It is too easy for some of us to be Anglicans. It is too easy for many of us to be Canadian. I am a cradle born Anglican and a born in Canada citizen. I realize that I take my life for granted.
To be comfortable in a parish congregation, to share in Communion, is quite confusing for non-Anglicans. The rights and freedoms, and just the ease of daily living, is not always so for those who are new to Canada.
It was recently made clearer to me that my taking for granted is a privilege not shared by all. I was invited to an evening presentation entitled, "Explorations in Belonging". Hosted at Archway Community Services. This event held in Abbotsford focussed on how immigrant and refugee women, newcomers to Canada perceive belonging and exclusion in the community.
"How can I belong if I do not even exist in society?" exclaimed one newcomer.
A university research team presented the findings of their work with women. The process of research used photo voice as a technique. The forty participants took photos that described how they belonged and how they felt excluded. The group then discussed the images. The results were then displayed with captions, a visual message of reality. Many common themes emerged: feeling that one belonged, connecting, sharing, nature and space, lack of access to resources, recognition, or non-recognition of credentials, one's status as an immigrant, and accent of speaking and listening.
Some newcomers found support in local faith congregations. Some connected to agencies because of a relative's guidance. Others searched for months before venturing out to make actual connections. One identified the feeling of belonging as she walked alone in the vast wooded areas. Another found the wideness of open space in nature frightening. To belong or to feel excluded takes many shapes.
I as a Canadian born man never thought of the many ways people connect, nor was I aware of the many walls that create exclusion. The barriers for many newcomers are in place largely due to those of us who take belonging for granted.
Trends in immigration and Canadian demographics invite closer examination. Born in Canada models of citizenship are becoming a minority in many ways. The integration of newcomers into the nation and into communities is an essential element for the future growth of Canadian society.
Churches confronted with an aging population and an ethnic English culture are confronted with a new reality. How do we Anglicans continue to provide worship and ministry with newcomers who are now the neighbours Jesus says we are to embrace? The Gospel according to St. Mark has much to guide us as we move into this new future. Many newcomers are crying in their wilderness as they seek the voice that calls out, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Those calling want to find paths that welcome and embrace them just as who they are.
My privileged life within the Church and in Canada needs to be awake to hear, "Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come." The time is now as I engage with newcomers. My cradled ways need to accept the image of God that I share with each newcomer. As an Anglican anto Canadian, I need to listen for the changes now upon us. In my opinion, taking things for granted will no longer work.
Photo Credit: Bernard Bobo