It was cold and rainy outside, but the atmosphere inside St. Thomas, Brooklin on Nov. 18 was warm and friendly as the church hosted the Trent-Durham Bishop’s Company Dinner, attended by about 150 people from across the episcopal area. The guest speaker was Christine Elliott, former MPP for Oshawa-Whitby and a life-long member of All Saints, Whitby.
Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones, a retired area bishop of the diocese who lives in Newcastle, brought greetings from Bishop Linda Nicholls, who was unable to attend the fundraising event. ““It’s time to celebrate the bonds of friendship, forged throughout our shared life of Christ within our Anglican parishes here and across the sea, and to make new friends across the table,” he said, reading a message from Bishop Nicholls.
He greeted many in the crowd, including Bishop Douglas Blackwell and his wife Sandra, and members of Trinity College School in Port Hope, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
He welcomed Ms. Elliott, saying that Anglicans are proud when “one of their own” takes on extraordinary leadership roles. “Anglicans have done this since the beginning of our province, and Christine has modelled that in our time,” he said.
Ms. Elliott said she entered public life in 2006 to advocate for the rights of vulnerable people and their families. Her passion for helping the vulnerable started years earlier, when her infant son John was stricken with encephalitis – swelling of the brain – and almost died. He recovered but was left with an intellectual disability.
She said John’s condition had a profound effect on her and her husband, the late Jim Flaherty. “Over time, Jim and I realized how blessed we were, not just because of John’s survival, but because John opened our eyes to a whole new world. Because of John, we became acutely aware of the many challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and their families. We saw families struggle with financial and health issues, in many cases with little or no support.”
She and her husband became deeply supportive of people with disabilities and their families, both on a personal and professional level. They helped to create the Abilities Centre, a fully accessible recreational and community facility in Whitby. As federal finance minister, Mr. Flaherty introduced the Registered Disability Savings Plan, which helps parents of special-needs children put savings aside to care for their kids after the mother and father die. As an opposition MPP, Ms. Elliott brought forward two private member’s bills to deal with issues that people with disabilities face; both received the support of all parties and led to action.
Ms. Elliott reflected on her recent campaign for the leadership of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, and said she had no regrets about leaving politics. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life and the tremendous opportunity to work in partnership with individuals to support our most vulnerable citizens.” She closed with a quote from Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
The dinner – the third held in Trent-Durham since 2007 – raised a total of $18,000. The funds will be used to support clergy and their families in the diocese who are in difficult circumstances. The Bishop’s Company holds dinners every year in downtown Toronto and in one of the diocese’s four episcopal areas. Since it was established in 1960, the Bishop’s Company has raised more than $4 million.