Dispatches along the Trans-Labrador Highway January 24, 2018
It is a stormy Wednesday morning in Port Hope Simpson on the coast of Labrador as I write. I have been in Labrador nearly a week now, beginning in Labrador City-Wabush last Thursday. Since then I have travelled by road to Churchill Falls, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and Port Hope Simpson. I was supposed to be in Cartwright last night for a public meeting but a tragic death in the community and sudden winter storm reordered my travels. Weather-permitting, tomorrow I set out for Mary’s Harbour before heading to Blanc Sablon in Quebec, on Friday, a distance of over 1100 kilometers by the time I complete the tour.
Every year since becoming Bishop I have made a winter visit to Labrador, but this year is a little different for I am here as part of the Diocesan Commission on Parish Viability and Renewal and in each community I am participating in a public forum on the revitalisation of our church. Those “Town Hall Meetings” have been thought-provoking and inspiring as members of our church take counsel for our future. The mission of the Diocesan Commission appointed by me in consultation with the Diocesan Executive Committee in 2017 is to investigate and analyze the trends and patterns evident in our church and society today and propose a way forward for the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador that remains faithful to our tradition while adapting to new circumstances. It has been a special privilege for me to travel with Archdeacon Julie Brace who is the Territorial Archdeacon for Labrador, Canon Greg Mercer who is chairing the Diocesan Commission, and Mr. Peter Reccord who represents Labrador on the Commission. Canon Greg and Peter, along with the Rev. Jolene Peters, Mr. Peter Adams, Ms. Debbie Pantin, Ms. Pamela Norman, the Very Rev. William Bellamy, and Mr. David Legge, are working hard and I look forward to receiving their report at our Diocesan Synod in November of this year. I believe it will shape our church for the next 50 years. I recall Canon Greg’s words (quoting Robert Lewis) who defined the Christian Church as a “community of believers whose way of life together is living proof of a loving God.” That seems to me a worthy goal as we ponder our future.
The winter scenery in Labrador has been spectacular! Labrador is the one place on earth that continues to take my breath away, for the natural world is never far (like our hungry red fox friend in the picture!). Some people get to sleep in a “Five-Star Hotel”; here I sleep in a “Million-Star Hotel” every night. Step outside after dark and you will know what I mean. I treasure my every visit to Labrador as bishop and especially remember coming here as a deacon 31 years ago. On this trip it is also great for me to connect with so many old friends from back then and also meet up with my brother Gerry and his wife Elsie, who are serving in the Parish of Southeast Labrador this winter and who visited Rigolet on the north coast last week. Ministry here has certainly changed over the years with developments in air travel and new road connections like the Trans-Labrador Highway but great social changes among the people are also underway. Some of our recent efforts are directed toward nurturing home-grown ministry and equipping people for this work in their local communities through our own Queen’s College that now offers programs on the ground in Labrador. I am grateful that I have been able to ordain two Labradoreans for ministry here since 2015. Our greatest treasure in Labrador is the People of Labrador.
As bishop, I continue to seek priests to serve in Labrador. The ideal person is someone with pastoral experience, a servant’s heart, and a love for people. Emotional resilience, a sense of adventure, and a passion for nature are also expected. I hold in high regard the clergy who have served in the “Big Land” over the years, some of whom were my mentors in ministry. I commend all who serve here today: Archdeacon Julie Brace, Rev. Robert McLean, Rev. Rowena Payne, Rev. Douglas Kean, Rev. Nellie Thomas, Rev. Derek Thomas, Rev. Jean Shears, Rev. Chesley Lethbridge, Rev. Sarah Baikie, Rev. Jennifer Rumbolt, and Archdeacon Gerry Peddle. All of them work closely with inspired lay leadership to maintain a solid Christian presence for the Anglican Church in Labrador.
Please pray for the work of our Diocesan Commission on Parish Viability and Renewal and continue to hold in your prayers our church in Labrador.