CANADA: First Anglican priest ordained from Slavey people

September 17, 2009

The Rev. Georgina Bassett became the first Anglican priest from the Slavey people when she was ordained on September 6 at St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada. The Slavey are native people who live mainly south of the Mackenzie River, in communities such as Fort Simpson, Fort Providence, Fort Smith and Hay River.

Bassett's ministry will be based at St. Andrew's, assisting the Rev. Vivian Smith, as she has been doing for the past few years. Smith said that soon after she arrived at the church, she recognized that Bassett had something special to offer. "Georgina has a heart for God," she said, as well as "a heart for her people on the reserve. She worries about them, cares about them."

"I just hope to be an example for others, that no matter what they choose, anything is possible, especially with the Lord's backing," said Bassett. She grew up in the Anglican church, attending on the Hay River Reserve and later in Hay River. She said, however, that she has always struggled with a lack of confidence, which almost prevented her from participating in a lay ministry course five years ago. "I was the only aboriginal," she said. "It was rough ... being a native child, going to a school where there was a lot of white people ... I always thought 'I'm not good enough.'" At the end of the course, the students were asked if they would like to go on to become lay ministers. "I remember reluctantly putting my hand up, not knowing what I was getting into," she recalls. "The new generation, my children, don't have that struggle that I have. They grow up to realize that they are just like anybody else, even though they are native."

Both Smith and Bassett work as volunteers in non-stipendiary positions, but Bassett says now that renovations on St. Andrew's church are nearly complete, they would like to start saving money to have a paid minister. "For now, we'll just have to start putting money away," she says, adding that she thinks she will always be in a non-stipendiary position because she wants to stay in the community.

It has been about 35 years since the Anglican church closed on the reserve after it was damaged in a flood, Bassett said. She hopes they will be able to raise enough funds to re-build the church.

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