The Rev. Jacqueline Daley is the part-time assistant curate at St. Hilary, Cooksville, Mississauga.
I recently went to a local fundraiser to support TC3 (the Toronto Children’s Concert Choir), a performing arts company that has been around for about 15 years. They want to spread Gospel and inspirational music all across Ontario and give other young people an opportunity to get involved. So I thought, “Why don’t we do something here in Mississauga?” I had a conversation with some other Anglican women and they said it’s a great idea, let’s do it.
As a result, we’ve planted a little community choir for kids that meets at St. Luke’s, Dixie South. We put the word out, and in early February 12 kids from local Anglican churches came to our first practice. At our next practice, we had more. They learn Gospel and inspirational music, taught by young people from TC3. They have choir practice in the morning, then lunch, then we help them with their homework in the afternoon.
The kids and volunteers love it. What we’ve seen is kids bonding and forming community over music, food and homework. Shy kids are starting to talk because they’re making friends. The adult volunteers see that they’re needed and they’re connecting with the kids and each other. It’s an amazing coming-together of people from different churches and the community.
The best part of my job is the incredible access I have to people’s lives. People open up to you and show you their authentic self. You get a view of the fears, hopes and longings, which is really profound. Most times, I get the opportunity to invite them out from fear and, in some cases, accompany them to love and to forgive themselves as God intends.
I try to be an instrument of hope – to say, this is not the end, this does not define tomorrow, this is a bump on the way. A year from now, you might have an incredible story to tell that might offer hope to someone else. This experience might be shaping you into the person God wants you to be. I offer folks myself – what my journey has been – and remind them that they are not in this alone. God is with us, even in the ugliest part of our life. We are being refined in ways we can’t imagine.
I came to Canada during the 1970s’ mass migrations from the Caribbean. We were the generation who were streamed by the Toronto District School Board. They had this huge influx of black kids from the Caribbean and they didn’t know what to do with us. We spoke English but not in a way that was easy to understand, so we were streamed into “English as a Second Language Dialect” classes. We were separated from the rest of the students and streamed into remedial or general level in high school, as we were not considered smart enough for university. I’m a product of that generation. That was my introduction to racism.
In Grade 9 they took me out of the general level class and put me into the advanced class. I went on to finish high school and then my undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier. I spent a lot of time travelling, where I got my best education. I got a Masters degree in social work from Carleton University in Ottawa, where my daughter was born. It was at Carleton that I became a feminist and learned that liberation is at the heart of who I am.
I moved back to Toronto and was travelling along Gerrard Street one day when I saw an AME church that was offering a children’s program. We started to go to that church, and that’s where I became a Christian. I started reading the Bible and fell in love with the liberation stories and Jesus. I wanted to lead Bible studies but somehow that was off-limits. I felt a definite gender bias and sexism that Carleton taught me to detect. I also didn’t see women in strong leadership roles. It was a man’s world that I felt unwelcomed in, so off I went.
I met a woman at a conference, the Rev. Dr. Wenh-In Ng, who persuaded me to take a course at Emmanuel College. Wenh-In was amazing and affirming. I discovered that I was right: that the Jesus I had come to know loved women. I took one course after another and eventually ended up at Wycliffe College, in the MDiv program, part-time, while working full-time as a policy advisor on women’s issues for the Ontario government. It was around that time that I started hanging out at Anglican churches.
I finished my MDiv in 2004. It was a difficult and painful experience of invisibility and exclusion. At the end, I had a lot of healing to do. I felt supported by the Wine Before Breakfast (WBB) Community, at Wycliffe College, where I remain a member. I also had a few good friends who kept calling and enquiring. Through WBB, I started supporting my ordained classmates. One day at church, I saw my friend – a new priest – being verbally abused by a parishioner. Somehow, in that horrible moment all the fear and anxiety in me was emptied. Shortly thereafter, I applied to the diocese to be a postulant.
God used a very unpleasant moment to raise me up, but my journey and the struggle continues. The legacy and damage of colonialism is still with us. People of African descent share a parallel history of racism and exclusion with First Nations people. We still have a lot of work left to dismantle this sin from our church. The disproportionate number of ordained people of colour and their retention, especially the retention of black women as priest, is discouraging. The need to be intentional to create conditions to attract and retain diversity in leadership with cultural competency to serve the complex needs of our global congregations is urgent. In my observation, we’re building a model of church where some folks are growing in their entitlement and privilege, while others are growing in disentitlement. I believe the Gospel has called us to something radically different.
The pain of exclusion is my gift to the church. My exclusion has formed my passion for justice and inclusion, and my journey has been costly. Our churches are wonderful assets to champion justice and inclusion to benefit and affirm the least amongst us. This is the work of kingdom-building we are all enlisted in and which we affirm in our baptism. I’m not prepared to be silent, invisible and uphold the status quo. My curacy at St. Hilary’s ends on April 30. Five years from now, I hope to continue to live out my baptismal covenant and follow Jesus. I look forward to being part of a church that welcomes, celebrates and nurtures the rich and wonderful diversity that God has given us.
My favourite passage from scripture is John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I have chosen you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” It’s wonderful and exciting that we are all called as equals, chosen as equals, and appointed as equals by God for this incredible mission to go and bear fruit that is sustainable. It’s also wonderful to be reminded that we are not called to do this alone, that God is with us every step of the way.