The Rev. Chris Harper

RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS

Rev. Chris Harper / August 2018

In my context, the Christian Journey is never singular but community based, for one needs to walk with or grow with another. The church should and must be both community and family in where all are embraced for where they are, regardless of their stand in the journey of faith and ministry. When we journey with others, we are given the witness and courage of the other to enable and grow within our personal expression of faith.

My personal journey was blessed and strengthened by family, friends, teachers and mentors of the church. Beginning with baptism which is the expression of our faith first witnessed by my parents who brought me to baptism in the church, and the ministers and priests of the church who laid out the foundation of faith in which I have built on throughout my life. Through youth to adulthood my family has enabled and encouraged my personal faith journey through prayer and experience. In seminary I was blessed to have teachers and mentors who witnessed their strengths and faith through the careful examination of the Word and expression in liturgy and service. My own life experience has brought the reality of God the Creator’s promise, mercy and grace, which is given in abundance. Life is also not without conflict, which tempers the soul’s exuberance and flight. Faith and life teaches humility and reliance on communion with our Lord God in good and bad, blessings and challenges.

God through experience and faith brings us to new and ever growing challenges which strengthen us to our calling, new doors and windows are opened in life to see new possibilities and opportunities, in these we have the choice to accept or retreat, but Gods will is done, this I believe by faith.

Presently, the Lord has called me to serve as the Indigenous Native Priest to the church in the Diocese of Toronto, and in this calling I am to serve and be a bridge of invitation and healing to the church and community, Indigenous and non. This means seeking, listening and responding to those discouraged, disenfranchised, seeking, or hurt, as well as responding to the call of ministry to the homeless, needy and spiritually lost. This means being open and available by listening and responding as needed and called upon by the children of God in the church and outside the church, and even to those on the fringes.

A faithful Pastor recognizes that not all people agree on any single point, and thus it is important to be a good and attentive mediator and to assess and walk with both sides in any disagreement. I believe that my personal politics and sensitivities need to be constantly in check, for peace to be able to speak reason to our hearts which can become so impassioned about our desires of ministry and faith. Through prayerful conversation and listening, we as Christians can and should seek the peace that only comes through Christ in the presence of the dialogue. As families do not always agree, it is fundamentally important that we stay in the conversation and at the familial table.

In this faithful Christ focus conversation the church can be realized and given hope in cooperative mission. The Five Marks of Mission stand for the church as the hallmarks and goals all have been called to. We the clergy and laity have always been called to live and proclaim the Good News through Christ to all, in living witness daily. In the church, this begins with our families and is given as a foundation stone for the children to build on throughout their lives. Familial faith witness is the strongest and best witness to the world which is now seeing the breakdown of family and faith. Through the love realized in faith, it pours out through the natural ministry of the church in ever wider circles going out to the community and those in need. Once the church is in the community and the community is in the church, justice and societal ills can begin to change, because respect, dignity and humility can again return. The church can stand a sign post of hope, healing and peace, to our families, community, societies and world, a commitment to that which it was always meant to be.

The Diocese of Saskatoon being on the cusp of change might be that forerunner of change needed in the church across Canada, offering a new ministry in Truth, Healing and Reconciliation. As an Indigenous Priest, I see the hope in a new conversation with Indigenous communities, not speaking as an outsider but as one with the people. Maybe a new conversation could begin at a new table of hope and faith, opening the door to a joined healing of the people in the historical legacy that we walk in together.

Saskatoon being diverse and spread over a great and flowing land is blessed as much as it is conflicted by the reality of rural diminishment and urban sprawl. All these realities bring the need to examine how we do ministry and the best efforts to expend out energies and resources. Ecumenical ministry is the reality that we need to embrace walking with and uplifting each other in the family of Christian life. Denomination is a self-imposed fence that might cut us off from the ministry of life and truth. Being already in full communion with the Lutheran Church ELCIC Saskatchewan Synod and in conversation with the United Church of Canada as well as the Roman Catholic dialogue, ecumenical ministry is in need of continued support. As a past ecumenical partner in ministry to Lutheran and Anglican I personally know the blessings that come out of an ecumenical relationship.

In closing, the Diocese of Saskatoon is and should be seen as a blessing to the community, Parishes and peoples of Saskatchewan, what the Diocese can offer is hope and faith in the love and peace of Christ our Lord and Saviour. What we can bring to the table is healing in ministry not only in the Legacy we live in, but healing in life, faith and witness, itbegins with humility, respect, listening, learning, honoring and most importantly... Prayer.

May Gods will be done in this episcopal election, may His grace and mercy bless all who step forward in witness of His blessed calling, may peace abide in all things and as the Diocese of Saskatoon goes forward into a new future to the glory of God Almighty Amen.

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