Published: April 2008
Sunday, March 2 was a crucial moment in the life of our Diocese. The Celebration of New Ministry and Seating of Bishop Michael Allan Bird marked not simply the start of a new ministry but a fresh start for all of us. Like all that is innovative and creative, this new episcopal ministry will be grounded in and built upon the faithful witness and service of those who have gone before. The seed of what is to come is clearly rooted in our identity developed under the able leadership of Bishop Spence (and the nine preceding Bishops) but a different facet is refracting on our diocesan family today, and the emerging light reveals something of its direction.
Sunday's service illustrated for me some of the early emerging beams. What did I see? The decision to invite the families and the young people of the diocese along with the clergy and the parish elders - with no reserved seating--illustrated Bishop Michael's commitment to a ministry of the people. I saw a vision of a diocese where clergy and laity work hand in hand; both equally vital to the work God calls us to as the church--a commitment to honouring the presence and ministry of all of us.
Standing outside the Cathedral doors with Bishop Michael Bird and accompanying him to the chancel steps was a delegation that clearly represented the breadth and depth of our diocesan community – a diversity of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, region, theology, and order of ministry. What a visible sign of Bishop Michael embracing and including all of us in his pastoral care!
The Bishop's invitation to the NYC Band to play before and during the service indicated to me a desire to connect with and make worship meaningful for young people. It also spoke to a generation of middle-aged people like me who love rock and roll and want to see more of it used in the places we connect with God. The energy in the nave was palpable as the young people, middle-aged and seniors swayed together and sang along with "Stand by Me". I love the acknowledgement that music seeming to belong to the secular world can actually speak of and to what is holy and sacred, and has a place in our worship! Coupling the organ, hymns and the fabulous Cathedral choir with the rocking-out tunes of the NYC Band also felt like a definitive "yes" to "We're All in This Together," an acknowledgement that being in community is about being both/and not one or the other--in a variety of ways.
What a powerful impact it was to have laity from across the diocese so involved in the liturgy--readers, intercessor, servers, diocesan representatives (including a father and son, and a mother and daughter) passing the crozier, and as communion ministers! Staffing those communion stations were two young men and their mother; a mother, father and young daughter; a young adult woman, her mother and her friend; a young girl, her former Camp Canterbury Hills director, and her friend from Youth Synod, and a diocesan staff team. We were graced by an incredible array from across the diocese - a visible symbol to me of the Bishop's commitment to an empowered laity who shine the light of the Gospel with joy in community - and to engaging families and young people in the mission and ministry of the Church.
Of course, Bishop Michael touched on much of this in his sermon as well. He challenged us to be excellent in how we care for one another, in how we relate to one another, and in how we develop passionate and creative disciples and leaders. The Bishop's vision promised new initiatives and ideas that would empower us as spicy, salty and joyful Christ-bearers to "...engage more effectively in the work of bringing the gospel message to bear in the lives of people everywhere." Bishop Michael cast an inspiring vision of us as change-makers:"...growing our present congregations, planting fresh expressions of the church, engaging more young people in parish life, providing leadership in the fight against poverty and hunger, addressing environmental concerns, restoring our prophetic voice and our profile in our communities and beyond, to name just a few." He shared a starting place for the transformation and invited us to take an active role in fleshing out the dream....
Your donation will help us thrust the Niagara Anglican into the future - communicating the Gospel and the good news of our Anglican tradition to generations to come.