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A place for Christians on Parliament Hill: inside Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship

While some of the 338 Members of Parliament are Christian, there are many more Christians working on Parliament Hill as office staff, or “staffers.” Way back in 1976, one exhausted Christian political staffer, who was working for a cabinet minister, approached long-time staffer Diane Scarf. As Scarf recalls, at that time,

“They work their staff day and night. So, he would come to work on Monday morning, and by Thursday, he might get to go home and change his clothes. When you’re tired, you can put your head on the desk, or lie down on the floor behind your desk…. He approached me and said, ‘I’m just falling apart, we need something, we need support for those who are Christians.’ And that was the beginning.”

This encounter prompted Scarf, and a group of other Christians, to start the “Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship.”

Nearly 50 years later, the group still exists, meeting every Friday in a room in the East Block on Parliament Hill. Each meeting starts with lunch, usually, hand-made sandwiches and baked goods from Scarf, and then a speaker will give a short message to the group. The email list has over 100 political staffers; a majority work for Conservative members, but the group is non-partisan, and members from other parties are welcome to attend. Due to the busy nature of staffers’ schedules, the group usually ranges from 20-30 people weekly.

Craig Docksteader, Director of Policy in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, along with his wife Gail, are the current leadership/organizers of the group. Docksteader came to Parliament Hill in 2013 where he ran into a staffer who invited him to check out the group; Docksteader was shocked to find that there was a space for Christians to meet on the Hill. Shortly after attending for a bit, he and his wife had the opportunity to take on a leadership role for the group.

Docksteader says that he sees three primary purposes for Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship.

“One is a place to connect, a place for Christians to find each other. Secondly, it’s a place for Christians to be encouraged, edified, and get a little bit of prayer, and teaching from the Bible and hear testimonies. So, there’s some spiritual edification. But thirdly, I feel like it’s very important because it protects our right to gather on Parliament Hill.”

He noted, “A lot of people are surprised, quite surprised, especially if they’ve never been to Parliament Hill and they only see what’s on the news and stuff to come here and find out there is a group of Christians that meets every Friday, regularly, faithfully, and there’s lots of them.”

The group is ecumenical, encouraging Christians from a variety of different denominations and traditions to participate. To keep unity in the group while also acknowledging the different traditions, Docksteader says they focus on the core of the gospel.

“We try to encourage that we gather around the centrality of Christ, the centrality of the gospel. So that’s the first thing, somebody on the team of four needs to know [the speaker] personally or professionally so that we know that the person coming in won’t be divisive.”

At the early start of the group, they faced criticism from other Christians on the Hill. Christians working in politics have been a topic of contention throughout the Church’s history. During the early stages of the Reformation, for example, various Christian denominations held differing perspectives on how involved Christians should be in public life. Anabaptists notably took a passive approach, while adherents of the Reformed tradition, influenced by Reformed political leaders such as Abraham Kuyper, recognized the concept of “sphere sovereignty.” This concept acknowledges God’s presence in all spheres of life, encouraging Christians to engage in all of those spheres faithfully, including the political sphere. Scarf recalled that it was due to these points of contention, that the start of Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship faced some pushback from other evangelicals working on the Hill.

“We started right away but had a lot of opposition from some evangelical Members of Parliament who felt that we would be a problem, that we would be too aggressive, and that we would slight the name of the Lord and the Church.”

In more recent years, Docksteader says that he has seen an increase in Christians getting involved in working on Parliament Hill.

“The Church used to discourage Christians from being involved in politics and from working on Parliament Hill, whereas today, it’s the other way around. The Church in Canada recognizes the important pertinence of having Christians on Parliament Hill, both as staffers and as Members of Parliament.”

With Christian staffers coming from across the country, Docksteader emphasizes the importance of a space for Christians to meet.

“That’s where Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship comes in, even today because you have Christians on the Hill, they need to know how to find other Christians, they need to know how can I connect because when you get here, it can seem very large, you can feel very alone, you’re pretty sure there’s not a single other Christian on the Hill…. And so Parliament Hill Christian Fellowship, that’s one of the purposes of it, is to give Christians a place to connect with other Christians.”

Picture at top (supplied) is of Craig Docksteader (left), Director of Policy in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate with former cabinet minister, Jack Murta.

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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The legacy of 25 Scripture verses on Parliament Hill

by Lynette Bloedow 68 pages / 2020 Perched atop my “to be read” pile, this caught the eye of a visitor who sat down, started reading, and soon after gave an enthusiastic two thumbs up. I hadn’t read it yet, but had already concluded a booklet about bible verses on the walls and windows of Parliament would have limited appeal. But I was wrong; even my American guest found it fascinating. Having read it now, I agree. In full-color spreads the book explores Parliament’s Peace Tower, built over the years 1916-1922 after a fire destroyed most of Parliament's "Centre Block" in 1916. Architect John A. Pearson covered the tower with all sorts of symbolism and lots of bible verses, including citations from Canada’s national psalm, Ps. 72, and references to the armor of God from Ephesians 6. I was surprised to learn there’s also a quotation from Pilgrim’s Progress. Author Lynette Bloedow includes page after page of gorgeous pictures, with the most beautiful showcasing the building's stain glass windows, each of which has a story behind it. The overall message evident in the tower's symbolism is that, not so long ago, Canada’s leaders had a much better understanding that they ruled only because God put them in their positions. The Peace Tower is currently undergoing renovations that might take as long as 10 years, so you can’t go and see any of this for yourself. But even if you could, this is a tour unlike anything you’d get, because much of the tower’s “biblical legacy” has been forgotten, not listed on government websites, and not mentioned by guides. The purpose of this booklet is to reacquaint the next generation with the lost truth that our "Ruler Supreme" remains God, and it is only in Him that Canadians, as individuals, and as a country, can find their hope. Legacy of 25 Scripture Verses would make for a great coffee table book in any Canadian household, and would be a good gift book for adult children. To learn more, take a peek inside, and place your order, go to