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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

We anticipated that Monday, the day of my father’s funeral, would be coated with deep emotion, sadness, sorrow, gratitude. The visitation, the evening before, eased us into the experience of greeting old friends and family, some of whom had travelled great distances to be present. And it didn’t take long for old stories to surface that drew images of who my father was to so many – brother, priest, bishop, husband, uncle, friend.

On Monday, St. George’s Church, St. Catharines, a seminal place for my spiritual formation and home to our family, was filled with the familiar: old friends, vested clergy, full choir, fine preaching, family stories, prayers, scripture, sacrament, tears, laughter and hope. Deep resurrection hope and joy seemed to infuse the worship that day. I am one of those people who is rarely able to sing hymns without shedding a tear or two at the best of times. Just ask Mary. Yet, for some reason, my voice did not falter, blending with the choruses of Alleluia!

The reception that followed was a wash of handshakes, hugs, tears, smiles, pats on the back, and perfectly made sandwiches with no crusts. The stories flowed and continued around our dinner table late in the evening. The blessings of the Church carry us as we embark on the journey of grief and gratitude.

On Tuesday in Holy Week, I addressed the clergy of the Diocese, thanking them for their ministry and presence. I encouraged them to take the time to write or call or reach out to those clergy or lay people who had helped to mentor them, form them and support them on their journey. None of us walk alone. All of us are blessed by the presence, the words and actions of others in our faith journey.

Upon my return to the office, there was a stack of cards and letters on my desk and there were dozens of emails in my inbox from parishes and parishioners, friends and colleagues expressing condolences and sympathy to me and our whole family. Mary and I sat down this morning to read each one of them carefully. Some began with, “When I first met your father…” “Your father was my ACPO assessor…” “Your father took our wedding…” “Your father was my mentor…” “Your dad and I served at General Synod together…” “Your father…”

One cleric wrote, “I remember your dad’s words to me so long ago: ‘Faith means betting your life that something is true.’ That phrase was on my ordination invitation to friends and family back in 1976 and has held me in good stead through the years.”

Each note, a ripple of gratitude for a man who lived his faith and loved so well. Each card, an encouragement. Each email, a cyber blessing. Each arrangement of flowers, a tonic in sadness. Each donation in his name, a gift and a reminder of how we are One in the Body of Christ. I am so grateful for you, my siblings in faith. I am so thankful for your prayers and words of inspiration. We are buoyed by the support of the Church and we live in the hope of this season of Easter. Thank you!

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto