Dear friends in Christ,
Our garden is slowly coming back to life. The buds on the lilac tree are bursting with green. The tulips are poking up through the soil, the daffodils are flourishing and even with a late blast of snow this week, the pansies are holding in there. Nestled in our backyard is a little pond. Throughout the year, birds and creatures of every description dip into the water to drink from and to bathe in it. They are a delight to watch. Cleaning out the pond for our creaturely neighbours, after the long winter, is on my to-do list.
It is always in Eastertide when the Diocese of Toronto observes Earth Sunday – the Sunday nearest to Earth Day on April 22. While Earth Day itself is a secular observance, its falling in Eastertide reminds us to connect our creation care mandate to our risen Lord. Jesus died and was committed to the earth like a grain of wheat (John 12:24). And he rose again in a garden, and was mistaken by one of his closest followers to be the Gardener (John 20:15).
While it may be overstating the case to say, in the words of the old poem, that “one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth,” God’s purpose for humanity is deeply connected with gardens. At Creation, God put the first human beings in a garden, to tend it and care for it. Jesus Christ was laid to rest and rose again in a garden. And the Book of Revelation closes with a vision of a city at whose centre is the river of life, bordered by the tree of life which bears fruit in every season and whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
The Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care has been hard at work preparing resources to help our Diocese embrace our mandate to tend and care for the earth. This Sunday, Earth Sunday, I invite you to download and share their bulletin insert, which includes a theological reflection from the Rev. Stephen Drakeford as well as action ideas for proclaiming the Resurrection through our gardens at home, at church, and in our hearts. In addition, the committee has created a Community Garden Toolkit to guide parishes through the process of establishing a community vegetable and/or pollinator garden on church property. This resource offers practical considerations at each step of the process, as well as links to other helpful sources of information and funding. All of these are available on the Diocese’s website at www.toronto.anglican.ca/creationcare.
As we look forward to the time when we might start to gather again, parishes will be wanting to explore options for worshipping outdoors, where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower. The committee is currently working on a guide to help parishes create outdoor worship spaces, as well as liturgical resources that work well for outdoor worship, and plans to have those available next month. Look for these new resources coming soon!
Finally, as we prepare our gardens at home and around our churches, let us remember our role in ensuring that all these gardens, here and around the world, can continue to flourish. Through our connection with the Anglican Church of Canada and our partnerships with Citizens for Public Justice and KAIROS, we are part of the nationwide For the Love of Creation campaign for climate justice. Please take the time to learn more about and sign on to their Faith-in-Action advocacy campaign at https://fortheloveofcreation.ca/advocacy/campaign/.
This Earth Sunday, may the beauty around us bring us closer to our Risen Lord and to all creation which is reconciled in Him.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto
P.S. Please don’t forget to join me for a Town Hall meeting in May to discuss the Episcopal Leadership Working Group report! I would love to hear your feedback on the recommendations, particularly Option 3.