Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Posted on May 13, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

A priest submitted a question for today’s Weekly Q&A Bulletin that I wanted to answer personally.  It’s one that I’ve been fielding from time-to-time over the past few weeks, and it always takes me a little by surprise: “Should I take my summer vacation this year?”

In a word: YES!

I understand the sentiment behind the question. These past couple of months have been so unusual. For most clergy, we have been at home, not in our churches. Now, some people may believe that old saying, “a change is as good as a rest,” but I am not one of them! I think all of us have found that this challenging time has been very hard work indeed. I am tired, and I know you are too. I have found engaging in ministry without the advantages of physically gathering to be both logistically demanding, and emotionally and spiritually draining. Some of us are working harder than we ever have before. Learning and using new tools requires deep reserves of energy, and we do not know when this experience of isolation will end. And looking ahead, we will all need to be at our best for the re-engagement that we hope, God willing, is coming soon.

So, yes, please do book a wonderful summer break. While we may or may not be able to actually travel – it’s kind of hard to plan! – please choose your weeks and inform your parish when you’ll be off. Plan to completely detach if you can. Turn off the screens and go outside to spend time in God’s creation. Our Canadian summers are so precious, and as we know, all too brief.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught our parishes that worship and ministry can continue in new ways, and without sacramental leadership. We hope to continue the cathedral’s Sunday live stream and your worshippers can be directed there. Take advantage of the giftedness among your lay leaders to provide some of the coverage while you’re off. Coordinate with your neighbouring clerics to adequately provide any necessary pastoral or sacramental care in your absence. And then, as Jesus says, “Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Sabbath is an important spiritual principle – for rest, for refreshment, for renewal. It is life-giving even just to have it in your calendar to anticipate! This last week, it was a happy conversation at the College of Bishops’ Zoom meeting as we shared our hopes for the summer and coordinated our holiday dates. I personally will be on my summer break from July 27 to August 23, and Commissaries will be announced closer to that time.

I look forward to writing to you again on Friday.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto