By Martha Holmen
“I’ve never been deeper in my faith. I’ve never been happier in my faith. I’ve never been more challenged by my faith.” So Michael Coren described himself at the 56th annual Bishop’s Company Dinner, held May 18 in downtown Toronto.
Mr. Coren was the keynote speaker at the event, held each year to raise funds to help clergy and their families in need and to provide scholarships for theological students. An often-controversial figure in the Canadian media landscape, once known for his conservative Roman Catholic views, Mr. Coren started quietly attending Anglican services several years ago. He was formally received into the Anglican Communion at St. James Cathedral in April 2015.
“It was very difficult to somehow build a new identity. And I didn’t want to build a new identity; I just wanted to move very gradually and slowly into a new way of being in relationship with Christ Jesus,” he said. “I didn’t feel particularly different. I still had a sacramental theology. But it all seemed to become very clear and rather beautiful, and I felt my faith deepen.”
Mr. Coren shared the story of his lifelong faith journey in a deeply personal and often funny reflection, including several moving stories about his own life, relationships and understanding of Christianity. “I believe that no one will get close to what Jesus wanted, but that we can all, and we all must, try to do so. And for me, I can do that miserably but at my best as an Anglican,” he said.
Of the Anglican Church, he added, “It’s not flawed because of it’s diversity; it’s strengthened because of its diversity. And it’s not broken by its debate; it’s increased by its debate. For all these reasons and so many others, that is why I am, and am so happy to be, an Anglican.”
At the beginning of the evening, the Rev. Chris Harper, the diocese’s Indigenous Native Priest, acknowledged the Indigenous territory on which the guests were gathered. Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, which had hosted the pre-dinner reception for many years, was thanked for its hospitality and honoured with a video celebrating its recent efforts to welcome refugees to Canada. The Rev. Megan Jull, associate priest at Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., shared the story of how the Bishop’s Company provided financial support to help meet the educational needs of her son.
Just before dinner, Archbishop Colin Johnson paid tribute to Archbishop Terence Finlay, 10th bishop of Toronto, who died in March after a brief illness. To honour his memory, Archbishop Johnson and Canon Alice Jean (AJ) Finlay then presented a special gift of $10,000 from the Bishop’s Company to the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario for its new station in the Port of Oshawa. The station will be named after Archbishop Finlay, who served as episcopal visitor to the Mission to Seafarers in Canada after he retired.
For the first time in its 56-year history, the dinner was sponsored by a parish of the diocese. In thanksgiving for the service and election of Bishop Kevin Robertson, its former incumbent, Christ Church, Deer Park was the presenting sponsor, with 50 of its members in attendance.
As in previous years, scholarship recipients were announced at the dinner. Orvin Lao and the Rev. Michael Shapcott received the Terence and Alice Jean Finlay Bursary, which is given to two students, one each from Trinity and Wycliffe colleges, engaged in studies that celebrate and enhance the understanding of the diversity of the church. Jennifer King Feheley was awarded the Kirubai Scholarship, given to a Trinity College divinity student who is specializing in liturgy and worship. Matt Groot and Shelley Pollard received the William Kay Bursary, which aids students who are engaged in theological education that will lead to ordination. The Rev. Theadore Hunt and The Rev. Jeffrey Metcalfe received the George & Eileen Carey Bursary, awarded to Anglicans pursuing post-graduate theological studies.