Bishop Shane Parker's Sermon for Our Patronal Festival

Here is a transcript of Bishop Shane Parker's sermon given on Sunday, June 16, to mark the Solemnity of the Feast of St Barnabas. The video above includes subtitles. 

 I speak to you in the name of the Holy and Blessed Trinity. Please be seated. It's very good to be back here at St Barnabas and to celebrate your patronal festival with you today. I first celebrated, presided at the Mass in this church during the time of Father Fred Allen, and when I was at the high altar sensing the altar two thoughts came to my mind. The first thought was: this is eternal. This is ancient and eternal. And the second thought was that what glorious music. 

Wesley you began here in 1987, which is the same year I began my ordained Ministry in the diocese of Ottawa. So we're kind of coterminous in some ways, if not concomitant, or something like that. Congratulations to you as you move into your 38th year of serving here. Father Stewart -- we made an agreement I wouldn't talk about dates or age so there we go. Father Stewart is a trusted advisor, a fine Parish priest, pastor and teacher, and I'm so grateful for your ministry here and in our diocese. Thank you so much.

There are many familiar faces here this morning and I'm glad to see you all. Father Stewart shared with me the Strategic Plan that had been prepared in recent years, and I want to assure you of my very strong support for your tradition and ministry as an Anglo-Catholic parish here in our diocese -- my strong support for your tradition and Ministry and for your tradition of being self-consciously in continuity with the ancient church.

Now today we will go back to the ancient Church in our first reading if not our second reading, and we will go to Jerusalem and encounter the Apostles of Christ after the resurrection, after the day of Pentecost. Today I am wearing a garment which was made by Palestinian Christians. It features the Jerusalem cross, which for those of you who don't know represents Jerusalem in the central cross and the four smaller crosses represent the four corners of the earth. When I bring pilgrims to Jerusalem to the land of the Holy One I say: remember it came from here -- you're not bringing something here, it came from here. I'm grateful to St Barnabas for the generous donation you made to the Al Ali Hospital Arab Hospital in Gaza. Thank you for that generous gift, and please pray for peace in the land of the Holy One. I'm in regular contact with Archbishop Hosam and I would remind you all of his wisdom. He reminds us that the Christian Community in the land of the Holy One is like a butterfly between two hands. And right now those two hands are at war with one another and the Christian Community is right in the middle. Hosam tells us that Jews and Christians and Muslims are all affected and dehumanized by the violence that's happening in the land of the Holy One and so he says to us please don't divide us further. Try to understand what's happening as difficult as it is to understand and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

I commend his words to you when we meet the early Church in the book of Acts this morning. A lot has been happening and a lot is about to. We know that the first Christians were Jews who believed that Christ was the Messiah, and they were after the day of Pentecost quite overt in their belief. They were still practicing Judaism but they believe Jesus was the Messiah. And they gathered in Jerusalem and a community gathered around them and the community comprised Hebrew speaking Jews and Greek speaking Jews. Now there's a little bit of linguistic racism going on at that time. The Hebrew speaking Jews were dominant; the Greek-speaking Jews less so, and it was felt that the Greek speaking Jewish Community who followed Jesus -- it get confusing -- were being short changed by the leaders, by the Hebrew-speaking Jewish Christian Community. And that's where the deacons came from. Uou have the Deacon Stephen here. Stephen and six other deacons were ordained principally as Greek-speaking Jewish Christians to serve the Greek speaking Community. Now that worked well up until the time that the Hebrew speaking Jews who led, who were the rulers of of the Hebrew Community took great exception to these Christians, these followers of the way of Jesus. And they took up their aggression not on their Hebrew-speaking counterparts but on their Greek-speaking counterparts, most notably Deacon Stephen, the Greek speaking Christian. And we know what happened to Stephen -- he was the first Christian Martyr. And we know who looked on as he was stoned to death -- Saul, Saul the Greek-speaking Jew. All of this is important. 

Now because things were not very friendly for Greek-speaking Jewish followers of Jesus, they left Jerusalem and began to spread the gospel not only to Greek-speaking Jews outside Jerusalem but also to

Gentiles. And this was something that didn't play really well with Peter and the others. And there was a dispute. And Barnabas is in the middle of this, because Barnabas was very active in the ministry outside Jerusalem and spreading the gospel to Gentiles. Initially Barnabas sided with Peter in believing that Gentiles who wanted to follow Jesus had to become Jews first. Paul, whom Barnabas invited back into Grace, said: no that is not the case. People who would follow Christ do not need to become Jews; they need to follow Christ and by Grace they will live out their vocation as followers of Jesus. And so there was something of a split. Peter and Hebrew-speaking Apostles of Jesus felt that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could follow Jesus. And Paul said no, and Barnabas eventually sided with Paul and believed that Gentiles could become Christians without becoming Jews. And the word Christian first came into being in the context of the ministry of Barnabas and Paul. 

Now it's not too big a stretch to say you can thank Barnabas that we're here today. And you can thank Barnabas for bringing Paul into the equation. Paul who had been shunned by both Jewish and Christian leaders after he was converted, was brought back in by Barnabas, who saw that the holy spirit was strong in Saint Paul. 
So we can thank Barnabas to his recognition that non-Jews did not have to become Jewish in order to be Christians and for bringing Paul into the equation. Otherwise we would probably be worshipping as Jews who believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Instead we're here within our tradition, our Anglican tradition, our Anglo-Catholic tradition, and in many ways we can thank Barnabas for enabling that. 

The first reading today from the book of the Prophet Isaiah begins by acknowledging that the Lord God, creator of all things, created the heavens and the Earth gave breath to all peoples and gave spirit to all who dwell on the earth. This is a very expansive theology and one that we subscribe to. The Lord God is the creator of all that dwells, all who dwell on the earth, present to all who dwell on earth, and the Lord God the creator of creation is present in every human person since time began, long before the Acts of the Apostles.

This month is National Indigenous History Month. This coming Friday is National Indigenous People's Day. And either this Sunday or next Sunday our church observes the National Indigenous Day of Prayer, which is also important for us. Yesterday to honor this month and to do something about it, I convened a consultation concerning Inuit Ministry in our diocese. And at St Stephen's Church yesterday I gathered with several members from St Margaret's Inuit congregation and from other parishes who have some sort of contact or interest in Inuit ministry. 

We likely have the largest population of Inuit outside the north here in Ottawa. Many of them are connect to the Anglican Church because of patterns of colonization in the north, and we're in the middle of it. The presence of Inuit in our city in this region began significantly in the 1960s when three Inuit boys, aged 12, Eric, Peter and Zebedee, were brought to Ottawa in what is known as the Eskimo experiment. Without the consent of their parents these three boys who showed great aptitude for learning, learning in a European way, were taken from their families and brought here to Ottawa and they stayed in middle class homes and went to school. The purpose of this was to see if Inuit could cut it in our culture. And so these three boys, who went on to become significant leaders, lived here during the 1960s. And during that time lost their culture lost, their hunting skills, but they learned English and they learned the ways of the settler, and as I say they all became significant leaders. Today there are thousands of Inuit living in the city of Ottawa and our diocese provides full funding for an Innuk woman named Aigah Attagutsiak who is an Anglican priest. We provide full funding for her to work fulltime from St Margaret's. And she's not simply ministering to the small community at St Margaret's. Her ministry as a visible and respected Elder is to the entire Inuit population here in Ottawa. Aigah is one busy woman. Yesterday we met to consider the full scope of the presence of Inuir in our diocese and to listen carefully to how the Holy Spirit is calling us to respond. 

There are a couple of things for us to remember as we mark National indigenous People's Day. First of all those of us who are non-Indigenous those us who are Anglicans, need to remember and recognize that our ancestors participated in the enterprise of colonizing this country, the exercise of subverting suppressing indigenous culture in this land. We all know of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. For the Inuit our participation in colonization meant that frequently entire villages were forced to relocate. The naive assumption that all of you who live in a city could end up in Moscow tomorrow and easily find your way around because it's a city. You go from one bay in the Arctic to another bay hundreds of thousands of miles away -- you'll be fine it's all the arctic. Many Inuit were forced to relocate for military purposes and for other purposes. There were day schools; there were hostels; there were residential schools. Families were separated by relocation, by dislocation, by children taken to some residential schools. Culture was suppressed. Cultural teachings and traditions were suppressed, and I wonder what St Barnabas would have to say about that. We did not respect the culture. We said you have to be like us in order to be Christians. St Barnabas had a lot to say about that. 

So during this month, during this week where we recognize National Indigenous People's Day, non- Indigenous Anglicans need to accept and recognize that we were part of a misguided scheme and that we repented as the church, recognized, we listened to the harm that was done we apologized for it and now we seek to live in way of reconciliation, of right relationships with Indigenous peoples. That's where we are now. The Anglican Church of Canada has given birth to the self-determining Indigenous Church, called Sacred Circle. Archbishop Chris Harper is their bishop. And at the heart of the United Nation's Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous people is self-determination, and within our church the Indigenous population of our church has created a body which is self determining. Those things we need to remember, we who are not Indigenous. Indigenous people during this month must remember their own ancient history and their traditions. They and us need to remember that the Lord gave breath and spirit long before Europeans came to North America. The Holy Spirit was active on this land speaking to human beings long before we came, and the Holy Spirit taught Indigenous people how to live in good ways. And we see evidence of that within the Anishnaabe nation, in the seven teachings of the grandfathers. The seven teachings, the ancient teachings, are wisdom, love, respect, humility, bravery, honesty and truth. And for the Inuit there is Inuit law, or IQ, as it sometimes called. And Inuit Law is that which you would have long known. and Inuit Law says the following, teaches the following: respect and care for each other, working together for the common good, welcoming and serving others, being resourceful and prepared for the future and maintaining harmony and balance. Ancient wisdom that was on this land before any of us came here. 

We remember the ancient wisdom given to us by St Paul. The gifts of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Consider that the Holy Spirit spoke to the ancestors of the Indigenous people on this land that just as the Holy Spirit spoke to our ancestors and faith. Our baptismal Covenant reflects not only the seven teachings of the Anishnaabe but also of the Inuit Law. 

God spoke to all our ancestors. 

And a welcome advisor Albert Dumont likes to say: you will all be ancestors one day. Everyone in this room will be an ancestor one day.

Our tradition as Anglicans, as Anglo-Catholics, teaches us how to live in a good way, teaches us how to be fully human as God would have us be, teaches us to live as Christ taught according to the fruits of the spirit. Our tradition teaches us to be children of God. In the prayer after Communion today we will pray: God of Justice may we who have heard your word and receive new life at your table bear witness to your truth in the world so that all may come to share in your communion. We will all be ancestors one day. As we leave this Mass give thanks for this time of worship and try with all your heart and soul and mind and strength to express the love and justice and mercy and kindness that we believe is integral in what it means to follow Christ. Amen.