Dear Friends in Christ,
“Lift up your hearts!”
As I spoke those words, the “sursum corda” or opening versicle of the Eucharistic Prayer, last Sunday at the Cathedral, I could feel the heightened emotions not only in myself but also in the people all around me. Indeed, I saw tears on a nearby face. For the first time in six long months, we were gathered together in worship, about to break bread in the Eucharistic Feast. My heart was truly uplifted in thanksgiving.
Last Sunday, many of our parishes re-opened for people to gather in community, to come together to worship God as church families, and for some, to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time in months. I hope that you, like me, found it a day of deep joy.
There were some differences, to be sure. Not being able to shake hands or hug each other, not being able to see faces and smiles, trying to listen, to preach and to read from behind a mask, not raising our voices in song, and of course trying to navigate the awkward new logistics of making one’s communion – it wasn’t the same. But … it also was. There was a sense of familiarity to it all, even with the strangeness of the new guidelines and protections that have been put into place.
The last few weeks leading up to re-opening have been busy, perhaps busier than any of us could have ever expected. It has been so much work to prepare for re-entry, and I am profoundly grateful to all of you who have put so much energy and care into doing so. I believe that all of our hard work, and our diligence with the Amber Stage protocols, demonstrates our respect and concern for others during this still-anxious time. Even as our society attempts to get back to pre-COVID-19 normal with schools, offices, businesses and even traffic trying to resume usual operations, the Church continues to be cautious and conservative in our approach to going back to our usual activities.
We have all been watching the infection trends go up with growing concern. The Toronto and Peel areas are considered “hot-spots” of virus transmission, and vigilance must be maintained for the sake of all. We ask for your continued strict adherence to our guidelines. Stay tuned for any necessary changes that may be coming.
But I want to conclude on a hopeful note. The Eucharist at which I was presiding last Sunday was the long-awaited, twice-postponed, ordination of transitional deacons. These five new curates of the Diocese represent to me something very special indeed. Together with the nine new postulants of the Diocese that had been selected just four days prior to that, this wonderfully diverse group of beloved children of God – diverse in gender, age, race, theology, and giftedness – present a snapshot of the future direction of our Church. I am reminded of what Bishop Jenny Andison often likes to say at ordinations, “As long as God keeps raising up faithful women and men to serve as our leaders, then we know that God has work for our Church to do.”
There is lots of work to do, but we can do it. “Bon courage!” Lift up your hearts!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto