Charge to Synod 2010 of the Diocese of Quebec.
Presented at: Maison Rivier Sherbrooke Quebec,
By: The Right Reverend Dennis P Drainville
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.”
And what things we have seen with the eyes of Faith! Since last Synod in May of 2009 we have been actively seeking how to reinterpret the Gospel in our own age. At the last Synod I said: ‘This Synod, God is calling us individually and collectively to show our faithfulness by becoming pioneers again. Like them we are heading into new territory, and like them, we will have to utilize new approaches to ministry, and new strategies regarding the use of our assets. I believe that the only potential obstacle that may hinder us will be if we are timid or afraid to take risks. Let’s be mindful of the passage from 1 John 4:13 that “perfect love casts out fear”.
The road that we have walked together over the last sixteen months has indeed been challenging. It has been uphill all the way. And yet as we look back to the many engagements, events, meetings, worship services and educational gatherings that have taken place, we see a strong and steady resurgence of our commitment to respond to God’s call to us. And this is by no means based on the observation of a few random incidents. For it is discernible in all parts of the Diocese of Quebec: there is a growing awareness of the energy and power of the Gospel and of our own capacity to proclaim it with courage and conviction. Wonderful things are happening and it is directly tied to our willingness to seek God in different places and different ways and in our growing capacity to change.
Let me begin in that place where my private and public life come together most tangibly, and that is in “Bishopthorpe” the See house and the home of the Bishop and his family. Many times over the last four months as I have walked through the worksite that was once “Bishopthorpe” I had reason to recall the words of the Letter to the Hebrews.” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. We thought long and hard about what God was calling us to do with the property and over the months of consultation and prayer we decided that, for many reasons, we needed to move ahead with significant repairs and restoration of the See House. Many of us believed that the house, if renewed physically could become the vehicle whereby we could be renewed spiritually. We were forced however to look beyond the cracked and decaying plaster to the hope that stood beyond. Working to restore “Bishopthorpe” was a lesson in faithfulness.
Since October 1st 2010 my family, Cynthia, Aurora, my mother in law Marge Patterson and I have been reunited in the renewed “Bishopthorpe”. It is also now accessible to people who have mobility problems or use a wheelchair. It is a beautiful house which we hope will become a home for the whole of the diocese, as well as our own home. In the last two weeks we have hosted the Executive Meeting of the Diocesan ACW as well as an all-day meeting and dinner with the Staff of the National Church’s Department of Philanthropy.
Recently, I witnessed a discussion of a small congregation engaged in looking at the possible closure of a church building. We had spent hours talking about the fact that twelve people all of whom were in their seventies and eighties could no longer financially support the ministry and maintain the church building in good repair. As a group they were looking at options. They spoke about three options: fund-raising, selling the church building and property and stopping their support of on-going stipendiary ministry. The turning point of the conversation was when one person made an emotion filled plea to not close “our church”.
After a pause, someone else got up and said, “Look, My Grandfather built this building, I didn’t. He helped pay for the nails and the wood and the tin for the roof, I didn’t. Sure, I have given money to the Church all my life, I have felt duty bound to do it and in fact, glad to do so, but that doesn’t mean that the building is mine. And although my Grandfather did physically build the church he would never have claimed ownership. He would have said, “It’s to be used for the next generation, we’re only caretakers or stewards.”
And then he looked around at the group and said, “What are we leaving for the next generation in our village? An empty church building that needs repairs? I have a feeling that my grandfather would be disappointed. What we need to leave our children and the generation that follows is a living Faith. And what is very clear to me right now, is that this church building is not the answer to the spiritual and religious needs of our young people.
It takes discernment to see the reality that is before us and courage to meet what we truly see in a creative and humble way. We don’t have all the answers to all the challenges that are before us but we do have committed people with talents and abilities who are willing to ask the tough questions and try new approaches in their ministry. As I have said often, God is not calling us to success; God is calling us to faithfulness.
I thank God that for the many new faces of people who have joined us in ministry in the Diocese of Quebec: Francie Keats, Wanda Dillabough, Yves Samson and David Oliver. Each one of them joins our ministry team with skills and talents that they are seeking to employ as they respond faithfully to God’s Call. Already they are engaged in various corners of this immense Diocese and helping to respond to the needs and aspirations of Anglicans wherever they are to be found.
Part of the New Vision of what the Diocese of Quebec can do and be in the future, includes working in various kinds of partnerships. We are presently renewing, reworking and beginning partnerships with: The Anglican Diocese of Montreal, Our Anglican Companion Dioceses of Bujumbura and Moray, Ross and Caithness and ecumenically with the Roman Catholic Church.
When I think of the work that we do in society and the challenges that we face I am reminded that ministry is never done alone. (Luke 9:1-6) We do ministry with others. We not only discern in concert but we pray together, eat together and encourage each other in the carrying out of our tasks. When I read passages of scripture where Jesus is calling the disciples and sending them out to minister, I realize that our calling as Christians means that what we do for Our Lord and what we do for the proclamation of the Gospel is always done in union with and alongside others with whom we share the load.
If this is true of our task as individual believers, it is equally true of our work as a diocese. One of the most positive and powerful results of the great challenges with which we have been confronted, is the revelation of how we might further the bringing in of God’s reign by linking our ministry in the Diocese of Quebec to the ministry exercised by the Diocese of Montreal. It has been a real privilege for us to have had the opportunity of working with Bishop Barry, his clergy and the people of the Diocese of Montreal.
Our discussions have led to a clear understanding that: working together to respond to God’s Mission in the province of Quebec means each diocese working side by side as sisters and brothers in the Lord Jesus. Over the last two to three years we have had informal discussions that have confirmed our commitment to seek common ground and examine areas where economies of scale and joint ministry might make sense. Recently, QMPI –The Quebec-Montreal Partnership Initiative has begun discussions regarding specific areas where we as dioceses could join our respective organizations to more effectively and efficiently accomplish certain goals or tasks.
We have already identified some areas or operations which might be shared in the future: The monthly newspaper, the Website, payroll services, property management, support for Francophone ministries, and support for rural ministries, particularly in the Eastern Townships. These are preliminary ideas of where we might work together and what we might do in concert with each other. The how and when issues still are yet to be decided. You will be given an opportunity to show your support for this initiative through a resolution which will ask that we continue to develop new ways of working with the Diocese of Montreal to attain our Diocesan Mission goals.
Another important partnership is seen in our building stronger links and opportunities for mission together with the Diocese of Bujumbura and Moray Ross and Caithness. The last year has had its ups and downs because communications have been challenging, but it is hoped that those obstacles are now in the past and we can move on to find new ways to make connections. Our relationship with Bishop Pie Ntukamazina was given a boost when he was chosen by the National Church to be an official partner for the next three years. This means that he will visit Canada at least once a year. His recent visit to the Eastern Townships, Baie Comeau and Quebec gave us a wonderful opportunity to learn more about him and his diocese.
It would be true to say that over the last twenty-five years the Anglican Diocese of Quebec has had a cordial and generally good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church in this province. Archbishop Stavert’s long history with the Anglican Roman Catholic Dialogue has been extremely helpful in cultivating and maintaining that relationship. That work has been continued through the participation of Archdeacon Bruce Myers and me on the ARC Dialogue. One of the fruits of that collaboration was the ecumenical event held in the autumn of 2009 which was focused on “Saint Paul and Ecumenism”.
However, as we move into the future we are beginning to ask whether there are some concrete ways that we can actually work together in areas of mutual concern and ministry. Last December, Roman Catholic Bishop Jean Gagnon of the Diocese of Gaspe and I were joined by the Federal Member of Parliament, Raynald Blais and the Provincial Member of the National Assembly Georges Mamelonet, along with a number of Mayors and other local community leaders, in a blockade of the Gaspe rail line as a means of drawing public attention to one more attempt by Via Rail and the Government of Canada to diminish service to the regions. The Blockade resulted in a change in policy by Via Rail Canada and highlighted the importance and effectiveness of ecumenical church leadership regarding issues of significant social concern. Being partners not only strengthens our mission but it also teaches us to be more inventive and resourceful.
One of the clearest signs that things are changing for the better in our Diocese is the significant lessening of antagonism between the regions and the Diocesan Office. When I began my work as Missioner in 2006 many of the meetings that I attended began with a list of wrongs, mistakes and injustices that were perceived as having been perpetrated on the parishes by an unfeeling, uncaring and incompetent Diocesan Office. I have to say to you, that in those early days, it made my task very complicated and in some cases almost impossible to make suggestions about how we could work together when my motives and the motives of the Diocesan Office were questioned.
By and large this is not the case anymore. Increasingly, parishes see the Diocesan Office for the partner that it is and must be, and we in Church House see the parishes in the very same light. Truth telling is essential, and we must be able to ask straight questions and get straight answers, but the aim of our relationship and communication must always be to further God’s Mission. Because we are in partnership and not in competition, we need always to seek the ways and means that show us how we can be of service to each other. Believing in each other’s basic good will must always be the pre-eminent characteristic of our association.
Bishop Barry of Montreal shared with his Synod an extract of a document written by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali entitled, What does a Bishop do? I share it as well because, it elucidates much better than I can the complex and demanding role that we are asked to take on when we are called to episcopal ministry. He writes, “bishops minister to a very large number of people, both publicly and privately, in local, national and even international contexts. The bishop is the principal minister in the diocese and as such has a responsibility not only for specifically episcopal services (such as ordinations, institutions ,and confirmations) but also for the coherence, good order and liveliness of worship in the parish churches, chapels and new ways of being Church throughout the diocese. The bishop is also involved in the pastoral care of the clergy and in their ministerial development and also in attempting to resolve particularly difficult concerns which reach the episcopal desk because “the buck stops here”. The bishop also helps to relate the local church to the wider. This means participation in national bodies and their work; the House of Bishops and General Synod spring most readily to mind. Whether it is leadership in worship, teaching and preaching or the chairing of numerous committees, local, national or international, bishops need to be aware of their” connecting” tasks. They gather the people of God in a particular locality, they relate them to other communities of faith, nationally and throughout the world, and they ensure the passing of the faith from one generation to another. As leaders in mission, they must make sure that the word and the work of God is being proclaimed in every parish, in every church plant, in the nation as a whole and throughout the world. As “servant of the servants of God” the bishop has the responsibility for those in any kind of need, for the voiceless and the oppressed and for those who are denied their freedom.
I want to publicly give thanks to God for surrounding me with so many friends and colleagues who walk with me in this journey of faith. If I have hope, it is because these friends and colleagues manifest it in their relationships one with the other and share their abundant hope with me. If I have love, it is because I have so much love and kindness shown to me in all of the small communities I visit and across the full expanse of this diocese. I would indeed be remiss at this time if I did not personally acknowledge my family’s gratitude for the prayers that are offered up each and every week for our welfare and guidance. Let me assure you the prayers are both needed and appreciated.
I would like to offer special thanks to the clergy and the lay leadership from across the diocese of Quebec. In particular I wish to acknowledge the debt of gratitude I owe to those who hold positions of trust and leadership: To all the members of the Diocesan Executive Council and the Central Board of the Church Society.
My profound thanks to those who work in the Diocesan Office: Archdeacon Garth Bulmer, Executive Director Guylaine Caron, my assistant Sherry Knox, the bookkeepers Marie-Sol Gaudreau and Emma Earle, James Sweeny the editor of the Gazette, and the Archivist and Jean Thivierge, who although not directly on our staff does numerous things to help us do our respective jobs.
Although she cannot be here, I want to acknowledge my profound thanks to my wife Cynthia Patterson. Her vision, her indomitable spirit and faith filled convictions are a strong support to me and riches that she willingly shares with the diocesan family. I thank God for her work and her presence in our collective lives.
At the beginning of this address I quoted from the Letter to the Hebrews about Faith. Further on in that passage we read:
“All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.”
We too are on the same journey of Faith. We too desire a better country, a heavenly one. And by God’s grace and guidance I believe, that what we are being led to, is nothing less than the resurgence of a stronger faith in Jesus Christ and the birthing of a renewed and reinvigorated Church. May we continue God’s good servants and may God’s will be done. AMEN and AMEN.