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Anglicans share more moments of grace during the pandemic

Experience left us full of love and laughter
We held a dial-in worship service, along with a digitally recorded service posted on our website, this past Sunday. When we opened up our conference line, we first heard our wonderful lay pianist playing and then the sound of so many of our people coming on the call to worship together from home. It turned out we had well over 100 people on the phone at once. We all started greeting each other joyfully—so many “Hi’s!” and “Hello’s!” that it was like the Tower of Babel re-enacted. That moment itself was so moving.  We worshipped together, praying aloud in unison and listening to a homily, followed by the most wild and wacky version of “Morning Has Broken” any of us have ever experienced—but we were just so full of love and laughter afterwards. Cheryl and I received so many texts and emails of gratitude after this dial-in service and it’s a ministry and fellowship moment we won’t ever forget.
The Rev. Molly Finlay
Associate Priest,
Christ Church Deer Park 

Phone calls keep church members connected
My life this past week has been a combination of reaching forward into new technology while at the same time reaching backwards into the tested and true. I mean phoning people. I have been encouraging the people of St. Anne’s to call each other, especially those not connected to the internet, several of whom are seniors. My calls today were lovely – engaged and upbeat. Everyone says they are well-provisioned and feeling connected. Without exception, everyone I phoned today has already had calls from other members of our congregation. I was talking to the woman who loaned me her copy of The Atlantic to read David Brooks’ article, “The Nuclear Family was a Mistake.” We both marvelled at how timely this is for St. Anne’s. The sentence that jumped out for us was this: “The experience has convinced me that everybody should have membership in a forged family with people completely unlike themselves.” Forged in the sense of melded, created, chosen. It’s a beautiful vocabulary waiting in the wings for this moment.
The Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer
St. Anne, Toronto 

In touch with parishioners, migrant workers
I am always in touch with my parishioners of St. Saviour’s as well as the migrant workers through social media, wherever they may be. In these unprecedented times, communicating through this medium has become much more profound. I can communicate with them and encourage them and let them know that I am praying for them. It has also pushed me to videotape myself and conduct services via social media. Some are expressing appreciation for this, which is heartwarming.  Another way to connect with each other for now. This was my recent message to them in English and Spanish: “That in times such as this, where we might experience perplexity and fear and concern for family, friends, those in our congregation and ourselves, may we look to our God, who is a place of refuge and strength!” 
The Rev Augusto Nunez
St. Saviour, Orono

Email from friend feels like Christmas morning
What’s inspired me? It’s the emails that are like chats in the narthex – people writing about their day or their cats. And there was one that felt like Christmas morning. A friend had sent a lovely note that was newsy and reflective and funny, and attached were gifts to open: a recipe, a book recommendation, a cartoon, an killer exercise program, and my favourite, a link to Sister Sledge singing “We Are Family!” That made me get up and dance. The Rev. Susan Spicer
St. George, Pickering Village, Ajax

People taking time to draw nearer to God
In the midst of COVID-19, we like many other parishes are reaching out to connect to our parishioners by phone, touching base, and checking in to see how people are coping and staying connected. Despite the challenges that people are facing with isolation, working from home and all the uncertainty that now faces us, I have had so many conversations with people who are committed to using this time to draw nearer to God in prayer, in reading of scripture and in study. Though we cannot meet in person, it is so encouraging to see people’s faith not only remain but go deeper. 
The Rev. Jennifer Schick
St. Bede, Toronto

People are helping any way they can
Lots has happened in a week, but for me the inspiring moments have been people offering to help others anyway they can. One parishioner who lives in Whitby offered to come to Lindsay to deliver food to people in self-isolation. Phone calls are being made by parishioners to those who are alone. Prayers are being said for people who have various needs and are just anxious about the crisis we are facing. Worship online is also an inspiration as a few dedicated parishioners have come to ensure that those at home can worship together as the Body of Christ in a new and exciting way.
The Rev. Dr. Warren Leibovitch
St. Paul, Lindsay

Generosity brings tears to my eyes
The town of Penetanguishene is helping our church keep our Deacon’s Cupboard filled – over-flowing, in fact. This keeps the hungry fed. I walk by the cupboard and am overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who is keeping it filled for us. The entrance to the church (although closed) is packed with food that has been given because it just doesn’t fit in the cupboard. The generosity of the town of Penetanguishene to help us help others has brought tears to my eyes.

Also, we did our first service on Zoom yesterday. When I opened the Zoom page, I wish I had taken a screen shot of everyone attending. They were so excited to see each other and I just let them talk, and talk they did. It was amazing how they connected. Then we took the time to pray together, pray for each other and now they are telling all their friends to come to our Zoom church.

Finally, there is a new online group for leaders of local faith groups, we have come together to uphold each other, pray together, and share resources and ideas. This has united us like nothing I have ever seen before. As one Rabbi wrote: “We will not know the crisis is over because everything goes back to being the same. We will know the crisis is over when we are certain that everything has changed. Then we will know beyond all doubt that this crisis is over.” I am seeing change in how we worship, how we have come together as a town and, even via social media, how we truly have become one.
The Rev. Eileen Steele
Parishes of Waubaushene & Penetanguishene

Trial run became first launch
Although we all expected the COVID-19 pandemic would hit us soon, we were all caught off guard by how quickly it spread and evolved day by day and hour by hour. In early March, St. Christopher’s planned to have a test run of a live stream on March 15. But it turned out that the trial run became our first launch. Two hours before the launch, we also created an online donation portal on our website. I am grateful for our e-ministry team to make these happen. After the hectic week of moving things online and grocery stocking, I was thankful for Bishop Peter Fenty’s pastoral call to calm me down during the chaos. He reminded me that instead of losing parishioners in this unprecedent situation, many may turn to God. Indeed, how can Christians take this crisis into an opportunity to reach out?

As more and more parishioners became self-isolated, we asked our small group leaders and caring members to reach out to others. These efforts included a weekly call to see how worried they were and also to encourage them to listen to the audio Bible reading app, hymns from Youtube, join our Sunday live stream services and pray with them.  We also asked our leaders to report back if there were individuals who had difficulty dealing with the crisis and need special attention. Our leaders have been demonstrating great Christian love to care for one another.
The Rev. Canon Philip Der
St. Christopher, Richmond Hill

Parishioner felt new-found peace
I have felt blessed by God in so many ways these past few days. I think we are being reminded in very real ways of what it means to be the body of Christ even though we are dispersed and not gathering together as we usually do. The power of being connected and in relationship has taken on a higher significance. For me, I have enjoyed seeing how God is at work using the internet and social media. Technological advances have often been criticized as separating us into our own individual selves and isolating us from others. Now we see the blessing of technology and how God is using it to keep us connected and as a means of sharing the good news and hope of the gospel. I was overwhelmed when a parishioner in her 90s sent a note saying she had begun to feel anxiety, given what’s going on with this virus. She entered into the worship that was offered in the form an online prayer vigil. She felt a new- found peace. It wasn’t the video we created; it was God at work through the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Canon Mark Kinghan
St. Paul, Uxbridge 

Rural, urban parishioners attending to the needs of others
I serve two parishes, one rural and one urban. At St. Matthew-St. Aidan, in the hamlet of Buckhorn, I have been inspired by how smoothly parishioners have adjusted to the new normal and adapted to caring for one another at a distance. People in a small town are used to caring for one another. In the midst of the challenges and worries of COVID-19, people are remaining calm, focused and attentive to responding appropriately to the needs of others in the community. I have been inspired by how naturally, our parish teams have made the transition to adjust while remaining focused on how we serve the local community and beyond. I’m inspired by how our parish has not lost sight of the fact that caring for those in need is a parish priority.

In Peterborough, local foodbanks are challenged by recent shortages and by the rigorous procedures for  safe food distribution during the pandemic. I have been inspired by how the food cupboard team at St. Luke’s has carefully adjusted how they package and distribute groceries and staples to their clients. The food cupboard, its freezers and inventory, is located in the basement of the church, some distance along a narrow hall from the point of access. To reconfigure the usual distribution method required careful planning and a lot of labour to package everything individually and move it to the upstairs door so that people could be served safely, one at a time according to the COVID-19 guidelines from Peterborough Food Share. I have been truly inspired by the commitment and high energy-level of our food cupboard team under the guidance of Lorraine Brown. Many people in the parish recognized the increased need and, while observing physical and social distancing, contributed extra supplies and extra funds for it.

One other thing that gave me both a happy smile and an added moment of inspiration was hearing how Faith Rees of St Luke’s, not to be deterred by St. Patrick’s Day cancellations nor by her senior years, donned her Irish garb, put on the Irish tunes, and danced a jig on the balcony of her apartment. May she be an inspiration to us all.
The Rev. Glenn Empey
St. Matthew-S.t Aidan, Buckhorn
St. Luke, Peterborough

Churches hold true to the Fifth Mark of Mission
The virus has helped all of us come alive with our faith. In addition to the countless ways clergy and lay leaders have found to help us worship together when we are not together, I have been most moved to realize that most food and care programs that have been quietly running in many of our churches have not closed up shop. Food is being prepared, packaged up and delivered, often to the homes of people who need it, but at minimum, at the back door of the parish hall for people to pick up. The cooks are being careful to keep to the required distance from each other, but people are being fed.

It seems to me that, by holding true to the Fifth Mark of Mission, several of our churches are, in fact, proclaiming Good News to their communities, and perhaps even encouraging some community members (both those hearing about or experiencing the feeding) to explore again in their own hearts the value of a faith community. And, maybe, just maybe, by these acts of care and love, we are drawing attention of governments and Canadian citizens to the fact that there are societal things that must be corrected when this pandemic is over. We have for too long neglected the homeless, the poor, the lonely, the mentally ill, Indigenous peoples and others. I am inspired by the Anglicans and others of faith I know who are putting themselves on the line to reach out to those who are among those oft-neglected groups, with food, with kind words, and with sincere questions about their wellbeing. Hope and love in action! Praise God! Praise God’s people!
Suzanne Lawson
St. Peter, Cobourg

Early efforts helps town adapt
Eighteen months ago, the small grocery store in the village closed down. This left all of the people who live in the village who do not drive without a way to buy groceries. In Cannington, the grocery store had a fire and was closed for a year. In both cases, the large grocery store on the highway was the only grocery store near either village. Local people started driving neighbours, shopping for people, and arranging buses to take people to the highway store. This has been going on in Beaverton since then, so we were already getting groceries for each other and looking in on vulnerable neighbours. All of this made it easier for us to adapt to isolation because of COVID-19.
The Rev. Canon Ted McCollum
St. Paul, Beaverton

Comment leads to prayer and conversation
Over the first few days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a number of moments when I sat back and said, “Wow, God is really up to something” – whether that was a chance encounter with a very anxious parishioner in the grocery store or the people who responded to the reflection questions in the Facebook version of our study group. The moment, though, that I want to share happened on Sunday, March 15. I was up at my usual time to get ready, but without a regular worship service to prepare the church for, I found myself on Facebook scrolling through posts. I came across a post in a community group from someone I knew from the community support groups we offer, who commented on the challenge of getting the groceries she needed for self-isolation because she has health issues that make her more vulnerable. I commented that I would be happy to help. A Facebook Messenger conversation ensued, a way that we had not connected before, and she shared with me some other medical concerns she was facing and we prayed and we have now setup a Facebook group chat and are planning a video chat in place of our next meeting. If it had not been for COVID-19 I might not have connected with her like this and I certainly would not have been able to pray with her and for her at this time of need.
The Rev. Dana Dickson
Trinity Church, Bradford

People are hungry for the Word
Before the church buildings had to close, we offered a time of personal prayer on Sunday morning for those who wished to come pray in St. Paul’s sanctuary. To my delight, I had one person come in who avoids church on Sundays because it is too crowded and ask for a Bible, which I happily gave him. Another family came in who are fairly new immigrants, and they also deeply wished to have a Bible of their own. People are hungry for the Word, and it was such a privilege to be able to put it in their hands, and to have deep and meaningful connections with people that may not have happened on a busy Sunday morning. God is at work!
The Rev. Karen Isaacs
Associate Priest
St. Paul, Bloor Street

Overwhelmed by care during illness
After arriving home from a trip to Cuba on March 14, my daughters and I got sick with what appears to be COVID-19 (we are considered presumptive cases as we are not eligible to be tested). We were staying at a hotel in close quarters with people from Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. Even before we were symptomatic, we went into isolation. The illness is not fun, but we have been very fortunate to not have any serious breathing issues. We have been overwhelmed by the care being shown to us by our church community and other neighbours. People picking up groceries, walking our dog and dropping off, on a daily basis, baked goods, homemade soup and bottles of wine! The latter will have to wait until I am well.  As a person who is used to being the one caring for others, it is a humbling experience and deeply moving. Watching my daughter’s response to people’s compassion and generosity reminds me of how important our actions towards one another are. Can’t do much these days, but praying with everyone else.
The Rev. Canon Ruthanne Ward
Church of the Ascension, Port Perry

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