Last updated May 7, 2021
People from across the Edmonton and Buyé dioceses, the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land, the Anglican churches of Canada, England and Southern Africa, the Evangelical Church in Canada, the City of Edmonton and beyond, took part in a livestreamed Service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for Bishop Jane Alexander, 10th Bishop of Edmonton, and her ministry.
Although a third wave of the COVID pandemic prevented a large gathering and reception (as one might expect for a beloved Bishop), a small congregation including members of Bishop Jane’s family, diocesan staff and archdeacons, assembled at the Cathedral while people from around the world participated in the service, held April 17, 2021, from their homes and on their mobile phones, with an outpouring of prayers and farewell messages. As of May 7, the service had been viewed more than 1,200 times on All Saints’ YouTube Channel.
The tribute was a reflection of Bishop Jane’s visionary leadership which has encouraged people of the Edmonton diocese to grow in faith and use their God-given gifts to help others to, in her own words, “grow to love and to trust the church; to see it as a safe and wonderful place where they can experience the presence and love of Christ in action.”
The service held on Treaty 6 Territory began with a moving Smudge Ceremony, led by the Ven. Travis Enright, Archdeacon for Indigenous inistry.
In her homily, the Very Rev. Alex Meek, Dean of Edmonton and Diocesan Administrator, said from the moment of Bishop Jane’s consecration on the Feast of Pentecost, in 2008, “she has loved deeply and proclaimed God’s love in word and action, not just within the bounds of the church walls, but to everyone we meet, knowing that God’s love was never meant for just a few, but always and forever, for everyone.”
The scripture passages: Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 104:24-35; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, read by the Ven. Jordan Haynie Ware, archdeacon for social justice and community connection, were chosen from Bishop Jane’s service of consecration and her 10th-anniversary service.
“These scriptures remind us that God’s love is not small and stale, but strong and full of life and truth,” said Meek. "Over the past 13 years, Bishop Jane has been reminding us of the love we have received from God and how that love is always meant to be shared with others. She has called us to be people who love our neighbours, and our neighbours' neighbours. To remember that the church exists always to be grown in love because the love of God continues to flow into this world and God continues to welcome us to be a part of God’s work."
Meek said Bishop Jane has celebrated with us when “we use our gifts to join in with the work of God as we see need and opportunity in our daily lives. And so today it is only right to be reminded of the gift that this leadership has been..."
The Gospel of John (7:37-39), proclaimed by the Rev. John Gee, All Saints’ Honorary Vocational Deacon and Diocesan Secretary-treasurer was, as Meek said, Jesus’ welcoming call to all who were thirsty to “come and to drink living waters; and the believers being taught they would be parts of this river, that they were being called to live lives that would flow with the living water of God, for the sake of all they would meet.”
Offering Prayers of Thanksgiving for Bishop Jane’s ministry, the Ven. Richard King, Archdeacon for Mission and Discipleship, said: “You (Bishop Jane) have faithfully led us into deeper relationship with God, and with our neighbours. Emphasing the importance of mission and discipleship, and the expansive love of God for all of God’s creation, you have called us to remember that God is not done with us yet.”
Following the Prayers of the People, led by Canon (lay) Barb Burrows, and the Holy Eucharist presided over by Meek, Bishop Jane gave The Blessing which was followed by her favourite hymn, “For All the Saints,” played by All Saints’ Organist and Music Director Jeremy Spurgeon.
At the conclusion of the service, the Ven. Lee Bezanson, Executive Archdeacon of the diocese, led a physically distanced reception which was also live-streamed for people taking part off-site.
“In 2008, the Edmonton diocese won the best lottery,” said Bezanson. “Not a hockey draft lottery (Connor McDavid was just 11 years old), but we won the lottery for life with the arrival of a woman with a vision, a woman with a desire to make that vision our shared story and our future.
“Bishop Jane passionately championed the causes of reconciling relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters; of advocating and working tirelessly as the co-chair of this city’s campaign to end homelessness and poverty,” said Bezanson. “She challenged us all to become more environmentally concerned and proactive in being better stewards of our Good earth. Bishop Jane's vision and pastoral influence were destined to reach beyond the geographical boundaries of this diocese when she initiated and nurtured a blossoming relationship with the Diocese of Buyé in Burundi in Central Africa.
“Bishop Jane exemplified her penchant for prophetic ministry as she took her place amongst the councils of both our National church and the Worldwide Anglican Communion,” he said. “She was known as a voice; that if it was not always heard or listened to, it was, nonetheless, a voice which would not be denied or ignored, and which always spoke the truth.”
Dean Alex Meek presented Bishop Jane with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine, announcing on behalf of members of the diocese that contributions to her farewell gift were (at the time of writing) $19,350 USD which will fund 19 community water spring improvement projects in the Diocese of Buyé.
Meek shared a letter from Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson who said “with certainty” his experience of co-chairing the End Poverty Edmonton Task Force alongside Bishop Jane, in 2014-15, “is one of the highlights of my time on City Council.
“Your service and leadership have always been defined not only by your work within the Anglican Church, but also your work in leading and convening faith communities on a wide variety of life and social justice issues,” said Iveson. “Edmonton's faith leaders have remained way ahead in their response to COVID-19 since the pandemic's early days due, in no small part, to your advocacy for community and congregations' well-being, health and safety. I am grateful to have gotten to work with you and learned from your leadership example.”
“God bless you, sister,” said the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, 9th Bishop of Edmonton, in her contribution to a video tribute that included a montage of pictures of Bishop Jane’s ministry and clergy waving good-bye, an “Ode to Bishop Jane,” written and performed by Dr. Alexandra (Sandra) Munn, accompanied on piano by Mary-Lou Cleveland; and messages from the Most Rev. Greg Kerr-Wilson, Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land; the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; the Rev. Larry Kochendorfer, Bishop of the Synod of Alberta and the Territories of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Bishop Jane’s dear friends Michael Harvey, founder of Back to Church Sunday and Director of Unlocking the Growth; and Fr. Michael Lapsley, SSM, the Edmonton diocese’s Honorary Canon for Healing and Reconciliation; sent friendly greetings from Manchester, UK, and Cape Town, South Africa. Bishop Jane and her grandchildren unwrapped a beautiful, framed picture of rural scenes presented by the Rev. Canon Chelsy Bouwman on behalf of the rural parishes of the diocese.
Bishop Jane’s husband, Dr. Tim Alexander, said her ministry “has been exciting since the moment she was ordained as a deacon. She would end her sermons with a call to quiet reflection, and then, just in case that felt too comfortable, a call to get out of your pew and act - right now, today and always. If, on a personal level, or in your community, or in the wider world, you see something isn’t right, go out and help fix it.
“You have led us well in difficult times, always towards where we should be,” he said. “You have made me, your family and all who have truly known you, proud of you. For your faith, leadership and determination…we thank God for all you have achieved.”
Bishop Jane leaves her ministry as Bishop of Edmonton with “many memories and celebrations of what we have done together and in a spirit of great thanksgiving. Confirmations, ordinations, baptisms, parish celebrations, synods, a centennial, TRC hearings, conferences, blanket exercises, learning circles - there is simply too much to mention. I am so sad that we cannot be together in person, but please know that you will always have my love, support and prayers.
“When I look back, it is the day-to-day growth of folk as disciples that has been the most exciting thing to see. Worship services, absolutely! But also messy churches, VBS programs, food programs and food banks, TYP TOP bakery, chaplaincies, the ACW, Cursillo, community gardens, Common Ground and A Common Word. It’s End Poverty Edmonton, camps, intentional communities - so many ways in which we have all been finding our voice and our ministry as followers of Jesus: women and men, and boys and girls all finding ways to serve, ways to show their faith, ways to love.
“Because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? There is an African proverb that goes like this: ‘You can’t pick up a pebble with one finger.’ You can’t build a church with one person, either. Anything we have done, we have done together and if anyone is to be singled out – well, it’s Jesus.
“To the clergy, lay readers, lay evangelists, hospital visitors, pastoral care teams, Sunday school and youth leaders, and to every single one of you in parishes across this diocese trying to become ever more like Jesus - Thank You.
“And to my family: Tim, Mark, Sarah, Rachel, Peter, Amanda, Ryan, Graham, Jennifer, Olivia, Zoey, Ben, Jackson, Liam and Molly. To my sister Anne. Thank you for loving me through this ministry. For being so understanding of all the times I had to be away, or rush off at the drop of a hat (a pointy hat!) to be doing other things. For sharing in all the joys and concerns of episcopal ministry - Thank You, I love you to bits!”
While serving as a seminarian in the West Coast First Nations’ village of Kingcombe Inlet, Bezanson said he learned there is no word for goodbye in the Kwakiutl language. Rather, the preferred and customary word is “Alakazla," meaning "until we meet again."
“Alakazla, Bishop Jane Alexander. Until we meet again! And, thank you.”