Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Posted on April 24, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22. Perhaps you saw some of the resources that were posted to social media from the Diocese of Toronto, the Anglican Church of Canada and KAIROS. Perhaps you took part in your own activities – as individuals or as parishes – in celebrating and giving thanks for the gifts of creation. In my part of the Diocese it was a beautiful day (although still a bit cold!) and a true pleasure to get outside for a bit. It always is.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have as a society curtailed our activities for the sake of everyone’s health. It has been difficult and sacrificial for us to do so, yet it is the right thing to do to protect our neighbours. A happy additional benefit has been that this same curtailment of human activity is having a positive impact on the health of the planet as well. Carbon emissions are reduced, and skies that were formerly – and some thought perpetually – overcast with pollution and smog have become clear again. Wildlife such as foxes and coyotes are coming up from the ravines and are roaming the streets of Toronto each night in record numbers. At this unique time, when we humans are feeling restriction and restraint, nature is feeling reprieve and release!

The Easter season continues to be one of new life and resurrection hope – despite the pandemic. Every day, as spring unfolds in Southern Ontario, we see new evidence of it. It is a welcome sight, and one that we are hungry for. I know that I delight in watching my neighbours’ gardens pop into bloom on my daily walk. 

In Genesis 9, when the waters of the flood have receded from the face of the earth, Noah and his family exit from the Ark, and God makes a promise – not just to them and all humanity but with the whole of creation: “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth… the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.” The whole world, and all that is in it, is caught up in the redemptive power of God’s saving work. In the same way, Jesus implores the disciples, in the Gospel of Mark, to ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation’. We commit to being a part of God’s covenantal activity when we make our own baptismal promise: “to strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us so much already about those things that we value but may have underappreciated or taken for granted. Perhaps another aspect of our lives that needs re-examination is our appreciation for Creation, and our call to treat the physical world with a delicate and reverent respect. What has our staying close to home taught us about the privilege of being a part of the wider world? What has being inside all day reminded us about the blessings of going outdoors?  What can we do, in our own way, to improve the health of the planet – land, water and air – and all of its citizens – plants and animals – once the health of our human neighbours has been addressed?    

I wish you continued blessings for spring and look forward to writing you again next week.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto