Dear Friends in Christ,
Years and years ago, Saturday morning cartoons were a thing. Nowadays there are whole networks devoted to this form of animation and you can watch them at any time. In the olden days, cartoons took their place on Saturday mornings. At that time, my siblings and I were only allowed to watch cartoons until 9 a.m. After that, my mother insisted that we get outside and play. There was no negotiating the matter, her word was final. The challenge for us was that this new cartoon called Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! came on at the very time we were to be jettisoned. So, as the clock ticked closer to the hour, we became surreptitiously quiet. We slinked closer to the television set and turned the volume down low, hoping that mom would think we were already in the yard. Sometimes it even worked, for a bit. When we were discovered, my mother with great might proclaimed…out you go! And out we went. It was years before I actually saw a complete episode of Scooby-Doo.
Years and years ago, when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. I imagine they were huddled together surreptitiously waiting for the promise of the Advocate to come. They could not have imagined that this helper would come with such force, with such energy as to fill them and to disrupt them…out you go! And out they went.
On the Day of Pentecost, the breath of God blew into the room like the divine breath being blown through the nostrils of humanity in the garden. Animated by the Spirit, the disciples were given the ability to speak, in a myriad of languages, the truth that stirs the soul to believe again, to trust again, to see beyond the temporal and to touch the eternal again and to know that God in Christ Jesus is for them. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were unmuted and they spoke in words and ways that echoed an even older story from the prophet Joel…
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
Out you go! And out we went. Over 14 months ago, we were jettisoned out of our buildings to find new ways of connecting, praying, studying and serving the Gospel in these difficult times. We have learned to be vulnerable, attentive, patient and creative. We have learned to Zoom, livestream and post on YouTube. I am grateful for the ways we have accepted disruption and change. Deeper still, I am grateful for the ways we have been unmuted by the Spirit of God to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ in new ways. As the number of vaccinations increases and the number of active cases of COVID-19 decreases, there is hope that we might return to our buildings in a more fulsome way. And when we do return, let us remember the lessons of the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God calls us out, then out we shall go!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto
P.S. Yesterday the Ontario Government outlined its plan for a gradual re-opening of the Province, as rates of virus transmission continue to fall and the number of people vaccinated increases. Churches and worship services are not mentioned in its plan until Phase Two, which we will likely get to in early-to-mid July. At that time, we will be able to return to our Amber Stage Guidelines and resume in-person, indoor worship at 15% capacity. That is something to look forward to! Until then, continue with our Red Stage Guidelines, with livestreamed and online worship. In Phase One, we can allow for small outdoor gatherings, up to 10 people, with physical distancing. We will continue to keep you apprised of developments as they are announced.