying to indigenous people your identity is welcome here – that’s unique,” said Bishop Mark.

Bishop Mark noted that when he was appointed national bishop 10 years ago, often the only people who turned out to hear him speak were “myself and the AV guy.” Fortunately, the conversation has begun to change. “The difference is hope,” said Bishop Mark. “People now have a sense of hope that the forces unleashed by truth are starting to have an effect. As it has been said, reconciliation happens when an oppressed people uncover their humanity.”  

It was noted that, while most parishes recognize the importance of reconciliation, especially in Edmonton which hosted the national TRC event, this is not the case for all.  

Parishes about to embark on this journey of reconciliation should begin with being present. “When we look at what we can do next, I think part of our response should be ‘just show up,’” says Bishop Jane. If you have not already, why not invite an Indigenous Ministries Team member to lead a Blanket Exercise in your community?  

Bishop Mark was pleased to tell the group about the recent “Road to Warm Springs” National Consultation on Indigenous Anglican Self-Determination. While the term indigenous self-determination conjures up images of a breakaway church, Bishop Mark says it is actually about “fulfilling Anglicanism in indigenous people.” At the consultation, convened by Bishop Mark and Anglican Primate Fred Hiltz, participants saw “the vision and promise of what that could be.”   Participants included 35 indigenous and 35 non-indigenous people known for their heart for Indigenous Ministries, and for their own personal commitment to the building of a truly Indigenous Church within the Anglican Church of Canada. “The Road to Warm Springs” (from an indigenous translation of the road to Emmaus) gathering was held September 14-17, 2017, in Pinawa, MB (a sacred place where eagles have soared high above Sacred Circles in years past).  

You can find more information about “The Road to Warm Springs” gathering, including a video, at www.anglican.ca/roadtowarmsprings .