Anglican Church Bishops Lydia Mamakwa and Mark MacDonald and Reverend Kenina Winter performed a healing service during the Dec. 6 Cree service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Thunder Bay.
“It wasn’t in the plans to have the healing service as part of the communion service, but I saw a lot of people in wheelchairs and people that are here for medical reasons,” says Mamakwa, bishop for the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh. “I felt the call that we need to do this. We wanted to give them communion and they wanted prayers too.”
Mamakwa, MacDonald, national Indigenous bishop, and Winter laid hands on the people during the healing service. The Cree service featured hymns, readings and prayers in the Cree language. It was the fourth held in Thunder Bay.
“We hope the (Cree service) will continue and hope that it will expand,” Mamakwa says, noting a group of people in Thunder Bay are working on expanding ministry in the city. “We do need more people to help, and a coordinator on the ground to do the work. Hopefully we will have something in place all year round to deliver this kind of ministry in our language, even if it’s home visits to the sick people and the shut-ins and in the hospital too.”
Jason Beardy, a member of the Mamow committee, says the group is looking at the needs of community members from the northern communities who are living in Thunder Bay.
“Right now we are doing this on a volunteer basis,” Beardy says. “But if we are going to be expanding, it needs to be done through a coordinated effort. We may have to seek out some funding for a coordinator that can do this on a more stable basis.”
In addition to the Cree service, the Mamow committee also provided a feast after the service at Dennis Franklin Cromarty First Nations High School, where the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry Healing Gospel Jamboree was being held from Dec. 3-6.
“We fly in the northern ministers who come in to do the service if they are not already down here on other business,” Beardy says. “It’s just a lot of coordination in terms of gathering the donated food or if we have to go shopping for food. We have traditional food that is donated and brought down to us.”
WRN’s Bill Morris, a deacon with St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Sioux Lookout and one of the organizers of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry Healing Gospel Jamboree, says there were more people this year from the northern communities at the jamboree.
“I see people coming from Fort Severn, from Sachigo Lake, Bearskin Lake, Big Trout Lake, Muskrat Dam and also from Neskantaga and Summer Beaver,” Morris says. “The Cree, the Oji-Cree and the Ojibway are here.”
Former regional chief Stan Beardy attended the Cree service along with Jason Beardy, Morris and many other community members.
“First Nations people are very spiritual people,” Stan Beardy says. “Over the years many of us have different ways of expressing that spirituality. To hear the singing, the church service in our own language reconnects us to our home communities.”
Stan Beardy says many of the people in attendance at the Cree service are not in Thunder Bay by their own choice.
“They long to hear their own people in their own language to sing and to hear what they grew up with,” Stan Beardy says. “It’s nice to see so many Elders here that may not have had the opportunity to see each other over time.”
DFC vice principal Sharon Angeconeb enjoyed the Cree service.
“It brings back a lot of memories of a long time ago when we used to have these services up north,” Angeconeb says. “It’s really amazing the local talent, the singers, the musicians. The pianists didn’t have all the university training to play the music but yet they did an amazing job. I really enjoyed that, and it’s good fellowship too to see people from the north.”
Mamakwa says community members in Thunder Bay have been “very receptive” to the Cree service.
“There are a lot of Elders here that can’t go back home, so they really need this kind of service,” Mamakwa says. “Some of them don’t speak English (so) being able to hear this in their language brings very much needed comfort too.”
St. Paul’s Arch Deacon Deborah Kraft loves hosting the Cree service in her church.
“I find it very meaningful, I find it very beautiful,” Kraft says. “We regularly say prayers in Cree here on the Sunday morning, so this is something that just moves me and uplifts my heart. I’m just very thankful for the spiritual gifts of our First Nation brothers and sisters.”
Kraft says St. Paul’s perform the laying-on-of-hands prayer service every Sunday.
“Every single week, every communion service, we have either a deacon or a priest who goes in the chapel and anoints people and does prayers,” Kraft says.
The church is located at the corner of Ridgeway and McKellar Street on the south side of Thunder Bay.