In Person Profile: Peter Huish

16 Jul, 2013

The Sou’Wester was pleased to sit down with Peter Huish, Community Chaplain and Founder of MSCM, to discuss recent events within our community.


Thank you Peter. Last Fall we learned that all Federal part-time prison chaplains’ contracts which terminated on 31 March 2013 would not be renewed. There have been letter-writing campaigns, human rights advocacy and online petitions, to no avail. What is the latest news?


Yes that is true. However, there is a current valid contract between the Anglican Diocese of Montreal and the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) for Chaplaincy services that continues for another year with an option for an additional year. Under the contract, three of us, Holly, Tim and myself continue to work as part-time prison chaplains in Quebec institutions—Drummond and Cowansville Institutions and Federal Training Centre.

It is particularly important that MSCM continues to have access to the Federal Training Centre, a minimum security and releasing institution, and along with that, the two other releasing institutions, Montée St. François and Saint Anne des Plaines, to make contact with our prospective beneficiaries and to promote our services. This additional year will give us time to plan for the continuance of that. Also, some 4-5 other part-time chaplains, of minority faith traditions in British Columbia, were re-hired by CSC, following court proceedings, as temporary, casual employees which of course, diminishes their autonomy.

Part-time prison chaplaincy as we have known it no longer exists in Canada.


2013 did not start well for MSCM. How have you been able to cope and help the MSCM community maintain its focus and commitment after such a serious upheaval?


It has been the greatest challenge we have known in some 14 years in this work. Everyone has felt it, often heavily, and for me, somehow at the centre of it, it has been tiring—being always on call, always accountable. I am grateful for the present, less demanding time, being able to catch our breath after the horror we experienced in January, formally saying goodbye to Chris as we joined in celebrating what he added to our community, and now having moved on to a new office. We have worked together diligently this last couple of months, to review and assess that which we do, leading to a reaffirmation of its value and importance to each of us and to the wider community. Our new office is taking on significance as a sign of our own renewal and moving forward into a new chapter of our story.


Will Fulford Hall still be available for our Open Door meetings on Tuesday evenings?


Over the years at Fulford Hall, Open Door has taken on quite a profile and so it was not surprising that in the wake of the events of January, questions were asked about this. It is very gratifying that an essentially unanimous vote at the Diocesan Council supported the continuing hospitality by the Diocese and the Cathedral for our regular Open Door Tuesday evening meetings—hospitality which we have enjoyed for some 7 years. We are grateful for this, and we are pleased also for the Church as it reaffirms its commitment to Gospel hospitality—the linking of Fulford Hall and Open Door is good for us all.


MSCM and MSCMCoSA Project have moved to a new location giving us a new lease on life. Looking forward, how do you see us using our new offices?


All of our activities are now under one roof, with the exception of Open Door as noted earlier. Our new location is a safe and private space, necessary for the sensitive work in which we are involved. With the special features included in our new space that will enhance our work, we are looking forward to as many meetings as possible on our terrasse during the summer months.


Do you have any words of wisdom for our readers in light of all the recent events?


After almost 14 years of our life and work in the community, MSCM was truly tested these last few months. Our having come through this period with hope and renewed confidence shows that we are indeed blessed in the vocation we have been given. We owe one another thanks and congratulations for the extraordinary strength and encouragement that has been shared among us.

There is a new challenge on the horizon. Arrangements for funding of community chaplaincy across Canada is now currently under review and this will further test our resolve to keep our focus and continue this work. It will be helpful to look back at our beginnings 14 years ago when there was no funding. We grew from a wish and a prayer and a strong commitment to each other, and will need to be in touch with that spirit anew as this next challenge develops.

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  1. July 16, 2013

    I agree Robert. When most men would’ve packed up and left (including myself), Peter stood tall, in the eye of the storm believing in his cause. It’s very inspiring and refreshing 🙂

  2. Robert Knight
    July 16, 2013

    The greatest challenge in fourteen years was met with focus and commitment. And yes, Peter Huish was at the centre, and bearing a significant burden.

    I am reminded of my early experience with Open Door. I would have occasion to chat with a volunteer who might worry about their level of commitment. But let me say this, it was your continued commitment, showing up week after week, that lifted my spirits.

    Let us never underestimate the value of commitment, no matter how small. We’re in this together, and together we’ll face the new challenges as we keep our eye on the vision.

    Thank you Peter for being a model of what it takes to not lose sight of the vision and reaffirming within us the value of commitment.

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