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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

We have a dog. She is a new, temporary member of our family, though the longer she stays, the more permanent she becomes. Her name is Annie. Still a pup, she turns two in April. She thinks she is smaller than she really is, often pining to climb on your lap and nestle in for a moment of comfort. As the one who offers the comfort, that can be a challenge. You see, Annie is a Bernese Mountain Dog, weighing in at a mere 80 pounds. When she comes for you on the couch, you are literally draped in dog.

She arrived at the end of September. Our daughter Hannah and her partner Scott were heading off to Germany for a year so that Hannah could pursue the next stage of her university studies. Mary and I had agreed to take the dog for the year. We had been talking about having a dog. Like many who adopted pets during Covid, we were tempted as well. Yet the idea of taking on another creaturely responsibility when the last of the kids were almost out the door was a bit daunting. We could handle a year, we thought. No problem.

We both had experience with dogs in our families of origin. They played a big role in our formation. Yet you forget about the space they occupy in your daily life. We weren’t completely ready for the Annie invasion when Scott and Hannah left. They left us with reams of instructions – how to do this, what not to do, etc. We carefully followed their roadmap, reinforcing their training principles until we kind of developed our own.

We discovered quickly that you don’t take Annie for a walk – she takes you, either at a pace that you can barely keep up with or at a dawdle so she can smell… everything. Gentle in spirit, she needs to greet every dog she meets. And we in turn meet them too. We are meeting more people in our neighbourhood than we did prior to Annie’s arrival. That’s a good thing. And we are getting our steps in every day.

She is a really good dog. I suppose the thing that I most appreciate about Annie is the gift she brings. When you wake up in the morning or arrive home after work, the dance is always the same. She wags her considerable tail so vigorously, it sounds like a cricket bat hitting the wall. Her rump sways with the motion and she dances in your presence. The gift she brings is joy – such joy after a long day or a restless night.

The Psalmist sings, Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30.5b). Joy is better than happiness, deeper than gladness. Joy peppers the soul that grieves or is lost with hope and presence. Joy embodies trust in life, in neighbour, in creation, in God. It is tempting to settle for happiness, which feels fleeting or temporary. How much better it is to pursue joy that touches permanence and eternity. In this season of Epiphany, we are called to bring the joy of our faith in Jesus Christ, who broke open the tears of Friday into the surprise and wonder of Sunday morning. We are called to embody the love, curiosity and delight of God’s love. So dawdle, spend time with your neighbours, bring comfort to the afflicted. And dance a little.

Well, time to take Annie for another walk…

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto