Published: June 2006
"Memories are so beautiful and yet what's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget."
Barbara Streisand used to sing these words, and on June 11, St. Barnabas Day, I'll be singing them too! That's the day I celebrate the 35th Anniversary of my Ordination as Bishop for Niagara Diocese. It was followed by two years as Coadjutor to Bishop Walter Bagnall, and eighteen years as Diocesan, the last six of which I double-dipped Episcopally, as both Diocesan and Metropolitan of Ontario - until retirement in October 1991.
Looking back on thousands of services and meetings, sharing in the joys and struggles of many people and parishes, and dozens of synods and ecumenical gatherings, wonderful memories abound. I will mention here a few of the highlights, and only one or two painful memories.
Ordaining Bishop Tutu
Laying hands liturgically on the heads of hundreds of people in Confirmations, and at least two hundred more for ordination was a special privilege, and occasionally momentous as well. Being one of the bishops who ordained Desmond Tutu as a Bishop of Lesotho in Johannesburg Cathedral in 1976 for example, involved participation in a tense, multi-racial event in a country that was then at war with itself And later that same year, being one of the few Canadian bishops who on St. Andrew's' Day presided at the first legal and canonical Ordinations of women as priests in the Anglican Communion. Those events were momentous indeed.
The 1978 and 1988 Lambeth Conferences were unique experiences of international Anglicanism. On both occasions, hot debates arose from the clash of different cultures, attitudes and theologies - a bitter foretaste of the conflict that all Anglicans are experiencing now. At dinner one evening at Lambeth '88, I accidentally overheard, some very conservative American and British bishops encouraging Africans and Asians to demand more adherence to Biblical literalism on issues like Ordination of women and homosexuality at the next Lambeth Conference in 1998.
It seemed surreal at the time, but it doesn't anymore! However, most African bishops at that time concentrated their attention on the oppression, disease and hunger that their people at home endure constantly - and wondered out loud about the benevolent indifference of most Western Christians to their plight. But the daily worship, Bible studies and plenary debates certainly added a sense of hope and unity, and the international fellowship was truly exhilarating.
Laughter at Buckingham
In a lighter vein, I remember the raised Episcopal and royal eyebrows, and the laughter too, when Joan, my spouse, fell through one of the Queen's lawn chairs in Buckingham Palace Garden - an incident that resulted in a front page note in a Toronto newspaper! Speaking of Joan, although she holds a BSc N degree from U of T, she has worked only at home and as a community volunteer during our 55 years of marriage. How privileged was I and most of the males in my generation - at such great cost to our spouses and our society in general.
Experiences tourists rarely have
Through the years, many international junkets produced experiences that tourists rarely have:
Back home in Canada, one of the activities I valued most over the years was involvement in Hamilton's political and civic affairs by appearing at city council meetings. Also it was a privilege to serve as president of several boards such as the United Way, the Social Planning Council, the Hamilton Community Foundation, and others. I believe that Christian ministry for both clergy and laity must include activities like these, as well as pastoral, parish and ecumenical work....
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