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Celebrating Jamie Howison

Jamie Howison has had an outsized impact on my work, and I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Some of you may want to wish him every blessing as well as he transitions into the next stage of his life…

This coming weekend (sadly, while I’m away) our Church community, saint benedict’s table, will be celebrating the retirement of one of my longest and dearest friends, Fr. Jamie Howison.


Jamie Howison is a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada and the founding pastoral leader of saint benedict’s table in Winnipeg. A graduate of the University of Winnipeg (B.A.) and of Trinity College, Toronto (M.Div), he was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land in 1987, and a priest in 1988. Since then he has remained in his home diocese, ministering in parish contexts—including serving as pastor for the first fully amalgamated Anglican/Lutheran congregation in Canada—as well as in campus and institutional chaplaincy.

By way of introduction, the above is lifted from a biography of my friend Jamie Howison that I found online. However, if you’ve been following my career at all, you’re more likely to recognize him for co-writing a couple of my songs (Old Sage and Hear Our Prayer) as well as influencing several others, notably, Fashion for Me. Indeed, Jamie’s influence is all over my work, especially anything relating to the liturgical Christian tradition, including my book series, Pilgrim Year. He is also the main writer of our co-authored book, I Will Not Be Shaken: A Songwriter’s Journey Through the Psalms which accompanied a CD collection of songs I’ve written to various Hebrew Psalms over the years.


Jamie introduced himself to me in the late 80s when, after a decade of playing nightclubs, I took a job with YFC leading a weekly worship service for teens. I really had no idea what I was doing, and Jamie offered to help give shape to the event which turned out to be a hybrid of Christian liturgical/contemplative tradition and contemporary music. (It was in that context and for those kids that I wrote the songs Wings of an Eagle and Holy Lord.)

Feast of Seasons Album Cover

Then, in 1994, while still in the developing stages of my first Christmas album, it was Jamie who encouraged me to “bring something new to the table,” which resulted in our collaboration on the song Old Sage. He also encouraged me to consider recording Richard Wilbur’s, Every Stone Shall Cry, which I did, and which I have since performed with Symphonies across North America. (Every Stone Shall Cry was my first introduction to the works of the late American poet laureate, Richard Wilbur, whose poetry I eventually adapted for the songs Long Love and Good Friend. )

Following another of Jamie’s suggestions, I loosely ordered the album’s songs after the seasonal sequence of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany; that wider Feast of Seasons that celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation: God’s humble descent into our midst in the child-refugee, Jesus, who would eventually grow to reveal the heart of God as “self-donating, radically forgiving, co-suffering Love.” (Jersak)

Jamie was also a co-conspirator and silent member (along with my manager/producer Dave Zeglinski) of the short-lived group Unlikely Icon whose 1994 CD and songbook featured the worship music of Larry Campbell, Gord Johnson, and myself (photo below ). The songbook and CD have long been out of print, but they did have a surprising impact for a project that didn’t get a lot of tour support or marketing attention.


Jamie reads widely, and it was through him that I became acquainted with the likes of Walter Brueggeman, Stanley Hauerwas, and Robert Farrar Capon, all of whom have influenced my thinking and writing quite profoundly. Brueggeman’s, The Prophetic Imagination, may well be the most influential book of my reading life. Jamie and I, along with our friend Larry Campbell, used to meet regularly at Blondie’s Grill on Main St. (Wpg) to pour over Brueggeman’s work. Those were heady and exhilarating days.

And it was Jamie who convinced me of the significance of a wide swath of diverse musical artists, from John Coltrane to Kurt Cobain, that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Indeed, Jamie’s 2012 book, God’s Mind in That Music: Theological Explorations Through the Music of John Coltrane, taught me to read jazz as much as listen to it.

On a more personal note, I have called on Jamie countless times to help navigate the complexities and struggles of my personal life and to help discern my ever-evolving vocation.


In short, Jamie Howison has had an outsized impact on my work, and I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Some of you may want to wish him every blessing as well as he transitions into the next stage of his life and ministry which, he promises, will include a book or two that have been waiting for a quieter season to write. (You are most welcome to pass on your well-wishes in the comments below.)

I can’t imagine how different my life and career would have been had Jamie not introduced himself to me all those years ago. As a couple, Nanci and I are incredibly grateful for his priestly pastoring and friendship over the years which includes weddings, baptisms, funerals, house blessings, numerous dinner parties, shared concert experiences… and the like.

Jamie, we offer you our blessing, in concert with so many others, with gratitude for the meaning-drenched years behind, and in anticipation of fruitful years to come.

1 Comment

  1. Rudy

    Jamie has no doubt influenced many good changes in the lives of others as a good priest would. it’s good to hear a little about your relationship with him.

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