This week, I received three different requests from clergy for financial support. While three is a higher number than most weeks, it is not unusual. The three requests were varied: one for income support while on a necessary leave, one for unforeseen emergency medical needs, and one from a retired cleric currently hospitalized and requiring additional care. I know that people do not make these requests lightly.
I am a first-hand beneficiary of The Bishop’s Company, a fund specifically generated by generous donors to allow the bishops to respond to clergy in difficult circumstances. A few years back I made a personal testimony in front of hundreds of guests at the 54th annual Bishop’s Company Dinner, speaking of a medical emergency my sister-in-law had: a terrible accident while on holidays in Europe. I was able to fly to my brother’s side thanks to financial assistance provided by The Bishop’s Company. I was, and still am, so grateful. It is humbling to know we are part of the family of the Church, and that my bishops, and my fellow Anglicans, care for me.
The Bishop’s Company has grown to provide for other urgent needs also. It has provided financial support to programs and stipendiary assistance for Indigenous clergy. It provides annual bursaries for theological students and postulants, a purse to clergy widows and widowers at Easter, and seed funding for our Employee Assistance Program. Just two years ago, thanks to The Bishop’s Company, we expanded the EAP program in large part due to the extra stress clergy faced because of COVID-19. More information on the work of The Bishop’s Company can be found at www.bishopscompanytoronto.ca.
For the last three years, the pandemic has forced us – like so many others – to pivot in response to the need to social distance. We put our annual dinner on hold and introduced an online cabaret as an opportunity to showcase talented musicians from across the Diocese. The cabaret has proven so successful that we have been able to raise over $100,000 each year. Thank you to our donors, sponsors and volunteers who hung with us during this challenging time.
This year will mark the first time since 2019 that we will gather in person to celebrate the valuable role of clergy, delight in fellowship with one another, and raise funds for a very important cause in our Diocese. This won’t mark the end of the road for the cabaret, but we want to return to a sense of normalcy once again.
I invite you to help us sell out this year’s dinner on Oct. 20 at the Marriott Hotel and contribute to the sustaining ministry of our clergy. We have intentionally held costs to pre-pandemic levels to encourage as wide a participation as possible. And we have upgraded the experience with musical performances from two of our past cabaret performers. Thanks to our generous sponsors, we’re also adding four tables to enable young people from across the Diocese to attend free of charge.
The work that our clergy do is significant, and often their struggles come from a place of real vulnerability. On behalf of all those who benefit but are unable to express gratitude, I do so for them. Please join me and my fellow bishops as we welcome the return of The Bishop’s Company Dinner in 2023. May God bless you and our front-line workers in faith.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto