By the Rev. Stephen Pessah
It was a day of mixed emotions as both the clergy and laity of the York-Simcoe episcopal area gathered on April 21 at St. George, Allandale, in Barrie to celebrate with Bishop George Elliott and his wife, Linda, 12 years of episcopal ministry. Bishop Elliott retires as area bishop on April 30.
By the start of the event at 3 p.m., the hall was already full and continued to swell to no less than 300 people before its conclusion at 5 p.m. This in itself was a testimony to the impact Bishop George and Linda have had on the lives of those in our area and in our diocese these past 12 years.
The event transpired against the backdrop of the David Dunlap Trio, which provided music. This, combined with the superb catering efforts of Beth Hunt from the Globe Restaurant in Rosemont, created a delightful atmosphere in which people were able to engage in a time of informal sharing with our beloved bishop.
The sharing culminated in a gift presentation made by the Rev. Nicola Skinner, the regional dean of Holland deanery, and a speech by the Rev. Canon John Read, the regional dean of York-Central deanery). Canon Read’s speech expressed the shared feelings and sentiments of those gathered. He highlighted Bishop George and Linda’s remarkable gift of hospitality and Bishop George’s keen sense of humour.
On matters of pastoral care, it was noted that Bishop George exercised great patience and boundless energy as he sought to provide spiritual care and nurture to both his clergy and laity. His concern for his people has been felt by so many in very real and tangible ways. Whether it was a visit at a difficult time, or simply a word of encouragement to help us believe in better days ahead, we are all better for his presence in our lives. We were then reminded of that one gift Bishop George has shared throughout the years to express God’s love in ways that words simply cannot—his gift of music. I suspect his sung Blessing will be that one defining feature we will miss the most! As we raised our glasses in a toast to Bishop George and Linda, it became clear in the moment that we were not just sending our Bishop into retirement with our blessings, but we were saying farewell to a dear friend.
The Rev. Stephen Pessah is the incumbent of St. Margaret, Barrie.