It is Martin Luther King Day in the United States as I write and my thoughts are shaped by the memory of Dr. King. Sadly, some of the dreadful language I hear these days from the United States brings no honour to his memory. In fact, the more I hear, the happier I am to live in Newfoundland and Labrador. Despite our dire economic projections, there is still a quality of life here that is precious. We are a resilient people who have survived much over the centuries and I have no doubt we will get through the latest challenges. And we will do that because there remains a deep goodness among the people here.
With the exception of our indigenous peoples who have been here for thousands of years, most Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans today can trace their ancestry to other places, mainly in Europe. In recent years our province is starting to reflect the rest of the world. That is also true for our church.
As I write, three priests originally from Jamaica – the Reverend Kenute Francis, the Reverend Khaliah Kinkead-Dawkins, and the Reverend Robert McLean – serve in various parts of our diocese on the island of Newfoundland and in Labrador. All three have fitted in well here and I am delighted at how easy the move was for them and for their parishes. I think there is a cultural connection between us that makes a smooth transition possible. Our Jamaican priests are not only people of great faith with energy for God’s work, they are also highly educated and well-experienced. All three told me before they came that they were willing to serve wherever the need was greatest. We are richer because of their presence and I am honoured to be the bishop who made it possible for them to come here.
There are those today who write about the divisions created by religion and there is some justification for such views. Where the same writers often fall short is in their blindness to the ways in which religion can also bring people together. And I am not referring merely to Newfoundland, Labrador and Jamaica! I worship in different churches of our diocese every week and I can tell you that we are diverse in every way. Our church today provides a “safe place” for many different people to come together in safety and respect and discovery. And it goes beyond just our Anglican Church. The collaboration among various churches and religious groups is immense. Newfoundland and Labrador really is one place on earth where diversity is celebrated.
People of Faith know that we are already one in God, no matter where we might have come from to begin. I end with the opening verse from one of my favorite hymns, In Christ there is no East or West:
In Christ there is no east or west,
In him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.