One of the jobs before the Liturgy Task Force is to review the BAS Calendar of Holy Persons, and to make recommendations towards additions or other changes to it. We’ve taken a look at the work done south of the border with The Episcopal Church’s Holy Women, Holy Men, and other Calendars produced or revised since the BAS was authorized in 1985. We’ve also talked a lot about Canadian Anglican identity, and what it means to keep memorials and commemorations in our Church, which connect us in koinonia with the wider Body of Christ ecumenically and across the world, and through time, back those many years. And what it means to be Canadian Anglican Christians, and what more of our shared identity and particular identities within our common life could be better lifted up. Some have asked “what would a post-colonial Calendar look like?”
In my time with Faith, Worship, and Ministry, we’ve seen three additions to the BAS Calendar of Holy Persons. In 2004 we added Florence Li Tim-Oi and Mother Emily Ayckboom, as memorials; in 2010, National Aboriginal Day of Prayer became a special commemoration. Each of these additions say something about who we have grown to be as Anglican Church of Canada, and the practice of remembering and commemorating feeds that deeper grounding and keeps us thinking and celebrating and challenging ourselves about who we are. Are we continuing to live out our commitments to healing and right relationship with Indigenous peoples? Do we support and uphold the ministries of religious communities? Do we welcome the gifts of women in ministry?
In 2004, the Faith, Worship, and Ministry committee approved a document entitled Processes and Procedures for Calendar Review. Based on a Report already approved by the Anglican Consultative Council in the 1990s, it helpfully describes the role of Calendars of Holy Persons, and makes recommendations of processes by which local celebrations can be brought for consideration to the whole church. I’ve attached most of the document below this article, but draw your attention to the qualities of those to be considered for inclusion in the calendar, as follows:
- “Heroic faith, i.e. bearing witness with great generosity to Christ and the gospel. Historically, the primary model of heroic faith has been witness to the death, but the term may also include persistent risk-taking as well as a life in which other values are set aside for the sake of devotion and service. True heroic faith is healthy and life-affirming; it is not masochistic or suicidal.
- “The fruit of the Spirit. We may expect those commemorated to have exhibited in an exemplary way the fruit of the Spirit to which Paul refers in Gal 5.22, ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’ Their lives may not have been perfect, but those who knew them should have been aware of this complex, but unified goal within them.
- “Christian engagement. We may expect those who are commemorated to have participation actively in the life of the Christian community and to have contributed to its sense of mission and to its life and growth.
- Recognition by the Christian Community. The commemoration of holy people should have spontaneous roots and should grow from the testimony of those who knew them…”
The Procedures part of the document outlines the ways in which local – diocesan, regional – acts of local commemoration might come forward as proposals to be discerned for inclusion in the nationally-authorized Calendar of Holy Persons. What is critical is that the discernment starts locally.
As I look across the country, I see examples of how holy women and men are being remembered and celebrated. The strongest example of which I’m aware, through the story-telling of colleauges and friends, is of William Winter, priest, pastor, teacher in what is now the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.
Who are the others?
I encourage you to start discussion in your own region and diocese. Pay attention to whom you remember, and in remembering, connect deeply in that koinonia in space and time, to feed your present community as it seeks to serve God’s mission in your time and place.
And, as usual, start a discussion here… And send additional comments to the Liturgy Task Force at [email protected]
Principles and Procedures for Calendar Review (FWM 2004; Adopted from Report of the same name, adopted by the Anglican Consultative Council, 1993)
The first step in a process of commemoration is the spontaneous devotion of people who knew the person involved and testify to his/her holiness. Authority enters the process to encourage or discourage its continuation, and to provide guidance to situate the cult within the larger liturgical tradition. At every point, testing is necessary.
Calendars should be developed to honour and expand the thankful remembering of Christian people. They should not be developed in order to meet pedagogical, regional or sectionalist goals. However, a cyclical pattern exists, as worship forms the community of worshippers, educating us in the broadest sense of spiritual-intellectual-and-affective formation about our ancestors in the faith, and deepening our awareness of the communion of saints, into whose praise of God we enter in every act of worship. The calendar is a tool for re-membering the koinonia in space and time into which we are called, and in which we are held.
The commemoration of holy people is always an act of anamnesis. We remember not only the person’s historical events but the power of grace in their lives and consequently of ‘Christ in us the hope of glory.’ Holy persons are remembered not as examples of “perfection” but as signs and witnesses to God’s grace.
Some calendars restrict the word ‘saint’ to pre-Reformation figures; others do not. Anglicans should be neither intimidated nor beguiled by the technical terminology used traditionally and by Christians of other Communions in regard to the commemoration of holy people and heroes and heroines of the faith. The word ‘saint’ means only ‘holy person’ and should not be used as though it separated a loved and respected Christian from the ordinary levels of humanity. The use of the term is optional. Similarly, the word ‘canonized’ should not be used as though it implied human knowledge of divine judgement. There is, in fact, no compelling reason for Anglicans to appropriate the term, although it has been proposed in at least one province. A process of recognition after the cult has begun and historical statements have been attested will be valuable and may be called ‘canonization’, but the term should not be used as though people become saints as a result of such a process; they become saints, if at all, through holiness of life and witness to the Gospel.
Originally the word ‘martyr’ meant simply ‘witness’, but it was attached at an early date to those who persevered as witnesses to the point of death and whose death was itself the ultimate act of witness. The concept of martyrdom has become more complex in the intervening centuries. Is it to be restricted to those who might have avoided death but chose to remain firm in their resolve? Does it include those who were killed for their faith without the option of escape? Are only those who were killed by persecutors who were hostile to Christianity as such to be accounted martyrs (some Provinces in the Communion have so ruled), or does martyrdom include those who have suffered at the hands of other Christians, perhaps for their doctrinal position or for their engagement with social evil? In societies which are nominally Christian it may be necessary to define martyrdom to include the killing of Christians by Christians. It is more than possible that those who were responsible, directly or indirectly, for the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oscar Romero, to name but two, were not only technically Christian (i.e. baptized) but acted on the basis of values which they misguidedly perceived to be Christian. The question is not who killed these witnesses, but whether they died for the authentic Gospel.
While remembrances begin at the local level among those who knew and remember a holy person, it is not inappropriate for them to spread more widely, especially if the style of holiness expressed in the life of a person addresses in a striking way the aspirations of a particular generation of Christians. The love and courage of some people makes an almost universal appeal as their story becomes know. In such cases the boundaries of geography and of divided Christianity make little sense. It is not surprising that some Anglican calendars contain the names of people who lived in other parts of the world or belonged to other Christian Communions.
Reports of extraordinary phenomena (miracles, appearances) in association with a cult are not to be equated with evidence of holiness of life and witness to the gospel. They should be treated with caution and not encouraged among those who may wish to promote a commemoration.
Principles for Calendar Revision
The following traits will be found in those who are commemorated:
- Heroic faith, i.e. bearing witness with great generosity to Christ and the gospel. Historically, the primary model of heroic faith has been witness to the death, but the term may also include persistent risk-taking as well as a life in which other values are set aside for the sake of devotion and service. True heroic faith is healthy and life-affirming; it is not masochistic or suicidal.
- The fruit of the Spirit. We may expect those commemorated to have exhibited in an exemplary way the fruit of the Spirit to which Paul refers in Gal 5.22, ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’ Their lives may not have been perfect, but those who knew them should have been aware of this complex, but unified goal within them.
- Christian engagement. We may expect those who are commemorated to have participation actively in the life of the Christian community and to have contributed to its sense of mission and to its life and growth.
- Recognition by the Christian Community. The commemoration of holy people should have spontaneous roots and should grow from the testimony of those who knew them. The task of authority is to prevent the spread of inappropriate or misleading devotion, not to impose a commemoration which promotes a line of thought or boosts regional self-esteem. The larger church is not obliged to approve such recognition as local Christian communities may give to particular people; however, it should take them seriously.
There should exist within the church:
- Commitment to protecting Sundays as the weekly commemoration of the Lord, as well as the integrity of the great feasts and seasons (If a holy person died on Christmas Day, for instance, it may be appropriate to commemorate him/her on his/her birthday or on the date of some other significant event in his/her life.)
- Commitment to the commemoration of persons whose witness provides models for Christian life in the present context.
- A climate in the church that is hospitable to local commemorations.
- Recognition by bishops and other church leaders that they have a responsibility to review local commemorations and to encourage or discourage them as they appear (or do not appear) to foster devotion and holiness.
- Provision for dioceses to suggest the names of people remembered locally to an appropriate body of the Province for review (e.g., a Liturgical Commission or a sub-committee of a Liturgical Commission). In the case of the Anglican Church of Canada, Dioceses and Provinces may bring a motion for revision through appropriate avenues to the Faith, Worship and Ministry committee of General Synod, whose responsibilities as outlined below would guide the decisions of the General Synod in revising the Calendar.
- Provision for local (diocesan) educational tools to assist local discernment. Individuals or individual communities wishing to forward a cause for inclusion in the calendar, for example, would bring their request to their local diocesan structures for testing and decision before it is brought to a wider, national level. There may also exist local practices of remembrance that are judged to be appropriate locally without necessarily being of benefit to the whole Province. This is to be discerned locally.
- Provision for the appropriate national body (the Faith, Worship and Ministry committee) to test the acceptance of commemorations and memorials with a larger representation of the church.
- Support for the preparation and publication of accurate biographical material on those who are commemorated.
- A process within Faith, Worship and Ministry for the regular review of the BAS calendar that would include possibility of ‘retiring’ of names which no longer command significant attention.
- Provision for the General Synod to adopt names to be included in the BAS calendar, to assign them to a particular proper prayers and readings.
- A process for sharing calendar revision among the Provinces of the Communion. This to be done through the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, the Anglican Consultative Council and other, informal, ways of information sharing and partnership.