This is the last column written by Ronald Clarke for Anglican Life; it appeared in the December 2021 print issue of the paper.
Ronald Clarke was a columnist for Anglican Life for many years, and his column was always a favourite part of the paper for its readers. We all felt inspired by his example of faith. As he wrote in this column, we need to “block out the noise and focus on God’s Light—his son, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ.” We will all miss Ronald Clarke, and we send condolences to his family. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
All over the world, Christians begin preparing for the birth of Christ four Sundays before Christmas Eve. The four Sundays of Advent give Christians a wonderful build up to the most amazing event—the birth of Jesus Christ. Each Sunday during Advent, a candle is lit to represent the light of God coming into the world. With each passing Sunday the light expands, until finally on Christmas Eve, all four Advent candles are lit, and then the Christ candle is lit as well. So much light coming from the candles, representing the light of God coming down to earth and shining for those who believe.
As a child, candles were costly and not used often in our homes. Most light came from kerosene lamps which buzzed and gave off a black smoke when lit. The smell was chemical and not a very pleasant experience, but one that everyone came to get used to. In comparison, the candles that were lit in the church during Advent seemed to just give off a radiant light. There wasn’t a sound or a smell, just a beautiful glow. As a child I felt that glow and looked forward to the Sundays to come and the glow to get brighter. By Christmas Eve, our church seemed to be lit like the day—all from five candles. It was magical when I was a boy, and even now the lighting of the candles during Advent holds a special in my heart, and it’s part of the Christmas joy I still have.
The light of the world came down to earth that night in the form of the Son of God. God didn’t come to the world in a bolt of lightning to frighten his believers. God sent his son as a baby—a helpless child who needed so much support and care. God’s new Light of the World was a small child, a small spark, which would go on to burn brighter than any star in the heavens. Jesus as a baby was similar to that first candle lit for Advent. Jesus began as a small light, but held within him the hopes of the world. Jesus, as we know, grew to be a man who changed our world and the lives of many millions of Christians around the world. The joy that began with Jesus’ birth spread around the world and continues to light up darkness in our world. Without the hope and joy of the birth of Jesus Christ many people would be in darkness and lost to God’s great and everlasting love.
This year, I would like Christians to think about the Light of the World, especially on Christmas Eve. Try to let go of all the trials and tribulations we have been through lately and focus on that light—which is in everyone’s life—you just need to block out the noise and focus on God’s Light—his son, Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Happy Birthday Jesus! We are so glad you were born to lighten our world.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you this blessed season!
These photographs, submitted by Lisa Brown, will appear in the January print issue of Anglican Life.
On November 28th, which was the first Sunday in Advent, St. James’ Church in Port aux Basques held a “Jesse Tree Service.” Rev’d Jane Allen explained to the children the origin of the Jesse Tree, and after that, the children placed symbols on our Jesse tree. It was a beautiful morning of worship.
By The Rev’d Jonathan Rowe From the November 2021 print issue of Anglican Life
Over the years, I have watched a lot of grandparents take their grandchildren to church with them. Often, they do so apologetically, saying, “If I didn’t take them to church, no one would,” or with an edge of judgement, saying, “I keep telling my kids to take them to church, and I got sick of arguing with them.” There are plenty of exceptions, but overall, when children are in church, they are probably more likely to have been brought by their grandparents than by their parents. This is part of the reality of the church in the 21st century, and we can treat this as a problem to be solved, or a blessing to be appreciated.
Without a doubt, having both parents attend church regularly is one of the strongest indicators of whether children and young people will continue to attend church once they are able to “choose for themselves.” These days, however, most Christian families do not have the opportunity to all work together. Both parents might not have come from the same Christian tradition. One parent might not even be a practicing Christian. Either or both parents may have to work on Sundays, since the changing nature of work in the 21st century does not privilege Sunday as a day of rest for everyone.
But even if your family cannot meet such an ideal, it would be a mistake to assume that it is less able to pass on the faith to a new generation. It is not just having the example of parents going to church every Sunday that leads to children continuing to practice their faith. Just as important, perhaps even more important, is the example of people who take their faith seriously, beyond just going to church. Who do children see talking about their faith, putting their faith into action in their everyday lives? Sometimes grandparents have an even better opportunity to set an example for them than their own parents do.
While my own parents certainly took me to church, and talked about what they believed, and made it clear that their faith was an integral part of everyday life, I also saw the example of my grandparents. Every time I spent the night at my grandparents’ house, I would watch in the morning as they sat on the couch after breakfast, read their Bibles, and said their prayers. My own trip to the Holy Lands a few years ago was in part inspired by my other grandfather’s own desire to “walk in the place where Our Saviour walked.’” Many people that I talk to share stories of the influence their own grandparents had on their sense of what it means to be a Christian.
If that was the case in previous generations, how much more influence could grandparents have these days, when they are increasingly involved in taking care of grandchildren after school?best case scenario, regular worship should be an opportunity for multiple generations to practice their faith together, rather than a source of strife. Give thanks for the influence and example that you are able to provide. When our faith as Christians is handed down from generation to generation, it can be handed down from grandparents to grandchildren just as much as from parents to children.
This article and these photographs are by Emily Rowe; they will appear in the December issue of Anglican Life.
On October 20th, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, spent an evening with the public at the Cathedral of St. John’s the Baptist in St. John’s, taking part in a question and answer session. In the absence of our bishop, Archdeacon Charlene Taylor, in her capacity as the diocesan administrator, welcomed Archbishop Nicholls to the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. Father Jonathan Rowe conducted the interview and posed the questions, submitted in person or online, to the Primate.
To begin the evening, Nicholls was asked where she had seen God at work in the world lately, and what has she seen God doing. The Primate discussed the difficulties of seeing God in the midst of the pandemic because so many of our familiar ways have been taken away. But, this has forced us to find God in new places, like on Zoom—different than in person, but still good. She has also found God in people’s ability to relax their dependance on their buildings—“You know, we can be the church without the building.” God has prodded us to be more creative, and has been in the midst of us.
Rowe asked about the other challenges that the Church faces, besides those that have been presented by the pandemic, and it was acknowledged that there were many challenges, such as shrinking church attendance, that existed long before COVID-19 became an issue. Nicholls said that falling congregation size was once blamed on the clergy not working hard enough, but that we know now that it is caused by a social shift—a rapid change in technology and world events. We have also seen a decrease in our society’s trust of institutions. This must change the way that we communicate the Gospel. We need to stop trying to hide the things that we have done that were wrong in the past, like our history with the residential schools and systemic racism, and find new ways to be authentic. We must proclaim Christ’s love for all people.
The focus of the questions then shifted to a discussion of mental health, in particular as it affects the members of the clergy.
Nicholls discussed the increased anxiety, worldwide, that has come from the very real fears from the pandemic. All of the clergy, and the House of Bishops, are talking about the level of stress that they’re feeling. They bear the worries of their congregations, and are often unable to do the pastoral work that they’ve been trained to do. She encouraged us all to be gentle with each other, because the clergy are making difficult decisions, and trying to do what they think is best. Nicholls said, “When you’re really angry with [the clergy], take a deep breath, and write a letter that starts off with the affirmations, and then express gently your disagreement, and then live with the decision they’ve made, because we are a community together…and are called to walk together.”
Discussion then moved on to how leaders in the Church walk that line between having frank and open conversations around mental health, severe stress, and around suicide, and having a private life. Nicholls addressed the pertinent nature of those questions in the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. She said that it is a painful thing to have walked with those for whom the stress had been so great that the choice to take one’s life seemed like the only answer. It isn’t only a concern here, but also is a huge problem in Indigenous communities, where hopelessness is all too common. “Our hearts break with them at the brokenness of our lives and our communities. And the only place that we can go with that is to God.” Nicholls stressed that we need to be honest when suicide happens so that we can support each other, and that we need deep compassion rather than shame—a recognition that we do not understand the human mind. The Christian community must walk together through the darkness.
When asked how we should best prepare future leaders, both lay and ordained, from the next generation for work within the church, Nicholls said that we just don’t know what the future will bring. Our preparation needs to be discipleship—foundations of a faith life that can respond by reflection, in a theological way, to see where God is present and what God is calling us to do. Obviously things like pastoral and liturgical training remain very important, but there are other things that we may need to adapt in order to meet the needs of the future. We need to be willing to try things, and be willing to fail, and then to discern a new direction.
The role of the pastor has been changing a great deal over the last few decades—people are busy, and less inclined to welcome a drop in visit from their priest. But crisis pastoral care will probably stay much the same, but we have discovered that pastoral care needn’t happen in person. We have learned to reach out online for prayer and pastoral visits, and have found this to be a new valuable tool in our toolboxes.
The Primate then addressed the question of stress around maintaining buildings vs. maintaining ministry when we cannot afford to do both. Nicholls explained the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and “Ignation Indifference.” In this context, the word “indifference” does not mean not caring, but that you “hold something lightly, and accept it and celebrate it, and rejoice and participate in it to the degree that it brought you close to God. And if it does not, that you could let it go without anxiety, without fear…that you could just release it.”. We need some of our buildings for sure, but how much of our resources should they be able to absorb in order to be maintained? Can we share them? We have to hold our buildings lightly—we cannot fight tooth and nail until there’s nothing left. Is your church building more important that your relationship with God? Can you live out your baptismal covenant really well in that place?
Nicholls reflected about the good things that have come out of this time of pandemic which she would like to see continue—the ability to meet online for national committees at a much lower cost than bringing people together from across the country, for example. The ability to balance the need for occasional in person meetings vs. online meetings is a good thing. Also, online ministry training programs for people in remote places became a possibility, as well as things like online Gospel jamborees. The resurgence of the daily offices has been a positive change—we have reclaimed the riches of our Anglican tradition.
Finally, Nicholls shared with us her “Primate’s Picks” of books and shows. Louise Penny’s books are a favourite read. “Call the Midwife” is a show that she very much enjoys, especially because it looks at the social issues of that time and place, and it also has an honest portrayal of Anglican nuns. Another favourtie is the show “Grantchester,” and its wresting with issues of human sexuality. She confessed to being very much a cat person, which keeps her very honest about life.
The evening closed out with the BCP office of Compline, led by the Archbishop, with music provided by the choir and organist of the cathedral.
This story, and the photographs, by Archdeacon Gerald Westcott, will appear in the November print issue of Anglican Life.
In the period from 1999 to 2006, the then four point parish of Brigus-South River was recreated into the one congregation to become the Parish of the Resurrection. In that same time period, the new congregation was housed in the building that we now call our home. In 2004, the sod was turned to begin the new project. The Oratory of the Resurrection was dedicated on the 24th of September 2006.
In February of 2020 (just before the COVID-19 lockdown began), the facility was paid off, and, free of debt, was ready to be consecrated. On Sunday, the 26th of September, Bishop Cy (who turned the sod in 2004, and who dedicated the Oratory in 2006) was here, and consecrated the house for the Church of the Resurrection to the Glory of God.
Many people in many ways have made this possible, and we are grateful for their love and commitment to Christ. There continues to be much good and important ministry that happens under the roof of this house for the Church. We are grateful for this house where the Church, in all its different forms, gathers. And we are grateful for the love that we call Christ, that continues to emerge as our shared life.
This story, by the Rev’d Jolene Peters (who also took the photographs) will appear in the November print issue of Anglican Life.
When you walk inside the doors of St. Thomas’ church in St. John’s, you can’t help but pause and admire the beautiful architecture. Each time I sit in the pews I find myself reflecting and thinking about the many people who have sat there before me over the years. I think about those who built this church and began ministry here 185 years ago. Their passion, dedication, and hard work built these walls that have housed so many ministries over the years. My own grandparents were married here 78 years ago, and I am in awe of the many others who stood in the front of this church and made a commitment to each other, or the many families who brought their new born babies here to receive the sacrament of Baptism and be welcomed into this church family. So many families have come here in their grief as they’ve said farewell to those whom they loved, with the promise of being together one day again in that place that Jesus has promised is prepared for each of us. Countless people of all ages have come to these altar rails and joined together in the Eucharist to be fed and nourished by God’s word and sacrament.
Over the decades, there have been laughter and tears, ups and downs. Many changes have taken place; we have seen people leave for one reason or another; we have welcomed new people into the fold. We have had many people give leadership here, and have been blessed by the various gifts of the clergy and lay leadership in this place over the years.
What I wholeheartedly know has remained true for all of those years is the faithfulness, generosity, and love for God’s people. The parish could never celebrate such a milestone as this without all of those who have made it possible to get here. St. Thomas’ congregation has remained blessed throughout the many years that people have come here and called St. Thomas’ home. Whether you have been here your whole life or have just joined us, we are so glad that you are part of our parish family and give thanks for the many gifts we have received from your dedication, love, and support of this parish and its ministries.
It may not have been the anniversary service that would have been planned had it not been for the current COVID-19 restrictions, but nonetheless, on Sunday September 19th, this parish family came together in celebration with a beautiful worship service. We welcomed Archdeacon Charlene Taylor, our Diocesan Administrator, as the guest preacher, and we had the MHA for St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, the Honourable John Abbott, in attendance to present the Rev’d Gail MacDonald, our rector, with a certificate of congratulations.
As this parish family always does, parishioners came through on the request to fill bags with groceries for the Emmaus House Food Bank, a special project to celebrate 185 years and give back to our community. A total of 95 bags were collected!
As we continue on the journey may we do so giving thanks for our history and all that has shaped us and let us look forward with faith for all we will experience together in this part of God’s kingdom in the years to come.
This full article, by Archdeacon Terry Caines, with photographs by Hannah Dicks, will appear in the November print issue of Anglican Life.
On September 24th-25th, the 28 Parishes of The Anglican Diocese of Central Newfoundland gathered at the Parish of Gander for the 47th session of the diocesan synod. In Friday afternoon’s opening service at St. Martin’s Cathedral in Gander, Bishop Watton started his Charge to Synod with these words: “My COVID weary brothers and sisters, my relatives in Christ, welcome to the 320th year of the Anglican Church in Newfoundland, our 47th Diocesan Synod, and to the 45th year that we have been our own diocese.
The theme for Synod 47 was “Welcome to the Future.” Bishop Watton stated that over the past few years, we have certainly been talking about change and what we thought the future would look like. We have been talking about buildings, money, aging congregations, young people who don’t care, and what’s wrong with the world.
It’s time to get focused as one diocesan family, and he can quickly outlined three types of responses that are unfolding in the diocese: 1. We have had to respond in relation to buildings and ministry, because some congregations just can’t carry on. 2. Leaders in our synod office, and throughout the diocese through our committees, have been faithfully looking at diocesan life through practical eyes. We have moved mountains to give our parishes time to keep moving forward and talk about the future. 3. We have responded out of an honest desire to be faithful to the call and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Watton offered thanksgiving to the diocese for all that they have done, in heart, body, and soul. Also, for the grace in following our protocols within the church, and out in the public. But above all, for not giving up.
At the heart of the Bishop’s Charge was his statement that it’s time to listen to the Holy Spirit calling us back into right relationship with Jesus, so that we can, as the Church, be part of “a Jesus shaped response” to what is happening around us. Wherever Jesus went, his purpose was not to form institutions or to put up buildings, but to meet people right where they were, and draw people together in community. Wherever Jesus went, he brought people together.
As we move forward, there are going to be all sorts of new and unique questions, and we are going to have some difficult discussions. To those of you who have made some heartbreaking choices, the bishop said that it was, and is, an honour to stand with you and weep with you through them.
Bishop Watton shared that, as diocesan bishop, he must remind the synod that in their parish and diocesan discussions, some of people tend to be protective about their buildings and boundaries. That is understandable. It comes from the years of devotion, proven by what people have given to support the Church and community over the years.
It is also as response, against what communities have lost as our federal and provincial governments have had to adjust finances, health care, administration, and community services. Bishop Watton said that he understands people wanting to preserve their identity and heritage. He was very clear in stating, “We must never place our parish boundaries and buildings, as important as they are, above the needs of proclaiming the Gospel and doing active pastoral ministry.”
“I know that in the midst of change, people who ‘fight for their communities’ seem almost heroic. But they also seem stubborn, unyielding, and narrow in relation to a bigger picture. That is not the witness we need anywhere in the Diocese. We need to be building a Christ shaped Church.”
The Bishop’s Charge was a preamble into a workshop on Saturday which was based around the concept and reality of a “Lean Canvas.”
The idea of the Lean Canvas workshop was to focus on Mission, Resources and Process. The workshop discussion topics related to who is your target group; what are your current problems; who are our people; do we offer a healthy environment; what measurements do we use to gauge success; just to mention a few. Synod concluded with a final question to the parishes: “What are your next steps going to be? The Diocese of Central Newfoundland eager to work with you!