Huron Church News exclusive interview with Linda Nicholls, our new Primate
By Rev. Canon Keith Nethery
What was your first reaction to the news you were elected Primate?
A sense of joy, because it has been humbling to be considered by your Church for this role, and at the same time a sense of relief that the uncertainties of the nomination process are over and that I know the task I have in front of me now.
What do you have to say to the Anglican Church of Canada?
I am humbled and honoured to be chosen as Primate for the Anglican Church of Canada. This Church has been my spiritual home since I was born and though other Christian communities have also nurtured and challenged my faith to grow it is my family in faith. Thank you for the opportunity to serve our family!
We are learning ways to listen; to explore theological questions and to practice. We are learning… We have much to share with others on this journey with us in the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners.
We have a unique opportunity to witness within the Anglican Communion to what it means to live together in faith. In a world of increasing polarization where differences become reasons to hate, we are a Church that gathers first around our call in Jesus Christ. We have differences – language, culture, race, sexual orientation, liturgical preferences, theological preferences – and we could divide on any or all of these. Yet, our beloved Church seeks a unity in God built on respect, dignity of every person, and the humility grounded in our need for each other as we each seek to be faithful to the Gospel and need to hear how God is speaking to each of us and to the whole Church. Despite the sometimes pain of our differences – we are family in Christ.
Over my years in ministry I have watched our Anglican family engage divisive issues and differences. We are learning ways to listen; to explore theological questions and to practice reconciliation. We are learning… We have much to share with others on this journey with us in the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners.
I look forward to deepening my knowledge of and care for every part of our beloved Church and seeing how God is being made known through our ministries. I also look forward to sharing with the wider Church how we, in Canada, live with our differences.
What do you want to say to the Diocese of Huron?
Thank you! Thank you for the privilege of serving as your diocesan bishop for almost three years. Thank you for your warmth in welcoming me into your midst and your patience as I learned your history and needs. Being elected Primate carries with it the pain of leaving a ministry I love in your midst. Thank you for welcoming the stranger, opening your hearts and ministries as together we have plunged further into the Five Marks of Mission. Huron will always have a special place in my heart as I watch the next steps in your journey.
Instantaneous global communication and migration means that we hear multiple expressions of the gospel all around us. The way forward is through building relationships grounded in our shared call in Christ.
What does this mean in your personal journey with Jesus?
The process of being nominated for Primate and awaiting the election has taken me deeper in prayer and into a new place in offering myself in ministry. I wrestled with personal choices alongside the needs of the diocese of Huron, alongside the needs of the wider Church and the possibility that I have gifts to offer. The vulnerability of the process has drawn me closer to Jesus and renewed my practice of Ignatian prayer, seeking that place of deep consolation and peace that is beyond any particular outcome. I am grateful for that renewal as it will be needed in the journey ahead.
Is this a church hopelessly divided or can you see a light of reconciliation?
I do not believe the Church is hopelessly divided. I am aware that each of us has received and sees the gospel through the particular ways in which it has been shared in our context. Instantaneous global communication and migration means that we hear multiple expressions of the gospel all around us. The way forward is through building relationships grounded in our shared call in Christ. My experiences in my D.Min. studies, in ecumenical dialogue, on the Primate’s Task Group and in the Bishops in Dialogue have shown me that we need a deeper humility to listen to one another; recognize the marks of the Spirit in the other; and joyfully worship and be at God’s table together. The fullness of reconciliation is in the future but the first steps are being practiced now and are bearing fruit. We have a unique opportunity to practice these steps of reconciliation in the Anglican Church of Canada as we are in such a journey with our Indigenous partners in the gospel and with others who have made Canada their home.
I bring a deep passion for our unity in Christ, not because we agree with one another, but because we are all seeking to be faithful in the face of our context, limitations and human frailty. That passion requires me to listen closely and carefully to all voices and to be open to learning from others. As a musician, my image of our Church is that of an orchestra of different voices each contributing in harmony to the creation of the music of the gospel with an Anglican flavour and accent.
What would you like to say to Fred Hiltz (besides help!!)?
My first words would be deep gratitude for his leadership and profoundly pastoral care and love for our Church – our whole Church – in all of its diversity. +Fred modelled for me and the Church the heart of a pastor; the wisdom of the Spirit; and the courage of Christ in his primatial ministry. My next words would be – “Enjoy the deserved rest and refreshment of retirement – but let me have your cell number on speed dial!!”
What are the most important characteristics you bring to this new role?
From my personal and ministry experiences I bring a deep passion for our unity in Christ, not because we agree with one another, but because we are all seeking to be faithful in the face of our context, limitations and human frailty. That passion requires me to listen closely and carefully to all voices and to be open to learning from others. As a musician, my image of our Church is that of an orchestra of different voices each contributing in harmony to the creation of the music of the gospel with an Anglican flavour and accent.
Reflect on what this means to you personally?
I am humbled by the confidence of the General Synod in electing me as Primate and aware of the weight of the office. I am aware that I enter this office as the first woman to hold it in Canada and know that this is another step in the awareness of the gifts that women bring to ordained ministry. There is a sacrificial nature to primatial ministry as it removes the bishop from the joys and challenges of directly working with clergy and laity in parishes in a particular area. Both Trent-Durham, Diocese of Toronto and the Diocese of Huron have allowed me to share in the exercise of episcopal ministry in ordinations, confirmations, baptisms, church dedications and in deconsecrations. I will miss that direct connection – even as I take new joy in seeing the ministries of parishes and dioceses across the country. It will mean likely more travelling – which is an aspect that I have yet to discuss with Bagheera (my cat!)!
Photos: Ven. Tanya Phibbs