Moments that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted on March 23, 2020

We’re asking clergy and laity in our diocese to tell us about a moment during the COVID-19 pandemic that inspired them.This page will be updated as more comments come in.

Comment leads to prayer and conversation
Over the first few days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a number of moments when I sat back and said, “Wow, God is really up to something” – whether that was a chance encounter with a very anxious parishioner in the grocery store or the people who responded to the reflection questions in the Facebook version of our study group. The moment, though, that I want to share happened on Sunday, March 15. I was up at my usual time to get ready, but without a regular worship service to prepare the church for, I found myself on Facebook scrolling through posts. I came across a post in a community group from someone I knew from the community support groups we offer, who commented on the challenge of getting the groceries she needed for self-isolation because she has health issues that make her more vulnerable. I commented that I would be happy to help. A Facebook Messenger conversation ensued, a way that we had not connected before, and she shared with me some other medical concerns she was facing and we prayed and we have now setup a Facebook group chat and are planning a video chat in place of our next meeting. If it had not been for COVID-19 I might not have connected with her like this and I certainly would not have been able to pray with her and for her at this time of need.
The Rev. Dana Dickson
Incumbent
Trinity Church, Bradford

Neighbours hold street isolation dance party
The neighbours on a nearby street have a social media page where they update each other on local happenings and look out for one another. Apparently yesterday, a neighbour suggested they have a street isolation dance party. So someone blasted dance music from the car stereo as they drove up and down the street. People – some in costume – came outside and danced or boogied on their doorstep. Apparently there was lots of laughter and relief. This story inspired me when I heard about it this morning. We are also trying to have a virtual coffee hour on Facebook page, asking people to check in. We floated the idea earlier today and so we will see how it goes. But it was one strategy to reduce isolation.
The Rev. Julia Burn
Incumbent
Church of the Resurrection, Toronto

People are hungry for the word
Last week before the church buildings had to close, we offered a time of personal prayer on Sunday morning for those who wished to come pray in St. Paul’s sanctuary. To my delight, I had one person come in who avoids church on Sundays because it is too crowded and ask for a Bible, which I happily gave him. Another family came in who are fairly new immigrants, and they also deeply wished to have a Bible of their own. People are hungry for the Word, and it was such a privilege to be able to put it in their hands, and to have deep and meaningful connections with people that may not have happened on a busy Sunday morning. God is at work!
The Rev. Karen Isaacs
Associate Priest
St. Paul, Bloor Street

God is doing a new thing in our midst
It has been so inspiring to see how our parishioners have come together to care for one another. It’s really quite amazing, when you think about the fact that we’ve had to find a whole new way of operating. In a little less than a week, we have been able to plan and execute online worship services, create and distribute daily prayer resources, coordinate pastoral care phone calls and prayer chains, coordinate volunteers to deliver goods to parishioners who are shut-in or practicing self-isolation, continue to manage our stewardship efforts, and a thousand other little things. We are finding new ways to serve a very old mission: to be salt for the earth and light for the world.

The gospel appointed for Lent 4A (John 9.1-41) tells of Jesus’ healing of a man blind since birth. It is a timely reading. In this unprecedented time, how is God opening our eyes to see the work of ministry in a new way?

My eyes are opened in a new way to the depth of faith and commitment of the members of this parish community. My eyes are opened to new ways of connecting with each other, of being the Church for one another. My eyes are opened in a new way to the presence of God in our midst. God is, right now, doing a new thing in our midst. It’s not what we expected, it’s not what we would have chosen for ourselves, but here it is for all to see. It’s wondrous to behold.
The Rev. Jesse Parker
Incumbent
St. John the Evangelist, Port Hope

Spanish Flu survivor shares wisdom
The eldest parishioner at St. Augustine’s was born in 1916 and will be 104 this summer. I’ve often marvelled at how much history is contained in her lifespan. Kay would have been a toddler during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19. And yet she reminds me that we survive and indeed, we go on to thrive. She also saw the founding of our parish congregation and lived through all the years when they saved and raised money and built our building in stages. She was alive the last time our churches were shuttered to preserve public health and her enduring presence reminds me that this too will pass and God will call us into a hopeful and promising future.
The Rev. Megan Jull
Priest-in-Charge
St. Augustine of Canterbury, Toronto

Contacting everyone tightens parish bonds
Our lay pastoral team and I met after we were advised that we weren’t to have services. We had a list of parishioners who are on email, so I sent out devotionals to them twice a week to keep in touch. The team and I called the remaining parishioners who didn’t have email. We wondered if we should call everyonel on the list, even those we didn’t see often. The answer was an immediate and resounding “yes.” We called them and they were extremely pleased and very appreciative of what we were doing. God works in mysterious ways. By coming together through this cancellation of services, we may bring our parish family even closer together.
The Rev. Jeanette Lewis
Incumbent
St Barnabas, Chester

God has forced us to use our imagination
It has only taken me a few days to realize that what I thought was a devastating blow to our plans has turned into a huge opportunity to rethink how we do things and have the potential to reach even more people digitally. Doors continue to open because our creative God has forced us to use our imagination. We can’t do everything we hoped to do this Easter, but we can still do a lot – just differently. Also, I believe during this time of crisis, it is important to be frugal but we can’t forget to be generous. Now is the time that our communities will need us. Now is the time for them to get to meet us, get to know who we are and trust us. The seeds we sow today will be the fruit we see on the other side of this crisis.
Adam Furfaro
Executive Director
Light On The Hill, Oak Ridges

People have started to talk with each other
After the flurry of cancelling events and meetings and coming to the realization that nothing can as yet be known, people have started to talk with each other. My cousins, who I’ve not seen for years, are on an e-mail chain that started with a cancellation of an aunt’s Celebration of Life. My sister, wife, brother-in-law and I had a “face-to-face” using Zoom yesterday and, well, there was no need to finish the conversation and get onto the next activity in the calendar. As everything gets cancelled, I’m forced to assess what’s really important. Small-group Bible Study and Sunday dinner with the family come to the top.
Archdeacon Kyn Barker
Coordinator of Deacons

Attendance at online devotions surge
We have been using the Zoom platform for morning devotions for about two years. On average, eight members participate in our morning viDEoVOTIONS, Monday to Thursday. Three persons usually join me for Wednesday’s noon day prayers. We also use it for the occasional meeting. When we were setting up to use Zoom for the first Sunday during the “cessation of Sunday assemblies,” we invited members to test their connections; no more than eight came on. But on that first Sunday, there were 50 connections, with a total of about 65 members, including our area bishop, participating. The next day, an additional member joined our viDEoVOTIONS and five joined our Wednesday noon day prayers. At their request, we will now be having noon day prayers, Monday to Thursday, each week. The church is not the building, it is the people of God!
The Rev. Dr. Canon Stephen Fields
Incumbent
Holy Trinity, Thornhill

Parish moves quickly to reach elderly, those alone
I have been impressed with how quickly our parish has mobilized resources to establish a phone tree to check on elderly parishioners and those who live alone, to see if they need any pastoral support or just help getting groceries. We are often accused of taking forever to make decisions but in this case the outreach activity was up and running within a short while after the diocese decided to suspend all services. I am sure many other parishes have mounted similar efforts but it was truly inspiring to see it first-hand. We have heard back from a number of call recipients who have greatly appreciated that the church is keeping in touch with them in these difficult times, and is concerned about them.
Bob Boeckner
St. Clement, Eglinton

Strangers offer help to couple in isolation
My wife Judi and I are in “house lockdown” for two weeks after returning from vacation in Florida. On our street, people whom I have never met have asked how they can help us. Plus, while walking our dog I saw three ladies chatting on the street corner, each standing two metres apart. We all laughed and joked about the use of social distancing. I had never met them before. The Lord truly moves in  mysterious ways his wonders to perform.
Peter Marshall
St. Thomas a Beckett, Erin Mills South

Drop-ins, food chain help the homeless
I’ve been moved and inspired by the way that the drop-ins providing services to homeless and marginalized people have pulled together. The Toronto Drop-In Network has done a fantastic job of collecting information and keeping communications flowing, and the different locations and workers have been sharing resources and ideas. They’ve been pulling together in their determination to continue serving our very vulnerable and fragile people.

But there’s also been lots of cooperation and generosity from people outside the network. A few days ago, I saw someone on social media saying that anyone who needed to see something cheerful should look at the Twitter feed of Mohamed Fakih, the CEO of Paramount Fine Foods. I took a look, and saw that, since his restaurants couldn’t offer sit-down service any more, he was proposing to convert the kitchens to prepare meals for any shelters or food banks who asked. I wrote to the company, and within half an hour we had a promise of 50 boxed meals for our drop-in, as long as someone could drive to Mississauga to pick them up. I put out a request to our contacts, and the first volunteer was a Jewish friend whom I knew from antiracist/antifascist work. So we ended up with all three Abrahamic faiths coming together to help people in need. It was a really nice moment.
The Rev. Maggie Helwig
Incumbent
St. Stephen in-the-Fields, Toronto 

Team pulls together on water and land
On Tuesday we arrived back from Florida, where my son was sailing in a training camp. Our coach is Argentinian but working with Canadian teams under a work permit. Throughout the week, as things continued to heighten about COVID-19, tensions were high about staying in Florida or coming home. As we watched Justin Trudeau telling us to come home and that the boarders would be shut, the whole team just worried about our coach and how to get him back before the borders closed to him. Thankfully, this was accomplished, as he is a blessing to our teams. As well, three families drove home, and through our WhatsApp group, everyone was checking in with those families and encouraging them along their way. There was a team effort not only on the water but getting everyone home. What was most inspiring to me about all of this was that most of us had never met each other before and we just banded together for the good of everyone else. I was thankful to be a part of this moment of goodness and teamwork.
Jillian Ruch
York-Scarborough youth ministry area coordinator

Friends step up to fill the gap
I’m inspired by and grateful to our many generous supporters. When word got out that the Daily Bread Food Bank is stopping drop-in deliveries, friends of All Saints stepped up to fill the gap. This week, we received food and other donations from All Saints, Kingsway, St. George, Pickering Village, the kids and adults of DeGrassi Street neighbourhood, and countless other individuals and volunteers. Today (March 20), we distributed meals to over 200 people and shared other items like bread and fruit. We heard many “God bless you”s. The Spirit is alive and well.
The Rev. Dr. Alison Falby
Priest-in-Charge
All Saints Church-Community Centre, Toronto

Family bears circumstances without complaint
This morning I was in a funeral home with a family who is dealing with the sudden death of their husband/dad. I was watching his teenage son, his wife and brother as they tried to plan a funeral for a man who, a month ago, would have filled the church with mourners. As they made difficult decisions and plans in this very unusual time, they bore it all without complaint. They chose to find the blessing in only close family being with them, they found blessing in this time when the day-to-day changes actually allowed people to have time to talk with them. The care of a good funeral home was also a blessing as they gently guided them to a safe plan that also honoured the deceased. 
The Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid
Incumbent
St. Peter, Erindale

Young leader inspires with can-do attitude
With Sunday services cancelled with short notice, we have quickly scrambled to feed the good people of St. Philip on-the-hill with spiritual nourishment on a daily basis via our webpage. I have been inspired by the kindness of one of our young people, a first-year university student who is tech savvy. In very short order, she had our team encouraged and producing spiritual content that she uploaded to our website for our congregation and others to listen to and pray with. As I thanked her, she wrote, “No problem, I’m always happy to help. Especially during this time, we need all hands on deck.” That last phrase, “we need all hands on deck” – such a wonderful attitude! Ruwani has inspired and cheered our team and helped us to do what we could not do ourselves. This is church at its best, working together with a can-do attitude. That’s what we need in these anxious, uncertain days. I am inspired by our young people addressing needs that surround.
The Rev. Stephen Kern
Incumbent
St. Philip on-the-Hill, Unionville

Ordinary time has been preparing us for this
We have been offering live-streamed worship from St. Timothy’s and I have been astonished both at the levels of participation we have seen and the comments we have received. Daily prayer is probably relatively new for many of our congregation, yet participation has grown steadily through the week, and it is clear that in many cases households are gathered around a table participating in worship via Zoom. (We send out a bulletin for every service to encourage participation.) I am moved by stories of how this has brought families closer together and has been a source of strength and encouragement. I have also been calling around the parish, beginning with those who are vulnerable or who live alone. I always ask if they need someone to do practical tasks like shopping and I am always told that this has already been attended to.

In this extraordinary time, what is being driven home for me is that this is what our ordinary time has been preparing us for. Our worship, our prayers, our celebrations of life and love, our patient building of community, our acts of generosity and kindness are all about being the body of Christ, and now as the externals are forcibly stripped away from us we are discovering that we are still the body of Christ.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Eric Beresford
Incumbent
St. Timothy, North Toronto

Moments of grace abound at hospital
It might be hard to imagine how screening people at the hospital doors could warm my heart. But I see so much goodness within everyone. Some may be annoyed or afraid, but they all quickly reach out and clean their hands – clearing all that might harm another. An action of hope. As I list the possible symptoms that could keep them from visiting friends and loved ones, they answer with a quick “no” to all. And then they smile, ask me how I am and often tell me something about their own day. The other night when I told a visitor I was the chaplain, he was happily surprised to find a chaplain doing the screening at the doors. He told me how pleased his mother was for the visit she received from an Anglican. His mother is Lutheran. She told him that even though I am not Lutheran, I had proved to be acceptable as a chaplain. She also loved the prayer of blessing I gave her. I gently reminded him Anglicans and Lutherans were in communion. “Oh I know, but my mother thinks only Lutherans know what they are doing.” He remarked it was interesting that Roman Catholic Sisters began this hospital.  I was, of course, called to tell the story of the Anglican Sisterhood of St. John the Divine building the hospital for the care of everyone. His smile was broad as he exclaimed, “So many Anglicans!”  

As we seek to minimize in-person visits and contact, to protect everyone, the Sisters are now connecting remotely with patients and staff. It’s such a new, strange way of being a spiritual care provider. But prayers, and communicating love and hope, are part of who the Sisters are. Today is March 22 and many in the world are joining together to light a candle of prayer in a window. One of the Sisters drew a brightly lit candle on a card, writing the words encouragement, support and prayers beneath the candle. She sent it over to me and I took it to her unit for the staff. The gratitude I received from the staff, on behalf of the Sister, illuminated my faith that though we are all separated and in our small corners, the light of love and healing embraces us all. 

The Rev. Canon Joanne Davies
Chaplain
St. John’s Rehab, Toronto

Church still offering comfort and hope
As I look out from my balcony, I see the church of St. George On Yonge looking so deserted and desolate, but still offering comfort and hope to the Out Of The Cold program. It is still going strong, despite COVID-19, which has robbed us of even our Lenten worship. I wonder why this virus surfaced just at the start of Lent. It is definitely giving us all a chance to take stock of our lives and the world in general. But looking out onto that glittering Cross, I am confident that this pestilence will be crushed, the dragon slain and we will awake to a glorious Easter!
Roshni Sircar
St. George on Yonge
Toronto

Do you have a moment to share? Tell us about it in a paragraph or two and send it to our Director of Communications, Stuart Mann, at smann@toronto.anglican.ca.