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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May the peace of the dawning Season of Pentecost be with you today in a year unlike any we have lived through in recent memory!

Last night, I had the privilege of being one of the three consecrating bishops for Shane Parker as he began his ministry of service as the tenth Bishop of Ottawa. Like many other moments in the life of the Church in the first half of 2020, the worship unfolded with the poignancy of the pandemic backdrop but also a beauty, simplicity and flow that always accompanies Christians wherever two or three gather in the presence of Christ. It was both a unique and inspirational time and I look forward to our work together as colleagues.

Today, Archbishop Anne Germond has released a letter [see below in this email] to the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario that follows on the discussions we have had as a House of Bishops, together with the Executive Officers of the Province.

From my perspective, there are two motivating factors behind this beautifully crafted letter from our Archbishop on behalf of the Provincial House of Bishops. First, there remains continuing uncertainty around the timing for us to begin to reopen our physical places of worship. The provincial government has recently extended the period of emergency into the month of June and while some parts of the provincial lockdown protocols are being eased, this is only without the requirement of stringent procedures to ensure safety. Second, we along with everyone else in the province, country and world were pushed over the Covid-19 cliff back in the middle of March. This fact instantly called upon our clergy and lay leaders to respond to a suddenly changed reality in how pastoral care and worship were delivered as well as our engagement with the community groups who use our buildings and the delivery of our outreach ministries to the wider community.

This changed landscape has put great stress on our lay and ordained leaders, a topic which is regularly discussed in our weekly House of Bishops call. The clergy have been remarkable in using their gifts, talents and abilities to adapt their ministries to serve in the current circumstance. Lay leaders have been extremely diligent in their stewardship of the temporal and administrative requirements necessitated by the situation. I can’t thank both our lay and clerical leaders enough!

The Archbishop’s letter is stressing two important decisions related to these factors. First, the current use of our buildings as defined in our pastoral directives for the diocese will remain in place until at least September 1st. Second, I do not want the stress of these days and the challenges this places on all of our leaders to lead to frustration and burnout. In the beginning of the Covid response, everyone understandably felt responsible to be in an “all hands on deck” mode. Now that we are settling into the marathon stride of respecting the Covid-19 protocols of Church and State, I want to make sure that clergy as well as laity take the time to rest, refresh and renew. Clergy should look to ensure they make provision to take the annual vacation to which they are entitled so that they may step out of the water for a time of renewal.

The new reality that will unfold as Summer gives way to Fall will once again put great stress on our leaders. As the Archbishop noted, the Executive Officers and Bishops acting on the best advice possible, will be soon presenting a phased approach to reopening if we are in a place to do so come September 1st. I look froward to sharing this with you once it is finalized. Please be assured of my ongoing prayers for all of you in your various ministries. I do enjoy “dropping in” to worship around the diocese on Sundays. Finally, I want to extend to Mark Hauser, Rev. Lynn Mitchell and her team, my thanks for the work they did in putting together the diocesan contribution to the Provincial Pentecost worship “One in the Spirit 2020”. As of this morning almost 1100 households have viewed the video which was produced by each diocese and woven intro final format by Mark. Thank you!
May I conclude by echoing the Archbishop’s words in her letter. “May God’s deepest peace be with you.”
Bishop Michael

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.
Faithfully yours,

Metropolitan and Archbishop of Algoma and Moosonee
On behalf of the Bishops of the Province of Ontario…
The Right Reverend Dr. John Chapman, The Right Reverend Michael Oulton, The Right Reverend Susan Bell, The Right Reverend Andrew Asbil, The Right Reverend Dr. Todd Townshend, The Right Reverend Peter Fenty, The Right Reverend Jenny Andison, The Right Reverend Riscylla Shaw, The Right Reverend Kevin Robertson, The Right Reverend Michael Bird, The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz.