A ‘Once-and-Coming Spirit’

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On June 3, I will have been ordained for 40 years. I still remember that night. It was pouring rain, but a huge congregation had assembled in All Saints Cathedral in Halifax, as there were seven of us to be made deacons. Of the group, two have since died, one has left our church, and all the rest, except me, have retired.

A few weeks ago, one of them told me he had been reflecting on how he has discovered anew the joy of the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. And then, with considerable emotion in his voice, Rod told me that every day he prays for his bishop and for me. It was a moment of grace, not unlike others I experience when I chat from time to time with my former bishop. Arthur reminds me of his “daily appointments with the Lord” and his remembrance of the bishop of the day, Ron, me and our whole church praying for its faithfulness in Christ and its renewal in the Spirit.

Since my own consecration as bishop on January 18, 1995, there have been 69 men and women ordained as bishops of our church; 31 of them within the last 10 years. As I look around the national House of Bishops, I am very aware that within the next three to five years, there will be a massive change in the face of episcopal ministry across our church.

While every bishop has a number with respect to succession in the episcopate of the Anglican Church of Canada (mine is 254) and a number with respect to succession within their diocese (mine is 14), we will in the annals of history be remembered as the “sometime” bishop of the diocese we served. Such a description reminds us that inasmuch as we entered into the labours of others, so will many more enter into ours. We work in the hope that we will have pioneered ways of being a church in our time, which they can continue to shape and finesse for their time.

To know I will be remembered as the “sometime” bishop keeps me humble. It also gives me cause to rejoice that the Spirit will indeed call others into this same ministry of shepherding the People of God and leading the church in its commitment to God’s mission.

That Spirit, as New Testament scholar Raymond Brown puts it, is “a Once-and- Coming Spirit”—coming in every age to renew and refresh the ministry of the church, to grace and guide us for our work in the world.

Thanks be to God.

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Fred Hiltz
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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