Anglican Foundation textile exhibit showcases various faiths

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Debra Sparrow of the Musqueaum First Nation in Vancouver speaks at the opening of the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s textile exhibition. Her work, “Chief’s Blanket,” is behind her. Photo: Neale Adams 
Debra Sparrow of the Musqueaum First Nation in Vancouver speaks at the opening of the Anglican Foundation of Canada’s textile exhibition. Her work, “Chief’s Blanket,” is behind her. Photo: Neale Adams 

The Anglican Foundation celebrated its 60th anniversary May 25-28 with a Eucharist, a banquet and the opening of a textile exhibition at Christ Church Cathedral.

On Saturday, May 27, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and chair of the Foundation’s board of directors, and Bishop Melissa Skelton, of the diocese of New Westminster, jointly opened the textile exhibition, “(In)finite: Spiritual Conversations in Cloth.”

The textile exhibition, which will remain in the cathedral until June 4, was organized by Thomas Roach, an artist who works at Christ Church Cathedral. Roach put out a call across the country, and 35 artists submitted works. About 50 works of 26 artists were selected by a three-person curating board, and the exhibition set up in the cathedral’s chancel. A wide variety of pieces was represented, many from British Columbia, and others from Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Debra Sparrow, one of the curators and an artist in the exhibition, gave about 150 people gathered for the official opening greetings from the Musqueam First Nation. Her piece, a wool Chief’s Blanket, was woven to be used by her community in ceremonies.

“I’m not just an artist, but a person who is reflecting the beauty of my people—and all people. It’s amazing—amazing grace—to be here with you and be able to share the stories that we have, the stories about the people who once lived here and still do today,” she told the gathering.

Diocese of New Westminster Bishop Melissa Skelton and Primate Fred Hiltz unveil a poster to formally open the textile exhibition. Photo: Neale Adams
Diocese of New Westminster Bishop Melissa Skelton and Primate Fred Hiltz unveil a poster to formally open the textile exhibition. Photo: Neale Adams

Some artists presented Anglican liturgical pieces; other faith traditions were also represented. Shamina Senaratne of Port Moody, B.C., an artist with a Buddhist father and Ismaili Muslim mother—and also godmother to an Anglican child—submitted a work, “Interpreting the Shadows and the Light,” that was inspired by the marble jalis (screens of stone) in Indian and Islamic architecture. It was made up of five hanging silk panels onto which were fused 420 six-sided patterns that created transparent lattices.

Hilary Rice of Sterling, Ont., used embossed pewter for highlights in her collage piece, “Water = Life.” In her artist statement, she said: “Art making, for me, is a way of connecting with the world, a way of connecting what is inside with what is outside. My work touches and links me to the holy.”

One of the more unusual pieces, by Maggie Tchir of Nelson, B.C., consisted of two hand-fabricated miniature iron beds, with a silk and cotton bedspread on which were the words of the children’s prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”

Prayer, she said, “is a human act and, like the beating of the human heart, is universal in all creeds since time began.”

More traditional was a “Gloria” altar frontal, chasuble, cope and mitre, presented by Iris Rountree, of Winnipeg.

Artist Shamina Senaratne (right) talks about her work, “Interpreting the Shadows and the Light,” with Anglican Foundation  board member Afra Saskia Tucker. Photo: Neale Adams 
Artist Shamina Senaratne (right) talks about her work, “Interpreting the Shadows and the Light,” with Anglican Foundation  board member Afra Saskia Tucker. Photo: Neale Adams

Meanwhile, Hiltz preached at the cathedral on the Sunday following the opening of the exhibition. In his sermon, he said that if evangelism is presented as a “sales pitch” or a “campaign,” it can be doomed to failure.

​“Evangelism, as nurturing people in the life and faith of Jesus Christ, as friendship in Christ, as a pilgrimage in a life of grace, as engagement in the community in the name and love of Christ, has much more resonance with people because that kind of evangelism reflects the way of Jesus himself,” said Hiltz. “If a community reflects the radical hospitality and gracious love of Christ, people are more likely to come and ask, ‘What’s going on here?’ and to be drawn in and transformed.”

As part of the celebration, Hiltz and other members of the Anglican Foundation board also visited Canuck Place, a children’s hospice that has received support from the Foundation’s Kids Helping Kids program.

The Anglican Foundation was established in 1957 to refurbish church buildings across Canada that parishes had not been able to properly maintain during the war years. With grants and loans, it still helps parishes repair buildings, but over the years, the Foundation has branched out to support theological education, innovative parish and Indigenous programs, as well as music and the arts.

Nearly $30 million dollars in grants and loans have been given in the last 60 years. Last year’s grants amounted to about $700,000.

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Neale Adams
Neale Adams is a freelance writer in Vancouver. He was former editor of Topic, the newspaper of the diocese of New Westminster.

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