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Online fundraising campaign launched as fire destroys First Nation church in Canada

Posted on: May 1, 2018 10:12 AM
Fire destroys St John’s Anglican Church in Shamattawa First Nation, Manitoba
Photo Credit: All photos: Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Related Categories: ain, Canada, Church Building, fire, indigenous, Manitoba

[Anglican Journal, by Tali Folkins] At least one diocese has begun raising funds to support a northern Manitoba parish whose church burned to the ground last month. St John’s Anglican Church in Shamattawa First Nation, Manitoba, was destroyed in a fire caused by a malfunctioning furnace on 18 April. No one was hurt, but the church’s priest, the Revd Mary Ann Miles, said in an interview with the Anglican Journal that all the church property was lost in the fire – the building and everything in it, from church records to vestments and other items. “It’s very difficult right now, because I don’t have a church. I lost everything in the fire,” she said.

Since the incident, the 30-member congregation has been worshipping at another Christian church in the community, which has offered to share its space with them, she said. But parishioners were attached to their old church, and they hope to rebuild it. “Our community is devastated, but ready to rebuild from the ashes,” Miles wrote on a GoFundMe Internet fundraising page. “We need to raise money to purchase the building materials to be shipped in on the winter road next winter. Then it can be rebuilt the following summer.”

It’s too early to say how much it will cost to rebuild the church, Miles said. An insurance investigation is underway. Today (Tuesday), the GoFundMe campaign had raised $250 [CAD, approximately £142 GBP] of its $50,000 target.

The Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh is helping with fundraising, she said. Meanwhile, people from nearby communities, as well as Anglicans and members of other denominations from as far away as the US have been contacting her and offering to help, Miles said.

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On Thursday, 26 April, John Watton, the Bishop of Central Newfoundland, announced through Twitter that the diocese was planning to help replace some of the items lost in the fire. In the days after the blaze, Watton said, a number of people from different parishes in his diocese emailed him, wondering if they could help. He contacted Lydia Mamakwa, bishop of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, to which St John’s church belongs, to let her know the diocese was praying for them and to ask how they could assist. Mamakwa, he said, told him the parish was in urgent need of Bibles, prayer books, a chalice and a paten – as well as prayers.

The diocese, he said, would provide the chalice and paten, and is inviting its parishioners to make donations for the purchase of about 30 new Bibles and prayer books. “We just want them to let them know that we care about them, and that’s one way to do it,” Watton said.

Watton said he had no doubt enough funds would be raised to do that within a few days. Any excess money, he said, would be forwarded on to the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh to help the parish recover.