By Stuart Mann
With three knocks on the door of St. James Cathedral with his crozier, Bishop Andrew Asbil ushered in a new era in the Diocese of Toronto.
Admitted into the cathedral by the assembled clergy and laity, Bishop Asbil was then installed as the 12th Bishop of Toronto, making him the chief pastor of Canada’s most populous Anglican diocese.
The cathedral was filled to capacity for the two-hour service, held on Jan. 13. It was streamed live on the internet and watched by people across the diocese and around the world.
During the investiture, held near the beginning of the service, Bishop Asbil received the diocesan crozier. He then placed his hand on a Bible and made a solemn promise and declaration to fulfill the responsibilities and obligations of the office of the Bishop of Toronto and to be a faithful shepherd to the flock of Christ.
He was then escorted to the cathedra, the seat of the bishop, and installed there. Afterwards, he was presented to the congregation, which responded with sustained applause.
Archbishop Anne Germond, the metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario and the Bishop of Algoma, was the presiding celebrant. Archbishop Colin Johnson, the 11th Bishop of Toronto who retired on Dec. 31, participated in the service, as did the diocese’s four suffragan bishops. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and other bishops also took part.
After Bishop Asbil’s investiture and installation, the service continued with readings, prayers and the celebration of the Eucharist. At the end of the service, Bishop Asbil returned to the cathedral’s doors to bless the City of Toronto and the diocese.
One of the themes of the service was inclusion. The acknowledgment of Indigenous territory was said in Cree by the Rev. Canon Andrew Wesley, and prayers were offered in Cantonese, French, Swahili and Spanish.
Bishop Asbil spoke about inclusion in his sermon. “In a time of transition, you’re probably thinking will there be room for me, will there be a place for me, if I am part of the LGBTQ2 community, if I’m progressive, if I’m evangelical or conservative, if I’m an Anglo-Catholic, if English is not my first tongue? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. My pledge as your bishop is to walk with you, not some of you but all of you… We need all to be a part of this journey.”
He ended his sermon by speaking about baptism, transformation and change, encouraging churches to “knock on doors” and be present in their neighbourhoods, trusting that God will provide. “My brothers and sisters, walk with me and I will walk with you. And let us together walk with the one who created us, redeemed us and sets us free.”
After the sermon, liturgical dancers and four people brought water from the traditional four directions and the diocese’s four episcopal areas to the baptismal font for the asperges, the rite of sprinkling the congregation with holy water in the renewal of their baptismal covenant.
The asperges was accompanied by “Wade in the Water,” a moving spiritual song. The music during the service ranged from traditional to spiritual to rock. The music was provided by the cathedral’s choirs, musicians from Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St., and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale of Toronto.