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Military chaplains honoured at Bishop’s Company Dinner

Bishop Peter Coffin speaks at the Bishop's Company Dinner. Photo by Michael Hudson
By Stuart Mann

Bishop Peter Coffin, the keynote speaker at the Bishop’s Company Dinner on May 7, reminded Anglicans that the Diocese of Toronto has closer links to the Canadian Forces, including its military chaplains, than many people think.

The famed Highway of Heroes, which runs from Trenton to Toronto, cuts through a vast stretch of the diocese. In addition to the many service men and women who are from towns and cities in the diocese, there are nine Anglican chaplains from the diocese serving in the Canadian Forces.

“Our Forces are asked to go to dark places and see dark things,” said Bishop Coffin, who, as the Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces, is the chief pastor to Anglicans in the military. He said Anglican chaplains have ministered to soldiers and their families in Canada for hundreds of years and will continue to do so, no matter how trying the circumstances. He quoted from John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

He spoke about the work Anglican military chaplains have done since the earliest days of Canada, beginning with the exploration of the Arctic more than 400 years ago and carrying on through the War of 1812, two world wars and Afghanistan. There are currently 350 chaplains in the Canadian Forces, of which 85 are Anglican, he said.

“The men and women of the Canadian Forces have held the torch for many years,” he said, adding that their families have endured great stress while they are away on duty. “There will always be a call for us to engage in acts of compassion.”

Bishop Coffin and members of the Canadian Forces in attendance received a standing ovation from the 468 people at the dinner. The annual fundraising dinner raised $138,000 to support clergy and their families in need and other causes identified by Archbishop Colin Johnson. In addition, some of the money raised in the diocese’s Our Faith-Our Hope campaign will be given to the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada.

The evening began with a reception at Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, then guests made their way over to the nearby Toronto Marriott, Eaton Centre hotel, where they enjoyed a salmon dinner and bid on items in a silent auction.

“Tonight is a time to celebrate the life and witness of the church as it proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop Johnson in his opening remarks. He spoke about the success of the Our Faith-Our Hope campaign, and said that the diocese is known across the Anglican Communion for its innovation. “There’s a real energy in the life of the church today. We come tonight with Good News because our God is a God of abundance.”

As in previous years, scholarship recipients were announced at the dinner. Robert Walker and Tracy Yip 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. Andrew MacDonald was awarded the Kirubai Scholarship, given to a Trinity College divinity student who is specializing in liturgy and worship. Megan Jull and Mark Regis received the William Kay Bursary, which aids students who are engaged in theological education that will lead to ordination. The Rev. Dr. Richard Gautheir and Yanling Meng received the George & Eileen Carey Bursary, awarded to Anglicans pursuing post-graduate theological studies.

More photos from the dinner on the diocese’s Facebook page.