From the Bishop of Toronto
Posted on June 17, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ:
Signs of hope.
Ever since the initial shut-down in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been looking for signs of hope. Occasionally, news of a potentially effective drug or progress on a vaccine or possible cure would excite us, but more often, dire statistics and rising numbers of new cases were cause for anxiety. As weeks turned into months, it was easy to become very discouraged. When would things start to get better?
But now we are seeing signs of hope. As of today, Ontario has fallen below the threshold of 200 new cases of infection for the fourth day in a row. The curve seems to be flattening, and progress is being made. Other parts of the country are achieving even greater success in containing the spread of the disease. This is good news.
The provincial government and the health authorities have responded with a loosening of restrictions and a lifting of some of the constraints that have been imposed, including on us in the Church. But as the people of God, we are conscious of our tremendous responsibility – our baptismal promises, in fact – to care for each other and for the whole world. We are obliged to resume our common life together using the utmost caution, with deliberate care.
For this reason, the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario has entitled our template for the reopening of our churches: “Loving Our Neighbour”. Our plan for the return to our usual practices is a gradual and intentional act of love towards one another. We know that whatever care we can offer for the other, particularly “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), is as if we are caring for Christ himself.
Each separate diocese will be releasing specific instructions with concrete guidance for parishes on June 30. Hours of prayer, consultation and hard work are being poured into these checklists, and I know that they will help you to prepare for the stages that are to come.
I want to close with a gentle reminder: to date, 2,550 Ontarians have lost their lives to COVID-19. For their families, there will be no “return to normal.”
Please keep them, and all those affected by the disease – the sick, the vulnerable, health-care workers and care-givers – in your prayers as we move forward in reopening carefully, bringing signs of hope.
Yours in Christ
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto
Posted June 28, 2020
Christ Church Brampton has formed a small task force to review guidelines as they become available and how they would best work at Christ Church. Just to confirm we there will be no change to our current Sunday worship until at least September. Stay tuned.
The Office of the Metropolitan of Ontario
The Anglican Church of Canada
On a Summer Sabbath Rest
A letter from the Ontario House of Bishops to the faithful in Christ
June 1, 2020
Dear friends in Christ,
What a true blessing it was to join together from all parts of our vast ecclesiastical province for a special online worship celebration! On the Day of Pentecost we are reminded that God’s love has been poured into our hearts, and we pray for the Holy Spirit to come and renew the face of the earth, perhaps most especially during this time of pandemic.
Strengthened by the knowledge of God’s abiding love and renewed by the Spirit, the provincial House of Bishops is calling on the parishes of our dioceses to observe a sacred sabbath rest over the summer months so that we can be renewed for mission and ministry in this new season of evangelism and discipleship that is emerging for our Church.
The past three months have been difficult as we journeyed through a time of wilderness with the closure of our church buildings and as we have creatively adapted our ministries to respond to the emergency situation. Inspired from the witness of scripture, a time of sabbath rest invites our clergy and lay leaders, as well as the whole Church, to take time apart from our usual patterns in order to bring renewed energy and knowledge and skill to the practice of ministry.
What this means is that regardless of where the Government of Ontario is with its reopening plan, our churches will not be reopening for in-person worship until at least September. This decision was made in consultation with public health experts as well as our diocesan executive officers and chancellors, with the well-being and safety of all our parishioners and the communities we serve uppermost in our hearts and minds.
Online worship services and our critical food security and other essential outreach and community ministries taking place in our buildings will continue, as they have been in recent months. We are so grateful for all those enabling such ministries of praise, love and mercy during this pandemic.
As Anglicans, we have been blessed by our church buildings, legacies handed on to us by faithful stewards who have gone before us. Now we have a rare opportunity, while we are worshipping outside of them, to prayerfully explore new and creative ways to use them, as reimagined vessels for ministry in the months and years ahead.
This sabbath time of rest, reflection and renewal, while we wait to be back in our cherished and familiar sacred spaces, offers us an opportunity to discern what our worship patterns, stewardship practices, and parish ministries might look like going forward.
To help with this, in the coming weeks we will be releasing a one-page framework document which will outline the cautious three-stage measured approach we as Anglicans in the ecclesiastical province of Ontario will undertake collectively as pandemic conditions in our communities warrant the eventual safe reopening of our church buildings.
For now, please know that you are held in our prayers unceasingly, and we are deeply grateful for the generosity, innovation and faithfulness that has been so richly demonstrated across our province. As we weather our current circumstances together, let us seek to be the face of Christ in the world in a renewed and faithful way, buoyed by the Spirit of the Living God which falls afresh on us each day.
May God’s deepest peace be with you.
Metropolitan and Archbishop of Algoma and Moosonee
On behalf of the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario
The Right Reverend Michael Oulton, The Right Reverend Susan Bell, The Right Reverend Andrew Asbil, The Right Reverend Dr. Todd Townshend, The Right Reverend Shane Parker, The Right Reverend Peter Fenty, The Right Reverend Jenny Andison, The Right Reverend Riscylla Shaw, The Right Reverend Kevin Robertson, The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz.
March 14, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ ~
As you may have heard our Bishop has announced in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic that, “Until further notice, and starting Sunday, March 15, 2020, the College of Bishops is cancelling all corporate worship and all other gatherings in our churches.”
This decision was made by both the Ontario House of Bishops and the Toronto College of Bishops late yesterday with an eye toward prudence and safety particularly for those most vulnerable in our communities and was released in the public domain last evening at 9:30 pm.
I have reached out to our ministry team leaders asking them to share this information.. I have also asked them to call those not on email and share the information as widely as possible.
This information has been posted on our Facebook and Instagram platforms as well. But as you might guess, even though I am asking that information be shared as widely as possible, not everyone will have heard in prior to tomorrow morning. I will be on scene outside of Christ Church tomorrow morning to greet anyone who might not have heard and to answer any questions people might have.
Since we are not able to physically gather, we will be looking at other ways in which we can continue through the use of technology and other means: worship, service and study during this time. As always, we will endeavour to present to the sick and those who are struggling with appropriate pastoral care and attention. Please continue to reach out with any concerns that you might have.
I realize that not everyone will be thrilled with this decision, but it was made with an eye toward safety and prudence and with regard to the most vulnerable among us.
Please consider using this time in Lent to draw nearer toward the one who first loved us and draw nearer to those most closest to you. My prayer is that we will all use this time to pray worship and to serve those around us; whether we live with others or by ourselves, there are always people to love and care for.
The link above to the Diocese of Toronto's website includes all information we have received to date including The Bishop of Toronto's announcement regarding the cessation of corporate worship.
May God richly bless you.