Dear Friends in Christ,
Last week, I ignored my computer. (You may have noticed that there was no letter!) That was because I was taking my winter break, and I have to say, it was wonderful.
I went to our place up north, where Mary and I enjoyed some quiet time together, the arrival of some beautiful spring weather, and – best of all – I was able to get my hands dirty with a construction project. Our house has a Muskoka room off the front. It’s like an enclosed porch. We spend a lot of time in that room. So last week, we got the itch to pull down the ceiling, to expose the rafters. And once exposed, the rafters became like a canvas for something new – warmer lighting, a new colour, a different atmosphere. An emerging vision for the room was made even more clear after a visit to the local lumberyard (one of my favourite places to go). I love to work with my hands, but I also know my limitations. My younger brother, who is more skilled with electrical projects, has promised to come and help me install the lights later in the spring. It will be good to work on that together.
We are about to enter into the Week of Weeks – when we journey with Jesus through the events of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, the Last Supper on Thursday, his betrayal, trial and crucifixion on Friday, until finally, celebrate with jubilation his triumphant Resurrection on Easter Day. It is the week that uncovers, lays bare and exposes the brokenness of our humanity. It is the week that lifts the ceiling of our understanding. It is the week that exchanges an old canvas for one that is new. By any measure, this coming week is the richest, holiest, most sacred time of the Church year. This is the week that changes the world! For clergy and lay leaders, it is a blessing and privilege to lead Christians through the coming days. I know I speak for many when I say, there is nothing I would rather do. But – it can be exhausting.
I have mentioned before that we are all feeling a deep fatigue. We have recently marked the one-year anniversary (can you believe it?) of the arrival of COVID-19 in our country, and the start of lock-down and restrictions in our Province and Diocese. It has been a long year – a long year of accompanying our congregations through feelings of fragility, discouragement, isolation, fear, and grief. It has been an unprecedented time of re-imagining how we do things, and learning how to worship in new ways. And the changes just keep on coming! Right when we think we have it all figured out, another shift occurs, another set-back, renewed restrictions, more changes. Although we said from very early on, “This is a marathon, not a sprint”, now that a whole year has passed, we are starting to believe it. We are very tired. “Are we there yet?”
Last year at this time, I wrote: “It has long been a discipline of mine to eliminate regular meetings and ‘business as usual’ during Holy Week. Perhaps this year the novelty of doing things differently will allow you to cut back not just on those things that we are restricted from doing, but also some other things that you will discover are unnecessary. Less is more. Be kind to yourselves. Slow down. Christ died for you.”
All of those things are still true, perhaps moreso now than twelve months ago when “the coronavirus” was new.
So let me again encourage you to re-discover this Easter the spirit of Re-Creation. I invite you to prayerfully examine not just your work and calling as a faith leader in the days of Holy Week and the Triduum, but also in your intentional times for rest and refreshment. Let us not forget that we worship a God who after the mighty acts of creation, admired all that had been made, called it good … and then rested.
Take your breaks, including your Winter Week. Protect your days off. Start to plan – book! – your summer holidays. Consider re-building something – whether it is your spirit… or a porch. Maybe both!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto
PS. I invite my fellow clergy to join me on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. for a quiet time of reflection prior to the Blessing of Oils and Renewal of Vows livestream from St James Cathedral at 10:30 a.m., to which all are welcome!