The Service of Reception and Recognition of Priesthood for the Reverend Ayoob Shawkat Adwar was held on Sunday March 26, 2017. Father Ayoob as we’ve known him for the past few years was the spiritual head of the Chaldean community that shared worship space with us here at the Anglican Parish of the Church of the Epiphany (Epiphany).
I hadn’t seen Father Ayoob for what must have been a number of months, when it dawned on me to ask Epiphany’s rector, the Venerable Stephen Rowe, “Where did he go?” I was informed that he was at St. Helen’s located in Surrey’s Gateway neighbourhood and he was pursuing his orders within the Anglican Church. As he was drawn to our faith community, and that he’d be received into Priesthood at Epiphany, which was like our name sake, a pretty good idea.
Prior to the beginning of worship I was able to watch and observe as the clergy and sanctuary party rehearsed their cues for various parts of the service. It struck me that this was like watching a wedding rehearsal. People were running through their lines, and figuring out where to stand. A table was set up for the signing of official documentation, and one of the diocesan photographer’s, Wayne Chose was quietly documenting the proceedings. One moment I found interesting was when Bishop Skelton and Shawkat Shammas, who is also Father Ayoob’s father, acting as bishop’s chaplain, worked out how to hold her crosier while she read from the order of service.
There were close to 250 people in attendance many of whom were members of the Chaldean congregation who had come to support Father Ayoob, along with the congregation of Epiphany and numerous visitors. I was moved by the First Letter of Peter which was read in Aramaic.
The highlight for me came after the bishop had proclaimed “Ayoob, with the authority vested in me and in full recognition of your priestly orders I welcome you as a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” As Anglicans we allow ourselves to show appreciation through applause, albeit reservedly – for those who were visiting I’m sure it was a surprise to hear ululation as well. If you haven’t heard this before, it is something you don’t forget. It wouldn’t be the only time we would hear this through the evening.
After worship, people gathered in the hall to partake of a banquet. It really is the only way to describe the food that is prepared. Alongside the homemade dishes and middle eastern delicacies there was pizza and for desert not one, but two cakes.
In Epiphany’s hall, Father Ayoob addressed those who had gathered in both Arabic and English, expressing his gratitude. In his speech he reflected on the sign we have in front of our church and our parish motto, “A place of new beginnings.” Indeed the evening marked the start of a new beginning for Father Ayoob, and the support for him as he begins his next chapter was nothing short of overwhelming.
Afterward I had an opportunity to reflect on this experience. This is not the first liturgy of this kind that I’d been to, but it was definitely something special. It’s an event I’ll likely never witness again. I can’t think of the last time a Chaldean priest was received as a priest in the Anglican Church.
It has been wonderfully strange having the Chaldeans in our midst these past few years. There’s something rather awe inspiring about these fellow Christians who have been through genuine trials of life threatening proportions and still adhere to their faith. Witnessing the support shown to Father Ayoob on the evening of March 26 as he continues his faith journey was deeply moving, and for me reinforced the impact the church universal has on people throughout the world. During those times when doubt begins to bubble and I question whether there is relevance in Christianity, I can now look to this experience at my parish church in Surrey and to those around me that Sunday and actually believe that we are indeed part of one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
Photos: Wayne Chose
Article written by Jevon Anonby.