Dear Friends in Christ,
I was on a Zoom call with clergy from York Central Deanery yesterday afternoon. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to listen and to appreciate how folks are doing in their parishes. I am so impressed by the creativity and intentional ways that communities are weaving prayer and sacrament, study and reflection, outreach and hospitality together one year on in this pandemic. As folks were checking in, the word vestry was uttered more than once. Vestry. I remember well the feelings of worry, nervousness and uncertainty that mingled with anticipation, resolve and even excitement in the lead-up to the meeting. I often wrung my hands wondering, will the budget pass? Will the meeting go well? Will there be contention or harmony?
One of the things that I always appreciated at the annual vestry meeting was the motion presented by the Social Justice & Advocacy Committee of the Diocese. Year after year, vestry wrestled with issues of homelessness, minimum wage, creation care, etc. The conversations that we had were really fine, sometimes difficult, sometimes unanimous and mostly very honest and helpful. This year’s offering is particularly poignant. In 2021, we ask parishes to consider Committing Ourselves to Anti-Racism. This motion comes from the Bishop’s Committee on Intercultural Ministry, with the support of the Social Justice & Advocacy Committee, and it highlights anti-Black racism as a particular form of racism which we are called to identify and dismantle.
I am grateful for the Black Anglicans of Canada group in striving to improve participation, empowerment and inclusion of Black people in leadership roles within the Anglican Church of Canada. I am grateful to hear of parishes in the Diocese hosting book studies and education series on the topic. I am delighted to see the progress we are making toward training clergy and lay leaders on anti-racism and anti-bias. These are worthy steps, and we have a long way to go.
Please take the time at your vestry this year to commit yourselves to this work. Please make the effort to talk about the scourge of racism and its myriad harmful ways. Listen to the testimony of those among us who speak from experience. Raise your hand and say yes to dismantling systems of white privilege. Take up one or two of the suggested action items that put your yes into motion. I look forward to hearing about your experiences and progress on a future Zoom call.
One more invitation. For almost 20 years, vestry meetings in the parishes where I served always seemed to fall on the last Sunday of February. It was the same day that the Black Heritage Service was held at St. Paul’s, Bloor Street. By the time the meeting was over, there was never enough time to make it to the service. It wasn’t until I became Bishop that I was able to be present for the first time. I regret the years I missed. What a celebration!
So, please join us for the Black Heritage Service on Sunday, February 28. The theme is “God’s People: Grounded in Faith, Filled with Hope, Called to Action”. The service starts with dance, music and the Word at 4 p.m. I am looking forward to engaging in a dialogue sermon with two wonderful young people, Brittany Hudson and Aleshia Johnson, moderated by Brother Reginald Crenshaw, OHC. You can register to join us here. The commute-time from the Kawarthas and Brighton, Mississauga and Collingwood is the same as arriving from downtown: it’s just a click away. Come be a part and celebrate!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto