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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting and almsgiving… These words, spoken by the presider at the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, invite us to step into the season of Lent, to take on these spiritual disciplines in preparation for the Paschal Passover. The season gives all of us the opportunity, with intentional prayer and reflection on the ways we have fallen short in our relationship with God and our neighbour, and our deep need for God’s forgiveness and mercy. Of these spiritual disciplines, I ask you to consider fasting.

Tomorrow, our Primate has called us to a day of fasting. Together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada is invited to make Friday, Feb. 16 a day of intentional prayer, reflection and yes, fasting, as we consider the dire situation in Gaza, Israel and Ukraine. Prayer resources have been provided for your personal devotions, or you may want to join the prayer service with Archbishop Linda Nicholls and Lutheran Bishop Susan Johnson tomorrow, Friday night, at 7 p.m. on Facebook Live.

For two years, Ukraine has been at war with Russia. It has now been four months since the heinous attack by Hamas in Israel, with ceaseless retaliation in Gaza ever since. Thousands have been killed, and millions have been displaced. The world is seemingly being torn apart by violence, and as a human family, we need to agree to stop.

It is all too easy for us to feel  disconnected and removed from such pain and destruction. “It’s over there,” we think, and carry on with our comfortable lives. “There but for the Grace of God…” we might say, even fervently and with gratitude, but then distract ourselves with issues closer to home, feeling helpless to effect change.

But our family is a human family, our world is a global village, and how we care about, and for, each other – even on the other side of the planet – says everything about how we define “neighbour” in the way Jesus called us. Prayer is the simplest and most profound way to express our solidarity with our fellow human beings who are in dire circumstances. And we can lament before God that human sin perpetuates such violence and desecration of life.

International conflict does indeed affect us here – we can see refugees arriving in Canada, grieving families watching the news with broken and anxious hearts, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic hate infecting our society at home – so we know that distance alone does not excuse us from demanding that these conflicts must cease, and pleading for God’s healing intervention.

It is poignant to think of these things in February, the month when we remember Black history. The Black diaspora knows all too well the effects and legacy of violence, and what it means to experience international apathy to grave injustice. We are only just starting to acknowledge the damage of colonialism and the intergenerational trauma of slavery, which has affected the whole world.

I was so moved to attend St. Paul, L’Amoreaux parish this past Sunday, where Black History Month was celebrated in the context of their vibrant, multi-cultural congregation. There was a rich festival of music with strings, choir and steel pan. There were liturgical dancers and 22 confirmations! The celebration spilled over into the parish hall with a feast of food and more music.

One of the most poignant moments in the liturgy was during the procession of the Gospel. The steel pan band played Abel Meeropol’s song, “Strange Fruit.” It is a powerful, sobering piece written in 1937, sung most memorably by Billie Holiday. It is a song considered by many as marking the beginning of the civil rights movement in the United States. It was a powerful moment for me.

I always delight in seeing how local parishes keep Black History Month in their own context and raise up the accomplishments, giftedness and resilience of their Black parishioners and the Black community. These celebrations are signs of hope in the midst of a troubled world.

So please join with me, the College of Bishops and Anglicans across the country tomorrow, as we fast and pray for an end to war in the troubled areas of world. Lord, have mercy.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto