The 68th annual Bishop’s Fund Dinner on November 13th got underway with a time-honoured tradition as piper Kevin Thompson led the procession of Bishop’s Fund Committee members into the banquet hall at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club.
The annual dinner party is the primary fundraiser for the Bishop’s Fund, a discretionary resource available to the bishops of the Dioceses of Edmonton and the Arctic (District of Mackenzie). The fund is used to support clergy and their families in times of need. That support has come in many forms, including:
The Bishop’s Fund Committee members take on the responsibility to pay for all costs associated with the dinner, so contributions from supporters can go straight into the fund. Those contributors never know the details of how their generous donations are spent, but in her report at the start of the evening, Bishop Jane Alexander told them, “I wouldn’t necessarily say that you have made the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to walk – but you have certainly been instrumental in helping those things happen.”
Bishop Jane shared a quote from N.T. Wright describing church as:
“…a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice. It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry out that purpose. It’s where people bring their own small faith and discover in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”
“This is what we are growing into,” the Bishop said. “This is the church that we are called to try and be. And our clergy try and steer the ship, encourage volunteers and stand beside those in the gaps of society. Of course it comes at a cost, and there are times the clergy need additional help and support just like the ones they deal with day to day. And this is where you step in. Please know that your support is not taken for granted, it is a surprise and blessing to most of our clergy and their families that the Bishop’s Fund exists. Many are brought to tears of overwhelming relief and gratitude.”
Over the past nearly 70 years, the Bishop’s Fund Committee has invited guest speakers from many areas of expertise to share insights from their various respective professions. This year, the dinner was pleased to welcome Mr. Rick Hamlin, Executive Editor of Guideposts Magazine and author of several books, including 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without. Introduced by his long-time friend, Bishop’s Fund Committee Member Marc de la Bruyère, Hamlin brought encouraging and down-to-earth insights into the practice of prayer. He spoke of the value of having a regular place for prayer; one that, with repeated use, begins to signal heart and mind that it’s time to pray. Hamlin’s own practice might have come as a surprise to some, as he described praying on the A-Train during his morning commute from Manhattan. “The sound of the subway doors closing, the rumble of the train on the tracks” have become cues to him as he sits, opens his bible for a short reading – perhaps a psalm – and then closes his eyes. “Just listening; opening myself up… the more you do something the easier it gets.”
“To try to pray is to pray,” Hamlin said. He described acts of compassion as prayer, the act of writing down those things for which we are grateful, and even singing which, as St. Augustine said, is like ‘praying twice.’ In answer to a question from the audience he spoke of when it’s hard to pray, saying that in those times we need community, as others “hold for us what we can’t hold for ourselves.”
Hamlin ended with a quote from Henri-Frederic Amiel: “Life is short. We don't have much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk this way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind.”
University of Alberta Dean Dr. Lesley Cormack, the newest member of the Bishop’s Fund Committee, offered her thanks to Hamlin and to supporters as the evening drew to a close.
Executive Director of the Canterbury Foundation, Wendy King, also spoke briefly about an ambitious expansion project that will create a 53 suite dementia care unit and 16 suite hospice, adding to the care now provided for more than 300 seniors in Canterbury Court, Canterbury Manor and Canterbury Lane. $1.2 million has already been raised toward the $2.5 million goal to cover the costs of the project.
In his closing remarks, outgoing Chair of the Bishop’s Fund Committee, Neil Gower, Q.C., put out a call for others to join the committee. He spoke of what a pleasure it is to work with the other members and to be in company with this larger association of Anglican lay persons, clergy and friends. The door is always open to more who wish to be involved. To become a member of the Bishop’s Fund by making a donation in support of clergy and their families, please contact Diocese of Edmonton Treasurer the Rev. John Gee: firstname.lastname@example.org