In 2016, there were exploratory discussions, travel and exchanges between Bishop Melissa Skelton and Bishop Brent Alawas to establish a new companion diocese relationship within Asia Pacific between the Diocese of New Westminster (DofNW) and the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP). Declarations establishing this companion relationship were unanimously passed by Diocesan Council and at the EDNP Convention respectively. In order to bring this relationship into practical reality on a parish-by-parish basis, DofNW organized a Companion Diocese Committee to both oversee the companion relationship and undertake annual evaluations to ensure satisfaction of mutual goals of the two dioceses.
Late in 2016, the DofNW Committee for the Companion Diocese was struck and is composed of the following clergy and lay members: Felipa Farinas of St. Mary the Virgin South Hill, Executive Archdeacon , the Ven. Douglas Fenton, Jeremiah Narayan of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the Rev. Paul Richards deacon of Holy Trinity White Rock, Carol Tindall of St. Dunstan’s Aldergrove, Clare Urquhart and the Ven. Karen Urquhart (rector) of St. Catherine of Alexandria. This Committee seeks to create an environment where members of both dioceses are enriched by the realization that the world wide Anglican Communion is a vast and diverse faith community, but that we are also interdependent. We know that our work and common witness to the gospel on behalf of God’s mission in the world will be strengthened by such a relationship.
By moving the relationship from concept into practical action, we hope to find common ground and meaningful interaction. In the view of the Ven. Douglas Fenton, our brothers and sisters in the EDNP have much to teach and share with all of us. Bishop Skelton and Bishop Alawas, along with the senior leadership of both dioceses, enjoy both collegial and friendly working relationship and believe that much good will come from our work together.
With the Committee up and running, work began in meetings every month (hindered only by our cold winter and driving conditions) with the vision of actualizing a parish level relationship objective of putting into action the links between parishes in both dioceses. From the discussions and exchanges between the leadership of both dioceses, the committee began by pairing the parishes in both dioceses, many of which share a common name dedication or patron. Many of the parishes in EDNP are rural and continue their ministry as an established Episcopal mission, in contrast to the mix of both urban and rural parishes we have in the DofNW. There are however, several issues and experiences that both dioceses have in common, including significant proportions of Indigenous peoples, as well as challenges surrounding natural resource exploitation and extraction.
The process of pairing and starting communications between parishes in both dioceses has begun by correspondence to each parish within the DofNW requesting they identify a lead person/liaison for their parish on this project. EDNP has already identified their liaison for each parish. Additionally, the leads within parishes here will prepare an electronic parish profile with information about their parish, worship, activities, photographs and other information. Once completed, each liaison person will be linked via email to his or her respective counterpart in a parish within EDNP. This will start the communication and dialogue between our two dioceses at the grass roots level. It is anticipated that each parish will incorporate their partner parish into the liturgy in the Prayers of the People.
Concurrently, we have two members of the Companion Diocese Committee of the DofNW (the Ven. Karen Urquhart and Ms Abby Cline) travelling to EDNP to attend their joint convention of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, Episcopal Church Women and SKEP (Samahan ng Kabataang Episkopal ng Pilipinas -- youth organization. This is a once every three years convention of lay organizations of EDNP. In June the Very Rev. Lucresia Turtem and the Rev. Elvie Tulingan will attend the Diocesan Parish Development School. Dean Turtem will preach at Christ Church Cathedral and Padi Elvie will preach at St Laurence, Coquitlam. (‘Padi’ is a gender-neutral honorific term given to priests.) In addition to these visits, two young people from EDNP will travel to Vancouver to attend the Sacred Earth Camp hosted by Salal + Cedar in August.
It is our hope to roll out the linking and commencement of communications by early summer. We anticipate that this will be an exciting and interesting opportunity for parishes across the Diocese to connect with their brothers and sisters in faith in Northern Philippines, and we look forward to seeing joyful communion and friendship in faith develop with our partner diocese.