Dear Friends in Christ,
It was years ago, but the memory of it still lingers. I was in my third year of seminary at Huron College. I was going through a pretty rough time. I was asked to meet with Don Irvine, the Dean of Theology. We met in his office. I sat on the green leather couch and he in a comfy chair opposite me. How are you doing? he asked. I feigned strength, a stoic resolve, a determined I-got-it-all-together kind of response. I am fine, I said.
Now in that moment, Don could have poked a little more, prodded a little deeper. He could have said something like, Yes, but how are you really? Or, that’s not what I am hearing. Or, are you sure you’re okay? He didn’t do that. Instead, he said this: Andrew, there come moments in our lives when it seems like everything is coming apart at the seams, like everything is collapsing. And in those moments God speaks to us and says, The earth beneath your feet is going to shake, rattle and quake and you are going to fall. You will be bruised and hurt but be still and know that I am with you.
Sure enough, the earth beneath your feet shakes, rattles and quakes and you do fall, and you hurt… Then one day, God speaks again and says, The earth beneath your feet will stop shaking, rattling and quaking and you will stand up. Tend your bruises, wipe the hurt from your soul and move. And when you move, don’t be surprised if you step with a limp or a hobble, for you will be changed. And remember that I am with you.
After eight months of living in a pandemic, it’s okay not to be fine. It’s okay to be stressed and tired. It’s okay to be worried and beleaguered. In the face of a second wave of the coronavirus, it’s perfectly normal to feel discouraged. After all, nothing feels normal at the moment. South of the border, a nation braces itself as the last ballot is counted. Pieces are put back together in the aftermath of Typhoon Goni in the Philippines. Grief and disbelief reverberate throughout France following a deadly attack at Notre Dame Basilica in Nice. And Quebec City quakes once again in the aftershock of a violent rampage. The earth shakes, rattles and quakes for all of us to some degree or another in these strange times. Many have lost their lives and livelihood. Many grieve the death of loved ones. Many struggle to cope with depression and anxiety. It’s important to reach out to one another to offer and receive help.
After 32 weeks of living with restrictions, we long for community, for touch, for a handshake. We long to see a smile rather than a mask. We yearn to sing in worship. We feel discombobulated after hours of Zoom calls. And yet our efforts to be the Church have not gone unnoticed. Our resolve to livestream and record prayers and worship bring hope in the midst of upset. Our efforts to open our worship spaces and offer in-person liturgies settles the soul. Our steadfast efforts to feed the hungry, visit the sick and bind up the lost make the difference.
To the clergy of our Diocese I say, I know how tired you are. I know how hard you are working. I am grateful beyond words for your ministry.
To the laity of our Diocese I say, I know how fatigued you are and how faithfully you offer your time, talent and treasure to the enterprise of sharing the Gospel. I am thankful beyond measure for your ministry.
In these times, we turn to our biblical ancestors in search of inspiration and comfort. They knew a thing or two about finding hope in the midst of war, pestilence and famine. Don Irvine’s words of encouragement to me over thirty years ago stand on their wisdom and experience. And those words make all the difference. They remind us who we are and whose we are.
For God alone my soul in silence waits. Psalm 62:1
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for God. Psalm 37:7
Teach me, and I will be silent. Job 6:24
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10
So, how are you?
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto