IN MANY WAYS, the diocese of Quebec contains, in microcosm, the whole diversity of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the tensions and challenges that come with it.
While its headquarters are in Quebec City, the diocese includes the rural farmlands of the Eastern Townships, the fishing outports of the Lower North Shore, Gaspe and Magdalen Islands, the remote Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach in the northern part of the province and the growing university city of Sherbrooke.
Though it covers a territory the size of France, its Anglican population (4,000, according to the 2017 Anglican Church Directory) would fit comfortably in a small town. It includes 68 congregations, many of which have a regular attendance of fewer than 10 people on a Sunday. Those who do come may worship in Naskapi, French, English or a combination of languages.
The diocese also contains within its history many important moments in the development of Canada. The first Anglican mass in Quebec City was held to celebrate the British conquest of the city in 1759. The diocese itself was founded in 1793 with the arrival of Bishop Jacob Mountain, at which time its territory stretched from the Labrador coast to Lake Superior. It was the mother diocese of what are now the dioceses of Toronto, Huron, Ottawa, Algoma, Niagara and Montreal.
And because the story of the diocese of Quebec is, in some ways, the story of Canada--with all the pain, sectarianism and outright bigotry that are part of it--the diocese is both a cause and product of the sometimes strained relationships between the Indigenous, French and English cultures that laid the groundwork for the nation.
"We bring with us a lot of historical baggage, having arrived as a church the same year as the English conquest," says Coadjutor Bishop Bruce Myers. "I've lost track of how many times I've been asked by French-speaking tourists at the Cathedral, 'Is the Queen the head of your church?'"
Myers says he believes the diocese's history "can also be an asset rather than something we need to be apologetic for." As someone whose first career as a radio journalist brought him to Ottawa and then Quebec City around the time of the referendum on Quebec sovereignty in 1995, he is aware of how deeply the diocese's fortunes have been tied to those of the English population.
When asked where the current demographic struggles of the diocese began, every single Quebec Anglican the Anglican Journal spoke to cited two factors, both of which have a...