Bishop Barbara Andrews at her consecration on Oct. 18.
Ever since she was ordained a priest in 1998, Barbara Andrews said she had always served the Anglican Church of Canada “kind of on the fringe of the church.”
That all changed in June, when she became the new suffragan (assistant) bishop for the Kamloops-based Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI). Until her election as bishop, she had worked as executive director of the Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre in B.C.
Prior to that she served as a director of Christian education, and had been in street ministry for four years in an inner city parish in Winnipeg. In an interview, Bishop Andrews said her experience puts her “in a unique position because I come from a totally different experience and point of view.”
Bishop Andrews has been credited by many for infusing new life and energy at Sorrento Centre. “I was enjoying the work that I was doing… but I was also aware that God was calling me to something else and so I tried to listen carefully to what it was,” she said in an interview. “It will mean a whole new way of doing ministry and so I believe that I have the gift to do it and the will to do it.”
Bishop Andrews described her consecration ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops last Oct. 18, as “a little bit different but lovely,” as it also had a First Nations element, in recognition and celebration of her Metis heritage. Her father was a Cree from northern Alberta.
During the service, Bishop Andrews did a First Nations “four-fold gifting ritual,” where the pastoral staff was presented to her four times. Three times she rejected it, accepting it the fourth time.
Bishop Andrews said a lot of her initial work will involve listening to the stories of parishes, “listening to the work that’s already being done and together with the people, we will develop a vision for the future.” It is clear that APCI (formerly the diocese of Cariboo) desires to have autonomy, “and how that gets worked out remains to be seen, she said. Cariboo, about 350 km northeast of Vancouver, shut its diocesan office on Dec. 31, 2001, after declaring bankruptcy due to settlements from lawsuits about abuse at the St. George’s Indian Residential School at Lytton, B.C. It was re-constituted as the APCI, and the 18 parishes (including 35 congregations) came under the administration of the metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia.
Right now APCI is trying to “envision a new way of being God’s faithful people in this area,” said Bishop Andrews , adding this might prove useful to the rest of the church as it looks at new governance models. “We’re in a unique position and we may be able to dream a new way of being church for the whole church. Isn’t that bold of me to say?” she said.
Working with youth is also a priority. “I’m aware of the need for good formational training” as well as ways to “support our youth and affirm them in their faith commitment,” she said. APCI also faces a number of challenges, among them the effect of the decline of the forestry industry. “There’s a lot of economical challenges here. It’s a smaller population (that’s) predominantly rural, with many small communities spread out…” she said.
One of Bishop Andrews’ strongest passions has been social justice ministry, and she said, it will remain so. “How do we feed the hungry? How do we help folks that need our assistance?” are questions that she will continue to seek answers to.
When she’s not grappling with larger issues, Bishop Andrews enjoys reading, gardening, cooking, and “relaxing in God’s creation” at her cottage on Shuswap Lake, in the interior of B.C.