Saturday, August 22, 2015

OnFire 333 - Citizenship Ceremony

Encouraged by our base commander, a bunch of us recently attended a citizenship ceremony held on the base. 102 immigrants from 26 countries stood, raised their right hands, and committed themselves as Canadians:

“I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

This was repeated in French. Candidates had to be seen to speak the words in either language, and the option was given for those who wished to “affirm” rather than “swear.” Then, one by one, they were called forward to receive a small Canadian flag, sign their paperwork and officially become Canadians.

This was their final step in the immigration process, which included paperwork, multiple applications, travel, and classes.  Many invited friends and family, and it was obvious that it was a proud day for all involved. There were lots of pictures, especially with the RCMP and military members in dress uniform.

I found it to be a moving ceremony as I reflected on many things. My Scottish and English ancestors came to Canada in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s for the same reasons as modern immigrants. Hope for a better life is a powerful motivator. It gives courage to leave the familiar for the promise of the better. In this way it is a kind of faith.

It was inspiring to hear the judge read a half-dozen letters from new Canadians. Some had escaped horrendous situations, while others left regions with little prospect. All had sacrificed to come to Canada. One account in particular demonstrated that hope was not ill-founded. A colleague of the judge had escaped tyranny in Vietnam, survived on a boat in the South China Sea, and finally made her way to Canada where she plodded through minimum wage jobs to go to school so she could establish a legal career.

We whine and complain sometimes about Canada, and we hear more lately with the election underway as candidates try to get the upper hand by blaming each other for the problems of the day. We forget that Canada is a country of opportunity, a land blessed with safety, security, promise and prosperity unknown in many parts of the world. We would do well to be thankful.

In a surprising number of the letters read by the judge (more than half), the new Canadians thanked God for bringing them to Canada. Let’s not assume that all of them referenced the God we worship, nor should we assume that all the immigrants had some kind of religious heritage. But even still, many were not afraid to attribute their new status as Canadians to God, and were bold to proclaim it.

This was inspiring and challenging to me, and it was also a signal to broaden my thinking about how immigrants are changing Canada. I like Canada’s diversity. I like that new blood brings freshness. Canada cannot help but be changed for the better by immigration.

More than that, I am excited to know that many immigrants share faith and are not ashamed to proclaim the good news about Jesus. This, too, will change our country and our churches. One man was given the opportunity to read his short account. He was African in descent, with a deep voice, and he was enthusiastic as he thanked the Father in Heaven for bringing him to Canada. This was not lost on the other officers I was sitting with. “He should be a preacher!” Perhaps a big part of the revitalization for which we pray will not come from within, but from without. Praise God!

Finally, I reflected on citizenship. We enjoy the privileges of being citizens, but someday we will slip away from this life and the status of our earthly passports will no longer apply. In this we can be grateful for a different citizenship through faith in Jesus Christ:

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
(Philippians 3:20-21*)

Each follower of Jesus has the assurance of an eternal citizenship which will be far better than we have things here.  Just think, there will be a day when we will stand before our Judge, our citizenship will be recognized, and we will be granted entry into eternal state with Jesus.

If you are not sure of your hope, trust in Jesus today. If you are, be thankful and tell someone else. And take hope in the promise of better life to come.

These are some of my reflections after attending the citizenship ceremony. I hope something in this helps you.



OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis.  Married  to Jan, Troy is a chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Aug 22, 2015.  *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email Blog located at