The Venerable Noel Wygiera

 RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS 

The Ven. Noel Wygiera

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)

To be inspired and innovative, leaders must first seek to understand. We in the Church can spend much of our energies either struggling with the culture around us, adapting to it, or adopting it altogether. I would suggest that our calling is to be authentic; to be who God has called us to be amid the prevailing culture, all the while remaining distinct from it because of our identity in Christ. How else can our light shine? Secularism is a force that started shaping the Western World some 500 years ago. It now dictates the dominant values that shape our public policies, as well as the most private matters of our lives. On the surface it purports to be inclusive, yet at its heart it is utterly individualistic. This is not the way of Christ. Secularism is two dimensional and self focused. When we baptize people into the Body of Christ, they become part of something bigger than themselves and life becomes multidimensional, adding the heights of transcendence and the depths of immanence. If we can operate within this kind of understanding we can be not only be inspired and innovative, but also imaginative in the ways that we communicate a better way of being, and a better way of life, to the world around us.

The models of ministry that have served us well in the past do not necessarily do so now. The world has not only changed, but so has the way we conduct our business. Over the past 75 years, Canada has become a mobile society. While donut shops and fast food restaurants have been adaptive in their service delivery models to engage this ongoing shift, we in the Church have tended to operate in clergy dependant, parochial models of days gone by that assume that people spend most of their life within a 15 km radius of their home.I’m not suggesting that we set up sacramental drive-throughs at strategic locations on major traffic routes. What I would suggest is that if something is deemed worth driving for, people will drive to it. In the case of the Church, if we strive for excellence in liturgy, worship, and pastoral care, it will not only be pleasing to God but also attractive to people. The only way to aspire to this excellence is for the whole community to be engaged ministry; each member knowing that they are confident and competent in their ministry as they are encouraged to use their God given gifts and talents in service to God and community. As for how this might relate to a vision of the future of the Diocese in city, town, and rural settings, I envision a Church in which strong lay and ordained leadership are resourced, equipped and encouraged to minister together as the Body of Christ within their local context, striving for excellence in liturgy, worship, and pastoral care. Like an orchestra under the leadership of a director, this model of ministry requires leadership that supports, enables, and trusts people as they endeavour to work within their God given gifts and talents.

The history of indigenous people in what we now call Western Canada is indeed complex, as have been the relationships between indigenous people and the Church throughout our shared history. Many indigenous communities embraced the Christian faith when the missionaries introduced it to them and continued to do so even in the dark times when the Church participated in the institutionalism that became the Indian Residential School system. They continue in the faith today as we work toward healing and reconciliation. Their determination to continue to follow Jesus in all times is an example to the whole Church of how authentic faith flourishes even in the most adverse conditions. Perhaps as we walk with aboriginal communities we might come to recognize our own wounds. Perhaps we will come to learn from them something about resilience and healing as we struggle to remain authentic in our faith in the increasingly secular culture around us.

Same sex marriage (SSM) is an issue that has deeply divided people, and polarized communities in the Canadian Church. At the same time, as people on both sides of the issue converse and seek to understand, there can be a softening in how we treat one another. What we find in this, and in other moral debates, is thatwe’re usually comparing apples to oranges. We demonize the other because we believe they are arguing anopposing point, but, we are not always arguing about the same point at all. In the SSM debate, I believe the two fundamental positions are theological/Biblical orthodoxy and human rights as an extension of grace. In separating the two, and yes, I know I am likely to be over simplifying the issue, it is possible to see that someone who is focussed on orthodoxy is not by definition homophobic. Likewise, the person who supports SSM from the standpoint of human rights is not necessarily a heretic. We need opportunities in our communities to get to know and trust each other; to celebrate our commonalities, and to be friends, so that when divisive issues arise we will have the will to extend grace to one another and strive to hold the other in the highest possible regard.

Question 1 My spiritual journey has taught me to be a patient follower of God. I wait on God and try to act according to his timing. When I rush and don’t pray or don’t think things through, or when I speak too quickly, the road can be difficult. When I wait on God, things tend to fall into place.

Question 2 Healing and bridge building happen when we pray and lay hands on people in the name of Jesus, and when we use the the gifts we have to build one another up, to the glory of God. I am a conciliator by nature and have a calm, and calming, demeanour. This, coupled with studies and training in psychology, sociology, counselling, Critical Incident Stress Management, and crisis intervention, among others, helps me to stay focused on the big picture and gives me insight into people’s behaviours. This in turn informs me in ministry that leads to healing and hope.

Question 3 I know from my work in the parish and archdeaconry, and even through my role as a father, that while consistency and integrity are essential in dealing with people or groups, they should not be confusedwith a “one size fits all” approach to relating to others. Each community is unique and works within its own gifts and shortcomings. This requires that a bishop be a patient listener who seeks to understand the underlying motivations of a community’s culture and actions, and in doing so, be supportive of the redemptive work they engage in while at the same time challenging the assumptions they hold to which may lead to divisiveness.

Question 4 To me, mission means showing the world around us, by word and example, that a better, fuller, more abundant life is possible when we choose to accept it, freely given by the God who created us, through his Son, Jesus. I believe that all 5 Marks of Mission can be evident in the Diocese of Saskatoon, but that it all starts with the first two. If we don’t proclaim the Good News and bring others into the faith, then Marks 3- 5, as well intentioned as they may be, are nothing more than works righteousness.

Question 5 My experience with healing and reconciliation with First Nations peoples has both formal and personal aspects to it. For example, on the formal side, I had, over the course of about 3 years, the opportunity to minister as a Church Listener in Alternative Dispute Resolution hearings. While this was a highly symbolic and important role, it was not nearly as effective as the personal relationships I have developed with First Nations people of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Southern Alberta. For the sake of authenticity, I believe that anything we do as a Diocese needs to start with personal relationship for it is here that we build mutual trust. This trust is necessary that we might let go of what we need to let go of (i.e. power, control) so that we can be fully supportive of, and helpful toward, the building up of an Indigenous Anglican Church in Canada and authentic indigenous Anglican faith in the Diocese of Saskatoon.

Question 6 I believe that no one ecclesial entity can claim ownership of the Kingdom of God. To that end, each Church or denomination has something unique to contribute to the overall beauty of the Church; the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2). I believe that we are called to give the very best of our practices and traditions to the building up of the Kingdom through ecumenism, and that our efforts are not to be rooted in compromise but in mutual admiration for the distinctiveness that each of us brings to the conversation and shared endeavours. I believe that fostering a vision of ecumenism starts with leading by example and that the Bishop must make friends with, work with, and worship with ecumenical partners so that others in the Diocese can feel free to do likewise.

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