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Bishop’s Company Dinner attracts largest crowd ever

By Stuart Mann

It was a startling sight that greeted guests at the Bishop’s Company Dinner: a large police horse standing outside Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, a purple sash tied around his body and a replica of a bishop’s mitre perched on his back.

But he wasn’t entirely out of place. The friendly animal and the mitre were a living representation of the Bishop’s Company logo, which features a horse and mitre. Guests patted the large horse as they filed into Holy Trinity and he lowered his head obligingly as they ruffled his forehead.

It was a special moment on a special night, the 50th anniversary of the Bishop’s Company Dinner, one of the highlights of the diocese’s social calendar. The annual fundraiser, held on May 9, had its largest crowd ever – 542 people – and raised $110,000 to support clergy and their families in need and other causes identified by Archbishop Colin Johnson. “It’s a great night and a great opportunity for the laity and clergy to get together with the bishops to have a good time,” said Archbishop Johnson.

The night began with a reception at Holy Trinity, where guests enjoyed refreshments and listened to the swinging sound of Bob De Angelis and the Dixieland Band, which has played for prime ministers, U.S. presidents and members of the Royal Family. Then guests made their way over to the nearby Toronto Marriott, Eaton Centre hotel, where they enjoyed a delicious meal of salmon or beef sirloin and bid in a silent auction on items such as a private box at a Blue Jays game, Chinese carvings and a weekend getaway for two at the Briars.

A short video before dinner showed Archbishop Johnson, Archbishop Terence Finlay, the Rev. Canon Cheryl Palmer and Ken Hugessen, chair of the Bishop’s Company, talking about the work of the group, which started in 1961 and has grown to about 100 members. In addition to helping clergy and their families, the Bishop’s Company has provided seed money for a wide variety of initiatives in recent years, including the diocese’s curacy program, the Employee Assistance Program, and ministry to Toronto’s aboriginal community.

The keynote speaker for the evening was the Most Rev. Paul Kwong, Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong. “We are a small and a new province, so we look to other provinces in the Anglican Communion which can inspire and guide us in our ministry and mission,” he said. “The Anglican Church of Canada, in particular the Diocese of Toronto, is prominent amongst those which have helped and to which we look.”

He said his diocese “cleaves closely” to Anglicanism’s five marks of mission and “punches above its weight” in many of those areas, especially social justice and education. In an interview afterwards, he described the church in Hong Kong and the Diocese of Toronto as “old friends” who can learn from each other, particularly in the area of mission. “Mission matters,” he said. “We have to ask constantly: how can an Anglican church be a true and relative church to the community in which we are called to serve?”

He said it is important for people in different dioceses to get to know each other. “First and foremost, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, because in Christ there is no East and West. The world is getting smaller and none of the dioceses can exist independently. We have to engage in dialogue and try to learn from each other.”

As at previous dinners, scholarship recipients were announced at the dinner. Natasha Klukach received the George & Eileen Carey Bursary, awarded to Anglicans pursuing post-graduate theological studies. Annie Napartuk received the Terence & Alice Jean Finlay Award, 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. Jonathan Lofft was awarded the Kirubai Scholarship, given to Trinity College divinity student who is specializing in liturgy and worship. Finally, Jesse Parker and Carol Friesen received the William Kay Bursary, which aids students who are engaged in theological education that will lead to ordination.

Mr. Hugessen gave a special thanks to Archbishop Terence Finlay and the Rev. Canon Prue Chambers, co-chairs of the dinner. They received a heartfelt round of applause.

For photos of the Bishop’s Company Dinner, see the Diocese’s Facebook page.