I find November a month for reflection. The days get darker, the leaves fall, the birds and animals start to disappear. It feels like things in the natural world are “winding down.”
In November we remember those who have gone before us, who have “run the race and fought the good fight,” and whose time on earth is done. Starting with All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, we uphold before God all those whom we admired and loved, and who have entered into the nearer presence of our loving Saviour. Soon after, Remembrance Day recalls the tragic loss of life to war and conflict. Tomorrow, Nov. 20, is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual commemoration that I wrote about last year when we honor the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. And this past week, in preparing for Synod, I reviewed the In Memoriam list – those clergy and lay friends of the Diocese who have died since our last gathering – whose names will be recalled during the prayers at our opening Eucharist. This year’s list is lengthy and poignant.
Among the names is our beloved Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones, who died in April this year. Tomorrow we will gather for a memorial service at St. James Cathedral to commend his soul to Almighty God, in thanksgiving for his faithful witness and ministry in the Church and in our Diocese in particular, as priest, archdeacon and Suffragan Bishop. You are welcome to join us online via our YouTube channel at 11 a.m.
Yet, this last Sunday of the Church’s year, Reign of Christ Sunday, is not just a sober year-end reflection that looks backwards, but a pointing forward to what lies ahead. In the fullness of time, we pray, God will reconcile all things in Christ and make them new. This is our hope, and we live our lives in anticipation of that. Reign of Christ Sunday is our segue toward Advent, the season of hope, and God’s plan of salvation unfolding for the sake of humanity and the world. Through Christ we are assured of freedom and release from loss, grief, pain, war, violence, hate, evil – death itself. Jesus triumphs! And we look and work toward the Kingdom of Heaven being realized in this world, as well as in the next.
For this reason, we’ve designated Reign of Christ Sunday as FaithWorks Sunday in the Diocese of Toronto. Over the past year we marked the 25th anniversary of FaithWorks and had some marvelous celebrations, rejoicing in all that we have accomplished – through the grace of God – with our ministry partners in Orillia, Barrie, Newmarket, Peterborough, North Durham, Mississauga and Toronto. Across this Diocese, FaithWorks has tirelessly supported the “least of these” amongst us, all in the name of Christ.
As we bring this 25th anniversary year to a close, let’s move into the coming year with energy and purpose, fuelled by hope. I urge you to take up the 100+1% challenge I offered in February; that we have 100% participation in this year’s FaithWorks campaign, and we all give 1% more than last year as parishes and individuals. It would be a wonderful way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of FaithWorks. Don’t forget that a generous anonymous donor has offered a $100,000 matching challenge grant. This means that for every dollar raised over last year’s amount by an individual or parish, FaithWorks receives an extra dollar. This is an opportunity you’ll want to be part of! You can make your FaithWorks donation through your parish, or at FaithWorks.ca.
I look forward to Synod next week when we will gather as a diocesan family to worship, to witness and to work towards the Kingdom of God.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto
P.S. I’m blown away by the response to my upcoming online course with Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, “Reading the Bible from the Margins.” It starts this Sunday evening and continues each week until Dec. 12. Thanks to Zoom, there’s still room to join us! You can register for free.