On February 17th 2008 St. Hilda’s Anglican Church, Oakville held a vestry meeting to consider a proposal to join the Anglican Network in Canada. The vote was unanimously in favour with 1 abstention. A lot has happened since then and I thought it might be interesting to chronicle the story so far.
Immediately after the vote our pastor, Paul Charbonneau, was suspended with pay and was inhibited from ministering in the Anglican Church of Canada; shortly after, he was fired. The diocese relieved the wardens of their duties, installed a parish administrator working on behalf of the diocese and froze St. Hilda’s bank account. They attempted to take St. Hilda’s to court on Friday February 29th – clearly this move was prepared ahead of time – but, through the efforts of our legal team we were given a week of grace.
We circulated the details of our plight to all the Oakville Anglican churches in the hope of mustering some support; there were few responses, but this one from Dan Tatarnic, Assistant Curate, St. Christopher’s Church, Burlington is representative: “Dan Tatarnic here, keep your opinion to yourself, it is not worth two cents.”. Thanks Dan.
On Sunday February 24th, the diocese held a service in St. Hilda’s building as a political statement; outsiders were invited to attend to swell the numbers which would otherwise have been close to zero. The resultant travesty is chronicled here. After this, we had our usual service . As a particularly pastorally sensitive gesture, the priest in charge for the diocesan service inflicted this on his unsuspecting victims.
On February 29th, the court ruling was that St. Hilda’s was to be given exclusive use of its building – temporarily.
On March 20th We were back in court – this time with a different judge – and the ruling handed down on May the 5th was that St. Hilda’s and the diocese had to share the building; the diocese was given a time slot on Sundays that made it impossible for St. Hilda’s to worship in the building. We decided to conduct our Sunday worship at a local school; the first Sunday at the school was Pentecost 2008, a date that symbolised a new beginning. The diocesan service had a disappointing turnout: here is the parking lot. And here are some pictures from the real St. Hilda’s.
Since then, the diocesan service each Sunday has had no-one attending its service other than the priest, his wife and the person who sets up the altar. In an abundance of trivial irritations, it is hard to choose one to represent them all, nevertheless: the ‘priest in charge’ at St. Hilda’s (the diocesan euphemism for ‘stooge’), Brian Ruttan asked us to return the communion vessels and linen – much of which was donated or handmade by parishioners – so that he could use them for his congregation of zero. We returned them and are using plain replacements; interestingly enough, the plain replacements have acquired a special value.
In a spirit of reconciliation and to reduce court costs, St. Hilda’s has approached the diocese to settle the dispute outside the courts with an arbitrator; this has been rebuffed by the diocese who want things to be settled by the courts ‘in public’.
As of this writing (September 2008), the diocese is still holding empty services in St. Hilda’s building each Sunday and still refusing to negotiate. Which brings us to the question of why does each side of this issue want the building? St. Hilda’s wants it for ministry, including:
- Food Drive: Food for Life Canada, together with Kerr Street Market and St. Hilda’s Church, run an outreach program for people in need in the Hopedale area.
- “Cloz for Moz” Project: An outreach to Mozambique which delivered crates of nearly new clothes and blankets to this area of need in Africa
- Garage Sale “Giveaway”: We have a community Garage Sale, but the items are Free! An illustration of God’s love for us.
- Free Car Wash: We offer free car washes to passers by as an illustration of the love of Jesus.
- Power and Light: A junior youth group where kids from the church and community meet Friday evenings for Fun and Games!
- Freebie Friday: Freebie Friday is a drop-in for the students of Blakelock High School, which is located just a few doors away. Each Friday during the school year, St. Hilda’s Parish Hall is open from 11:00 am – 1:30 pm for the students to drop by during their lunch hour to have lunch, play games, talk to a volunteer or to go into the church to pray. We usually get more than 100 kids.
- Artists for Africa: A fund raiser by St. Hilda’s artists to help alleviate poverty in Africa.
- Alpha: Members of the community are invited to find out more about Christianity
- Marriage Alpha: A marriage course open to members of the community.
Why does the Diocese of Niagara want it? Because the land it sits on is worth around a couple of million dollars.