Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter to Vestries, 2018
to be read or circulated on the Sunday of the parish’s annual vestry meeting
To the Clergy, Churchwardens and Parishioners
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Grace and peace in the name of Our Saviour Jesus Christ.
I am joined with the Area Bishops in bringing you greetings and assurance of our prayers as you gather in the annual Vestry Meeting to set parish priorities and budget and choose churchwardens and officers to lead your ministry together. I am so grateful for the commitment and contributions that these people make to the life of the Church and the mission of Christ in the community you serve. Thank you, especially, to those who are finishing their terms of office or moving into different responsibilities. My prayers are offered for those of you who are taking on new ministries today.
Today, as has been the custom for several years, I ask you to consider a Vestry motion advocating for affordable housing and dealing with homelessness. We, as a church, have a long and effective history of providing both temporary and emergency housing, long term housing projects and counselling and support for the under-housed. These programs are vital for providing relief on a day-to-day basis for many who do not have access to affordable housing. However, any effort to address the long-term needs underlying this crisis requires more resources than churches and community agencies can provide alone. The church has an advocacy role as well as providing front-line service. The two go together; both make a difference. Whatever you decide to do today, I think it is important that we discuss in our meetings to conduct the “business” of our parishes, the issues that affect the well-being of our whole community.
A key priority in our diocesan strategic plan, Growing in Christ, is leadership development and formation. In my Charge to Synod, I asked every parish to participate in at least one intentional formation programme during the year. May I invite you to join me this Lent in Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John. Resources are available online and can be used by individuals and groups. I commend several other programmes – some developed in the Diocese – that will help you to be more intentional and confident in your Christian discipleship. Suggestions will be also available online.
I will retire at the end of this year. It has been an incredible honour to have served for some fifteen years as your bishop and over forty years in ordained ministry in this diocese. What a joy it has been to be invited into people’s lives at the most profound level – at moments of deep joy or sorrow, at times of vocational discernment, at times of challenging crisis or productive stability. In all this, to witness the faith and compassion and engagement of Anglicans has strengthened my faith, expanded my horizons and confirmed my love of Christ and his Church. This June, Synod will choose a coadjutor bishop who will automatically succeed me on my retirement, becoming the 12th Bishop of Toronto. I posed some questions at Synod for people to consider in preparation for the election:
- From your own experience of bishop(s), what are two qualities you have admired in a bishop?
- What are two critical issues affecting the life and mission of this Diocese today?
- Considering that, what two qualities (maybe the same or different from #1) does the next bishop need to have to lead this Diocese in its mission into the next decade?
Please pray for the members of Synod that they may discern wisely and faithfully for this challenging and complex role of leading the largest and most diverse diocese in North America.
I hope to have the opportunity over this year to thank you for entrusting me with this awesome responsibility.
The Most Rev’d Colin R. Johnson
Archbishop of Toronto