St. Francis Anglican Church packed for ordination of new minister

Members of the Anglican clergy gather with Bishop Thomas A. Corston for a photograph with newly ordained Anglican priest Aiden Armstrong. Reverend Armstrong (centre standing to the right of the bishop) in front of the stately stone St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church in Mindemoya. photo by Michael Erskine

MINDEMOYA—St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church was filled to overflowing on Friday, July 22 as the Right Reverend Thomas A. Corston, retired bishop of Moosonee, presided over the ordination of the Reverend Aiden Armstrong.

The ordination, which took place on the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, was due to be presided over by the Bishop of Algoma, the Right Reverend Dr. Stephen Andrews, but a family emergency called the bishop away.

“It was a great day, a celebratory occasion,” said Rev. Armstrong, who has been associated with the Diocese of Algoma for three years and who, as a deacon, has been serving the parish of Birch Island in McGregor Bay, which he described as “a great kickstart to serving the five parishes on Manitoulin (Little Current, Mindemoya, Gore Bay, Kagawong and Manitowaning).”

The preacher for the ordination was the Reverend Joan Locke, who admonished the newly elevated priest to resist those who would place him on a pedestal in his work as a minister. “This is the only time that I would feel comfortable offering advice,” said Rev. Locke, who began her sermon by quoting the shortest sermon on record given in the sweltering heat by a preacher in the deep south. “She climbed slowly up the steps to the pulpit, looked out over the congregation and pronounced ‘it’s hot in here, hell’s hotter, don’t go there’ and climbed back down.”

Reverend Locke was undaunted by the heat outside and the venerable stone walls of St. Francis kept the inside remarkably cool despite the midsummer sun outside and the pews filled with the faithful.

Reverend Locke said that she was delighted to have an opportunity to preach in the parish where she was baptised as a child. “The Manitowaning mission was my father’s first mission,” she said.

While the tone and mood of the ceremony was upbeat, there was deep solemnity in the proceedings as the congregation followed the lead of the bishop as he presented the candidate for ordination.

“Good people, this is he whom we purpose, God willing, to receive this day unto the holy office of priesthood, for after due examination we find not to the contrary, but that he be lawfully called to his function and ministry and that he be a person meet for the same. But yet if there be any of you who knoweth any impediment or notable crime in him, for the which he ought not to be received into these holy ministries; let him come forth in the name of God and show what the crime or impediment is,” intoned the bishop. There were no challenges issued.

Reverend Armstrong’s fiancé, Sarah Jackson, was not only present at the ceremony and one of those who officially presented him before the bishop, but also read the epistle, the seventh verse of the fourth chapter of the letter of Paul to the Ephesians.

Reverend Armstrong, who originally hails from the London, Ontario region, has been well prepared for his role as a priest, having studied for his undergraduate degree at Western, followed up with his graduate studies at Wycliffe College, a theological school federated with the University of Toronto and affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada and is Low Church (evangelical and Protestant) in orientation.

Reverend Armstrong said that he felt the call to ministry during his undergraduate studies. “I felt the call while studying theology during my undergraduate years,” he said.

He has three siblings, two brothers and a sister, who he described as being “very supportive” of his decision to join the priesthood.

Reverend Armstrong will be taking up his duties at the Manitoulin parishes in September, but in the meantime there is no rest for the ordained. “I will be right back in it in McGregor Bay,” he laughed. A large contingent of the Anglican church members from Birch Island were in attendance at the ceremonies.