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Hallo again to all.

This week marks three years since our first visit to Holy Trinity Church, Stanley Mission, one of the most remarkable, breathtaking and important Anglican churches in North America. You will not find Holy Trinity in the headlines of most of our church newspapers, and it can be reached only by boat. It sits at the centre of the Canadian Shield, a vast outcropping of rock and pine trees punctuated at regular intervals by rivers, lakes and portages, but only occasionally by roads or signs of western living patterns. Its Cree parishioners know the place as Amuchewaspimewin.

We reached Stanley after a long, difficult drive through northern Saskatchewan, followed by a boat-ride across the Churchill River. Conversation was easy and wide-ranging on the way there, but when we came in sight of the church words failed every last one of us. Before our eyes was a building and a place which showed forth in every aspect the love and goodness of God. Holy Trinity was built and exists for, by, in, about and because of the love of Jesus Christ. In the absence of words of our own, we sang and read Evensong, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses some of whose names were inscribed on memorial plaques on the walls around us. It was Little Gidding, where, in TS Eliot’s words, ‘prayer has been valid’.

Some 150 years since it was constructed, Holy Trinity is still the focal point of the life of a thriving Anglican congregation. Countless other mission stations and parishes have been planted and withered in the same century and a half. Only God knows why this parish in particular has been blessed with vitality and health. But there are some clues in the history of the mission. From the beginning, lay people had the Bible, Prayer Book, and hymns in their own language; family prayer, catechesis and church education have been emphasised in local Anglican life, in addition to regular worship on Sundays and feast days. The first clergy of the parish — with names like Robert Hunt, J.A. Mackay, and our favourite, Thomas Thistlethwaite Smith — were themselves men of extraordinary pastoral diligence and activity. In a wonderful example which could be multiplied several times over, Archdeacon Mackay writes:

Saturday 10th [June, 1871]. Throughout the past week I have been chiefly occupied making preparations for my approaching departure. I intend to visit the settlements in order to make arrangements for starting a boarding school on a self-supporting basis. This week I have been setting things in order as I shall have to leave the secular work of the station under the charge of one of my Indians. I have also ground a quantity of wheat in our new mill for provisions for my journey and for the use of my household during my absence. Daily prayers. Also vaccinated the entire population. [1]

This missionary impulse is still alive there today. In the last five years, three churches have been built in nearby municipalities and reservations. Whilst we'd not want to present this as a magical recipe for success, it is not hard to parse out some distinctives of Anglican effectiveness here: the holy scriptures, the prayer book, parish-based missionary life, education, devoted lay people and diligent clergy — in a word, focus. In soil such as this, the Gospel can be planted, grow and spread. Superlatives have abounded in this letter because there are times when only superlatives work. And this is the case when talking about Stanley, Little Gidding, Walsingham, and Likoma Cathedral.

If you've been to a Stanley Mission, do write and tell us. If you have not, your life will be renewed and refreshed when you find one.

See you next week.

Richard Mammana
Richard Mammana

Last updated: 19 June 2005

[1] Transcribed August, 2002 at Saskatchewan Archives Board, Saskatoon

A thin blue line
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