Happy New Year!
2020 was certainly a year for the history books, if not for the dustbin, and by time you are reading this article, I hope you have had at least some time of celebration and restoration over the Christmas season. Even when it is not being celebrated in the midst of a global pandemic, Christmas can be a time of pain and stress, and so we hold tightly to the truth that the “Light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5)
Jonathan Edwards was the president of Princeton University in the early 1700s, and on a New Year’s Day some 300 years ago, he wrote this in his diary: Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.
2020 was a year that challenged all of us in so many ways. Some of us have had friends or family members die of COVID-19. Others have lost their jobs. Parents have had their patience stretched to the limits trying to teach their children at home. Clergy have learnt how to be video stars and film producers. And loneliness and social isolation have spread their dark tendrils around many. If Jonathan Edwards were writing in his diary on New Year’s Day in 2021, he might have written this: Resolution One: I will still hope in God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.
As COVID-19 has stripped so much away from us in 2020, 2021 gives us an infrequent opportunity to deeply reclaim our personal identity as beloved children of God, called to be disciples of Jesus, living in hope of the coming reign of God. And if 2021 gives us the opportunity to refocus our hearts and minds on our true identity in Jesus Christ, this will equip us to assist in refocusing the core of the mission of the parishes to which we each belong. Our parishes exist to give glory to God, bring people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ, and to enact God’s love to our neighbours – this is our hope and calling. As finances and human resources are stretched in the COVID- 19 era, if something is not supporting that hope and calling in our local churches, then we need to stop doing it.
As our identity and hope are refocused in 2021, my prayerful desire is that as a diocese we will continue to seek creative and missional ways to share the gospel with those who have never experienced it. Church planting, regional configurations of ministry, fresh expressions of church, new digital forms of discipleship, and a renewed emphasis on formation of living faith in children and teenagers – this perhaps is the revitalizing purposefulness that COVID-19 leaves in the wake of its destruction.
This is my last article as a suffragan bishop of the Diocese Toronto, as my episcopal ministry will now continue as the rector of St. Paul’s, Bloor Street. It has been a singular privilege to serve Christ in this way, and please join me in continuing to pray for Bishop Asbil and Bishops Robertson and Shaw, as they lead us forward. Let us continue to still hope in God, together.
I am personally looking forward to all that God has in store for our community in 2021 – the struggles and the joys – and I want to take this opportunity to wish you, and all those you love, a very happy new year and God’s richest blessings for the year ahead.