It is fitting, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, that the 60th anniversary of the Anglican Foundation of Canada will be celebrated this May in Vancouver.
In mild Vancouver, Hiltz says, spring can be counted on to be well established by May. And spring is what comes to his mind when he thinks of the Foundation these days.
“I think it’s just blossoming,” says Hiltz, who as primate is also chair of the Foundation. “At this particular moment in its history, it’s kind of like a springtime of fresh expression, and bursting with new opportunity and new life.”
Over the past six years, under executive director Canon Judy Rois, the Foundation has developed “a bigger heart than ever” for all the ministries of the church, while building important relationships, raising its own profile and generally helping develop a culture of mutual care—“we receive, and therefore we give”—with the church, he says.
The Foundation is evolving—but evolution has been a part of its history from the beginning, the primate says.
Its origins go back to a 1954 visit by Reginald Soward, a member of the diocese of Toronto (and later chancellor of the diocese, and then of General Synod) to the Anglican Congress, an international meeting of Anglicans held in Minneapolis, Minn. Soward said the meeting awoke in him a sense that “the Church as a whole had a responsibility to further the well- being and development of the Christian life and there were no limits of space,” according to a Foundation newsletter released during the primacy of Archbishop Michael Peers (1986-2004).
Sowald also discovered that the Episcopal Church had an organization for providing financial support to cash-strapped churches and programs across the country. He proposed a similar organization for the Anglican Church of Canada to then-primate Archbishop Walter Barfoot and others, including John Graham, registrar of General Synod, and eventually, in 1957, the Anglican Foundation of Canada was established.
One of the most valuable things about the Foundation, Hiltz says, is its broad geographical reach. Board member Fiona Brownlee, who is also rural and Indigenous communities liaison for the diocese of Edmonton, agrees. “You can’t go to a part of this church, coast to coast to coast, and not hear a story about how the Foundation has impacted the life and ministry of a particular region of the country,” she says.
In the early days, the Foundation was focused on physical infrastructure— helping churches fund roof repairs, installations of new bathrooms and the like. Board members say this remains an important part of its work. Archdeacon Sarah Usher, of the diocese of the Yukon, says that in the North especially, this work is hardly separable from funding ministry.
“If we don’t have buildings, we don’t have ministry,” she says. “We can’t put a minister somewhere if we don’t have a rectory.”
Sometimes the need for this kind of funding is urgent. Last spring, administrators of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Kamloops, B.C., discovered the building’s roof had deteriorated faster than they realized. The situation, says Dean Ken Gray, was “pretty grim,” with water already starting to leak through in some areas. It was clear repairs had to be done before the arrival of winter—and money to support the work was needed right away.
In the end, the cathedral was able to raise a good part of the $90,000 needed for roof repairs from the local community and other sources, and it had some financial reserves to draw on. But in the meantime, a $15,000 grant from the Foundation, Gray says, was vital in ensuring the work began on time.
“The Foundation grant meant that [work] could proceed in 2016, which had to happen,” Gray says.
Over the decades, the Foundation has branched out into funding diverse kinds of ministry and supported charitable work whose value goes beyond bricks and mortar. Board member the Rev. Alex Faseruk, emeritus professor of business administration at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, says one of the most moving examples of Foundation-supported organizations is Roger Neilson House, an Ottawa hospice for terminally ill children. A visit he undertook with Rois left them both emotionally overwhelmed.
“The dignity with which the children went through their final journey in this lifetime…and how they would prepare the family…It just choked us up phenomenally,” Faseruk says.
The Foundation has established a Sacred Arts Trust for music and other art ministry, for example, and funds, among many other things, camping programs, emergency medical travel costs and hospice care for children, theological studies, and Indigenous ministry.
The Foundation is funded entirely by donations—from individuals, parishes and dioceses. Its challenge, Brownlee says, is to continue to build its donor base. “We actually enjoy giving away money, but we can’t do that unless we’re supported,” she says.
Rois agrees. “A lot of Canadian Anglicans think that the Anglican Foundation is a bank with a big account, and it is that only inasmuch as people donate to it,” she says. “That’s why we’re pushing out the message that donors matter—a lot.”
This means raising awareness. “I don’t think a lot of people in the pew even understand what the Anglican Foundation does,” says Usher. “I think that’s one of our biggest challenges—getting it out to the population that this is a really, really wonderful program within our church.”
To this end, Rois says, the Foundation is trying to get its message out in a variety of ways, from running stories in diocesan papers, to social media, to giving talks across the country—a challenge she says she enjoys.
“If an Anglican doesn’t know about the Foundation, it just gives me an opportunity to tell them,” she says.