Skip To Content
From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

Two related but different images have stuck in my head this week. The first is of vehicles that I see on the 400, heading north to the cottage, stuffed with all the necessities needed to open up the summer place for the season. Food, beverages, bedding, cleaning supplies, clothing for both warm and cool temperatures, perhaps a new piece of furniture or a water toy…  everything ready to set up a home-away-from-home. Thinking of, and then packing, everything that one might need is an organizer’s delight… or nightmare!

The second image is the haunting video I saw on the news this week of a car racing through a panorama of flame, escaping from the wildfires engulfing parts of Nova Scotia at this time. We know all too well that fire, a sign and symptom of a scorching planet, is forcing many people from their homes in various parts of our country. My heart is broken for those who are fleeing their homes in a panic, not knowing if they will ever see them standing again. How does one pack for that? Does one actually have the time?

World Refugee Day celebrates the strength and courage of the many people who have been forced to leave their homes, often hurriedly, to escape conflict or persecution. What a daunting prospect – to leave behind almost all that you have, and all that you’ve known, and set out to make a new home in a new country with its unfamiliar customs, language and institutions. Yet tens of thousands of refugees come to Canada every year, with hope in their hearts for a new start in a land of safety and opportunity, a place where they will be met with welcome instead of fear and hate.

The theme of World Refugee Day 2023 is “Hope away from Home: A world where refugees are always included.” And in the midst of a world of exclusion, violence, persecution and forcible displacement, Scripture calls us instead to hospitality, to welcome the stranger as we would welcome Christ himself, to hold out that hope and promise of a new home.

This gospel call to welcome the stranger is what inspired Christian churches in Canada to sign the first sponsorship agreements with the federal government nearly 50 years ago, creating Canada’s world-renowned Private Sponsorship of Refugees program. In our Diocese, we have been blessed by our partnership with the Anglican United Refugee Alliance (AURA). AURA staff bring their efforts and expertise to the immense task of matching refugees with sponsoring parishes, working with parishes to support them through this process, and often connecting parishes to others in the community who want to be involved in a sponsorship. In addition, AURA staff support the Diocesan Refugee Network, a forum for parish sponsorship group members to connect and share information, best practices and other resources. AURA and diocesan staff also work together to spread the word about the need for refugee resettlement, and how Anglicans in our Diocese can be part of this life-saving work.

One of the ways we do this is by setting aside one Sunday each year within the season of Pentecost as Refugee Sunday. AURA and diocesan staff have compiled a range of resources you and your parish can use on Refugee Sunday, including a new litany for refugees and migrants composed by three deacons of our Diocese – the Rev. Evelyn Butler, the Rev. Lorna May and the Rev. Michael Van Dusen. You can find all these resources here.

I have chosen this Sunday, June 4, to mark Refugee Sunday in the Diocese of Toronto. June 4 is also Trinity Sunday. It is the feast day when we contemplate the wonder of God as conceived of in the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit… Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Psalm 46 opens with the words, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. In the midst of the troubles we face in the world, many are being forcibly displaced. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees estimates that the number on the move is approximately 103 million people. It is a staggering number. It is almost impossible to fathom.

On Sunday, I will be attending St. James Cathedral with Mary, my wife, who is very involved with the refugee ministry there. The committee is hosting two coffee hours that morning, and those attending will hear from a trinity of speakers: a representative from AURA, a member of the St. James committee and a member of a sponsored family. The Holy Spirit may be encouraging you and your parish to embrace this kind of ministry. You may feel that the scope and responsibility is beyond the capacity of your parish. I would encourage you to reach out to a neighbouring congregation or the Diocesan Refugee Network to discover ways of pooling your collective wisdom and resources. Together we can become a refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto