By Stuart Mann
It’s not often that a hush falls over the Bishop’s Company Dinner, but that’s what happened on April 30 as the Rev. Tim Haughton and his wife Laurie spoke about how the Bishop’s Company helped their son learn to speak and say “I love you” to them for the first time.
Mr. Haughton, the incumbent of Trinity East (Little Trinity), Toronto, and Laurie told a hushed crowd of 542 people how their son Joshua, 5, was born with a heart defect and wasn’t expected to live. He has had three open heart surgeries and is scheduled for another this summer.
When Joshua was an infant, he suffered a massive stroke that damaged his brain and impaired his ability to speak. As he grew older, his parents were unable to pay for the costly therapies needed to give him a chance at a normal life.
They enrolled Joshua in a special centre for kids with developmental disabilities but were unable to pay the $400 monthly fee. “They were holding a spot for us but we couldn’t afford it,” said Laurie in an interview after the dinner. “We just prayed that something would happen.”
Seemingly out of the blue, Archbishop Colin Johnson contacted them and offered to pay the tuition with funds raised by the Bishop’s Company, which raises money for special causes identified by the Archbishop. It gives financial aid to clergy and their families facing unexpected expenses. It also provides grants to theological students.
Archbishop Johnson and the Bishop’s Company stepped in again last summer when Joshua needed private intensive language therapy. “I’d spent four and a half years trying to get him this therapy and I was feeling hopeless,” recalls Laurie. “When Tim came home and told me the Archbishop had called, I couldn’t believe it.”
The therapy helped Joshua speak in sentences and say “I love you” to his mom and dad for the first time. “The first time he said it, it was the most amazing and intense feeling in the world,” said Laurie. “I knew he felt it, but to hear him actually say it—it was incredible.”
She said she wasn’t even aware of what the Bishop’s Company did until Archbishop Johnson contacted them. “Both times, I cried. I was in shock. It literally changed Joshua’s life. There’s no way to say what this has meant to us.”
After the Haughton’s story, the dinner guests listened to an address by Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space. Dr. Bondar, who is an Anglican, spoke about her upbringing in Sault Ste. Marie and how her parents nurtured her curiosity about the world around her. She described her flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1992 and her work since then, including the creation of the Roberta Bondar Foundation, which helps cultivate a sense of awe, respect and appreciation for other life forms on Earth.
The dinner was held at the Toronto Marriott hotel in downtown Toronto, with a reception at nearby Holy Trinity, Trinity Square. The dinner set a record for the largest attendance in the event’s history. It raised $75,000.
Archbishop Johnson, who was leaving that night with his wife Ellen to attend a conference in South Africa, thanked the crowd for its support. “There are so many good things going on in your parishes, and I thank you for that work. The church is alive and well, and we’re celebrating that tonight.”
In his last official public function before he retired, Bishop George Elliott sang the blessing at the end of the evening. April 30 was his last day as area bishop of York-Simcoe.
As in previous years, scholarship recipients were announced at the dinner. Joan Wilson and Kevin Wong received the Terence and Alice Jean Finlay Bursary, which is given to two students, one each from Trinity and Wycliffe colleges, who are engaged in studies that celebrate and enhance the understanding of the diversity of the church. Jane Winstanley was awarded the Kirubai Scholarship, given to a Trinity College divinity student who is specializing in liturgy and worship. Graham McCaffrey and Joan Wilson received the William Kay Bursary, which aids students who are engaged in theological education that will lead to ordination. Alana McCord and David Ney received the George & Eileen Carey Bursary, awarded to Anglicans pursuing post-graduate theological studies.
For more information, see the Bishop’s Company.