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Primate Fred Hiltz celebrates parish’s 125th anniversary

Primate Fred Hiltz

By Martha Holmen

Primate Fred Hiltz
Archbishop Fred Hiltz preaches on Easter morning at St. Martin in-the-Fields. Photos by Michael Hudson.

St. Martin in-the-Fields, Toronto, welcomed a special guest for Holy Week as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, accepted an invitation to join the parish from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

The anniversary celebrations, which began in Advent, have included a visit by Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones and the launch of a book about the parish’s history.

Archbishop Hiltz says he is grateful for the opportunity to spend an entire week in the parish. “It is so nice for a bishop to be able to be in one place, with one parish family, for the whole week,” he says. “I’ve spent many Holy Weeks in a different place every night of the week, so it’s a real joy to be able to walk the liturgies, from the glory of the palms to the glory of the resurrection, with a community.”

The Rev. Canon Philip Hobson, OGS, incumbent of St. Martin in-the-Fields, says that spending the week with the Primate was a powerful experience. “I was thinking all this week of those fellow Anglicans and Christians across the country, and that sense of us walking together with Christ on the journey,” he says. “It was a tremendous delight to have him here.”

Children and youth at St. Martin in-the-Fields
Archbishop Hiltz greets some of the parish’s children and youth.

As Primate, Archbishop Hiltz has spent past Holy Weeks in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary and London, Ontario.

“I’ve always loved Holy Week,” he says. “These liturgies are very dramatic, and they really help us get a sense of what it is that we’re celebrating in that journey. It’s a journey of the soul. As we remember our Lord’s journey, it becomes in fact our own journey.”

During his week at St. Martin in-the-Fields, Archbishop Hiltz participated in a variety of services. He celebrated the Eucharist on Palm Sunday and at the Easter Vigil, led the Stations of the Cross, concelebrated with five other clergy on Maundy Thursday, and preached on Good Friday and Easter morning.

While he says he loves the drama of each Holy Week service, Archbishop Hiltz was particularly moved by the meditation on the cross during the Good Friday service. “As the people came forward to kneel before the cross, all you could hear was feet. That’s all you could hear in the church, not another sound, just feet making their way to the cross. That was quite powerful for me,” he says.

Fred Hiltz looks through a history of St. Martin in-the-Fields.
Archbishop Hiltz looks through a book on the history of St. Martin in-the-Fields, written for its 125th anniversary.

In addition to participating in the liturgies of Holy Week, Archbishop Hiltz says he also appreciated the opportunity to connect with parishioners. “You feel drawn into the community, you feel drawn into its life of prayer, and you feel drawn into the devotion of this community to Christ,” he says.

Members of the parish community were struck by the Primate’s friendly presence throughout the week. “He’s quietly calm, very gracious and makes it extremely easy to talk to him,” says Lynn McKnight, who served alongside Archbishop Hiltz during several liturgies. “He is very engaged in whatever everyone has to say. That’s amazing.”

St. Martin in-the-Fields will continue its anniversary celebrations with visits from Archbishop Colin Johnson and Bishop Philip Poole, a community fun fair in June and a special patronal festival in November to wrap up the year.