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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

One of the great privileges – and challenges – of my role as Bishop of Toronto is that I am frequently away from home. Sometimes I get to travel to far-off places, which is very meaningful (especially when my spouse can come with me), but more often I am just away for a night or two, attending meetings not far from Toronto. This past week I’ve been at Mount Carmel Monastery in Niagara Falls with the National House of Bishops, having important but sometimes difficult conversations. After four nights away, I cannot wait to get home: to sleep in my own bed and eat food out of my own fridge. I am so appreciative of my place, after having been away from it.

This year’s Outreach Conference, starting tomorrow, is about dis-placement: those times when people are separated from their place, with no assurance of return. Everywhere we look, we can see examples of displacement: the unhoused people taking shelter in encampments to those priced out of their neighbourhood by rising rents; the urgent pleas our office receives every week for refugee sponsorship; the migrant workers who must leave their families for more than half the year to work where they have limited rights and protections. Our news media shows images of war zones in the Holy Land, in Ukraine, in South Sudan and other places where people live under the constant threat of bombardment and violence.

But there are more subtle signs of displacement as well. There is the woman who once donated to the food bank who now lines up to receive food rather than give it. There is the single man living alone, without a family doctor or even close family and friends to note his declining health. There are members of diasporic Afro-Caribbean communities striving to find a home place in a country that keeps treating them as outsiders, and Indigenous people who have, through generations, been displaced and alienated from the land that has been their own from time immemorial. There are farmers whose family farms have become a target for developers, and the creatures of forest and wetland, the Blanding’s turtles and the red-headed woodpeckers, whose habitat is being destroyed. Whether quietly or catastrophically, the connections that knit us to each other, to our communities, our places in the world, are eroded.

As Christians, we worship Jesus – God Incarnate – who sanctified time and place with his physical presence. How should we respond faithfully when the world so often seemingly disregards the importance of “place”? We will consider this question at this year’s diocesan Outreach and Advocacy Conference, “Living in Exile: Inhabiting a World of Displacement,” online tomorrow – Saturday, Oct. 28. I am delighted that Dr. Brian Walsh, my friend and former parishioner, will be our keynote speaker this year. Brian has wrestled with these issues for many years and has lived out the answer – in the founding of the Wine Before Breakfast community, in his writing, as a board member of A Place Called Home in Lindsay, and as a partner with his wife, Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, in Russet House Farm. Brian will speak about the story and the habits by which we as Christians resist the culture of displacement to live out God’s vision of home.

Following the keynote address, the conference will explore the various forms of displacement and the opportunities we have to counter them with acts of justice, hospitality and community building. At the end of the day, participants will have an opportunity to regroup, reflect on what they have learned, and pray together.

Why not join us? Registration is free of charge but closes tonight at midnight. Learn more and register here.

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto