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 Have you even noticed that Saint Paul in his letters often addresses the saints of a particular place; e.g. Ephesus or Colosse or writes to those “who are called to be saints”…e.g. in Corinth.  Now, I believe that the first canonized or official catholic saint was St. Ulrich of Augsburg in 993, so clearly St. Paul wasn’t referring to that kind of saint when he wrote his letters.

There are big ‘S’ saints and little ‘s’ saints, big S saints are those with the ST before their names and who have been through the official process.  The most recent of which was canonized this past April, St. Margaret of Castello and the most modern of which is potentially Carlo Acutis an Italian teen who died in 2006, who has already been called the ‘patron saint of the internet’. St. Paul wrote to the small ‘s’ saints.

Those who received and listened to his correspondence in faith, and with the honest intention of living a life in imitation of Christ. On the Feast of All Saints we celebrate all saints, big ‘s’ and small, and we have for a long time.  All Saints has been celebrated since the 4th century, officially on Nov. 1. 

It is a part of a rarely celebrated three day event featuring All Hollow’s or All Saints Eve on Oct 31, All Hollow’s or All Saints Day on Nov 1 and then All Souls Day on the Nov 2. On All Hollow’s eve good and God fearing folk would remain in vigil for All Hollow’s Day, All Saint’s Day .  They would fast and they would pray… in England it also became customary for poor people to go door to door and ask for a soul cake… like a shortbread… in return for praying for the households’ saints.   

The idea is to celebrate or commemorate the various Christians who have showed extraordinary love for Christ, and in whom the Holy Spirit has acted.  So that they have showed exemplary aid to the needy, justice to the oppressed, hope to the sorrowful and forgiveness to sinners. We, as the Anglican church, also believe that the saints continue to partner with us as fellow servants of God, praying with us, serving with us, supporting us as members of the body of Christ and as part of the great cloud of witnesses. 

It is important to recall though, that the saints we celebrate are not all dead.  St Paul referred to the churches alive and active in his time as ‘saints’, making it quite clear that saintliness is not reserved for martyrs and the glorious dead.   Rather all those serving God in exemplary manner, even here and now.

So, I thought today we might hear about some of the saints now living who are a part of this cloud of witness.  Just as commemorating the saints is a concept unfamiliar to some Anglicans, so too, do many Anglicans remain unaware that the Anglican Church of Canada has at least, three monastic orders active in Canada today.  Men and Women, Nuns and Monks that are living out a unique call in Christ’s Church.

The most active is a women’s monastic community in Toronto, with a sister house in Vancouver.  This group of women is called the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine and it is very active in the Anglican Church. The community known as SSJD began in 1884 and follow a rule of poverty, chastity and obedience. 

There is a strong focus of prayer in the SSJD where they observe both communal and private prayer on a regular schedule. SSJD is considered a center of spirituality, prayer, worship and music and is expanding in it’s ministry.  Their hospitality and prayer is well known and they host a variety of retreats and workshops, they teach and guide others as professors and spiritual councillors. The community life of the Sisterhood of St John the Divine is also strong and growing. 

The residential community itself has over a dozen nuns and the community of associates (that is those who follow the principles of SSJD, but are not nuns in residence) and those in training number over 900 persons. Additionally, there are opportunities to live out your faith communally and prayerfully as a ‘companion’. 

For one year at a time up to half a dozen women in their 20s and 30s join the residential community in work, study and prayer.  The companions live in the monastery engaging in prayer, bible reading and reflection as well as work, through education or community service.  The community has been active and has been continuing this year online with applications from many young women to join the community for a year of walking with the living saints.

Closer to home, the Anglican Church commemorates Rev. Henry Budd, the first Indigenous person ordained in the Anglican Church.  He was from Norway House and his name was Sa-ka-cewes-can, but it was changed to Henry Budd when he was baptized in 1822.  Henry Budd was a teacher, a catechist and had an education in theology often assisting Rev. John West and Bishop David Anderson, but it wasn’t until his 40’s that he was finally ordained and served the church and people in The Pas. 

His dedication and faith served as an example to many people throughout his life and after, even today there are theological schools named after him.

Beyond that, there are many people we each know, often in the background, sometimes in the spotlight, who give those who meet them a dazzling example of faith in action.  Those people at St. Andrew’s who, when they say “I’ll pray for you” mean it and you feel it! Those who work tirelessly to care for the hungry, the aging parent, those who offer council and a patient listening ear.  Those who worked so hard in these past difficult years to keep St. Andrew’s going, those who kept coming in prayer and in hope.

These are the saints in our midst, these are they who by word and example show the face of God walking among us.  Those who are obvious by the robe and habit they wear, and those saints in street clothes who are together with us. 

That is why we celebrate All Saints, that is why we remember.  This is what it is to be church, to walk together as living saints…those we recognize and those who walk unknown alongside us.  We may not be monks or nuns, but we like them, are people living in community.  The immediate community of St. Andrew’s, but also the wider communities of Winnipeg and Canada. 

The community that is the body of Christ and contains all the saints living and eternal…The official saint’s with a capital S, the nuns of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, the Indigenous Christians both saints and martyrs, and all those we sit beside in the pews.

During the Feast of All Saints we look to the saints as examples of how to live a better life with Christ, but we don’t need to look exclusively at those saints who are canonized and officially listed… we can also simply look around us. Today is the Feast of All Saints…every single one.  We, the saints here at St. Andrew’s are called to be inspired by those named and the many, many more who help us to live up to what we are called to be…saints in the church.  You, me…each and every day. Amen.