Dear Friends in Christ,
One of my practices during Lent, as I’m sure is the same for many of you, is to have a good Lenten book to read – something spiritually nourishing, that gives me new ideas to consider and fresh insights to reflect upon. This year I am hoping to read “The Patient Ferment of the Early Church” by Alan Kreider. If you are looking for another good suggestion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has an annual tradition of recommending a book for Lent. In 2021, he is promoting “Living His Story: Revealing the extraordinary love of God in ordinary ways” by Hannah Steele; I know that some of our parishes are doing a study of it. Let me know what you are reading this Lent, and how you like it!
I have an additional piece of Lenten reading this year. Like my Lenten book, I intend to read it slowly over the coming weeks – savour it – as I mine its wisdom. I am talking about the impressive 57-page final report of the Episcopal Leadership Working Group, which was delivered to me on Shrove Tuesday. Commissioned last spring, this report successfully completes the mandate of the ELWG, which was to “consider… alternatives to the current geographically-based model [of episcopal leadership] that might better meet the changing circumstances of the Diocese in the future”. Already I can see that this report synthesizes hundreds of hours of research, consultations with bishops and other dioceses, group deliberations and prayerful discernment. There are clear recommendations for me to consider. I will be taking my time with this report. In a few weeks, I will be meeting with the Working Group to thank them personally for their amazing work, and to share my initial reflections with them. Then, in the Easter Season, I anticipate a series of consultations with the whole Diocese. Town Hall meetings (likely over Zoom) will take place in the Spring. I will want your input as we consider a new direction for this Diocese.
We are all aware that we are already in a time of change. This coming week marks Bishop Jenny Andison’s last as Area Bishop of York-Credit Valley. For the past four years, Bishop Jenny has brought her deep faith in Jesus, wisdom, energy, and imagination to her role as an Area Bishop and Suffragan Bishop of this Diocese. She will be greatly missed in York-Credit Valley, and at the College of Bishops table. But I know she takes her giftedness to St. Paul’s, Bloor Street as their new rector, and will continue to be a blessing to the Diocese of Toronto. I look forward to working with her in a new way.
As we continue to journey through this transitional time, I want to share with you how we have re-distributed the workload. We “remaining three”– Bishop Riscylla, Bishop Kevin and I – have been working to ensure that episcopal coverage is equitably shared across the whole Diocese. We met yesterday with the York-Credit Valley Regional Deans, as we did with the York-Simcoe Regional Deans in December, and shared that we have divided up the various deaneries for episcopal oversight during this interim season.
While Bishop Riscylla continues as the Area Bishop for Trent-Durham, she will also now have care of North Peel in York-Credit Valley, and Nottawasaga and Tecumseth in York-Simcoe. Bishop Kevin continues to be Area Bishop for York-Scarborough, but has now taken on Mississauga in York-Credit Valley, and Holland and Huronia Deaneries in York-Simcoe. I have taken on York Central in York-Simcoe, and Etobicoke-Humber and Parkdale-Toronto West in York-Credit Valley. (If you are unsure of your deanery, check out the Area pages of our refreshed website and find your parish.) Bishop Riscylla will attend Area Council meetings in York-Simcoe, and Bishop Kevin will attend Area Council meetings in York-Credit Valley.
With transitions occurring amongst our administrative staff team also, we are covering off the Trent- Durham Area Office differently going forward. In addition to their existing responsibilities in York-Simcoe and York-Credit Valley, Jenn Kean and Arleane Ralph will be providing support to Bishop Riscylla together, with Jenn taking administrative responsibility for the Deaneries of Peterborough and Victoria-Haliburton, and Arleane taking administrative responsibility for Durham-Northumberland and Oshawa. For a full break-down of how divisions have been made for the next few months, please see the attached chart.
Jenn and Arleane, together with Sue Willoughby in York-Scarborough, are available to answer all enquiries and can direct calls to the appropriate responder – whether Diocesan staff, Regional Dean, or appropriate Bishop, as needed. More than ever before, our administrative staff team will become the information hubs that make our Diocese run smoothly.
All of this is a transitional plan, which we will evaluate thoroughly in a couple of months. A small writing group of Regional Deans is working on a revised job description for their role, as we try to find new ways to support episcopal ministry. We are learning as we go, and none of this is permanent.
Lent is a dedicated and intentional time of fasting, prayer and penitence. There is often an element of “letting go” in order to let God have more space in our daily lives. There will feel like some “letting go” over the coming weeks in our Diocesan systems and structures as well – particularly around our habits and expectations – as we make space for God to show us a new way of doing things, how to be a Diocese in a new way. I thank the members of the Episcopal Leadership Working Group for the dedication to their task, and the resulting report which will inform a way forward. I thank Bishop Jenny for her years of fruitful jurisdictional episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Toronto. And I thank all of you who continue to uphold this Church in prayer during this season of change.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto