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On a recent Saturday morning rural folk from several parishes in the Edmonton diocese and beyond, (in some cases physically separated by several hundred kilometres), came together virtually on Zoom to welcome the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada from her home in Ontario.

Archbishop Linda Nicholls shared her views on the opportunities and challenges of rural ministry in Canada during the June 5 gathering offered by the Rural Ministry Initiative.

Born in Calgary and raised in Alberta, Archbishop Nicholls has lived and served in rural and urban communities across Canada. Her first parish was a two-point charge in an agricultural and recreational area about 50 kms north of Toronto on the edge of Lake Simcoe. As suffragan bishop in the Toronto diocese, she served an episcopal area of suburban, commuter communities along Lake Ontario and the 401 Hwy, and agricultural small towns. As Bishop of Huron in southwestern Ontario she served an area with large agricultural swaths and many small, struggling, rural congregations. 

“We must seek to maintain an Anglican presence in rural communities because the Gospel is for everyone at the center of life, wherever that life is lived: in the rural parts of Canada, as much as in the center of cities. Those rural parts are essential for the wellbeing of the whole,” she said.

“The core of our faith is simple and clear. It is to be practiced anywhere, in every place, at any time. We are called to live our baptism in our context, our place. Whether we are in an apartment building in downtown Vancouver or Toronto, or in an isolated fishing village of Newfoundland, or on a grain farm in the middle of Saskatchewan, we are disciples first by virtue of our baptism… There is an imperative under our baptismal vows to respect the dignity of every human being, care for the land and love our neighbours.” 

Caring for the whole community, “simply because we are God’s children,” characterises small communities, said Archbishop Nicholls. “It is a wonderful gift to the rest of the world and, especially, urban centers where, frankly, most people don’t know their neighbours any longer,” she said.

“I have been so deeply aware in this time of COVID lockdowns, that my wellbeing is absolutely dependant on those willing to do the hard work to produce food; that it can be put on shelves in a grocery store or even delivered to the door. We need the people living and working in agriculture, growing our food, tending the livestock, and caring for the recreational areas and natural reserves for the common good. And, most importantly, we recognise the prior right of those who were here before us on the land: First Nation, Inuit and Metis peoples whose rights we are committed to protecting under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and in our commitment to reconciliation.”

You can watch Archbishop Nicholls' talk below.