Grace and peace to you.
I have a short update to begin this weekly video along with parts of a letter to read, from Bishop Marinez of our companion Diocese of Amazonia, and at the end of this video will be a message to Amazonia from me on behalf of all of you.
The first thing to say this week, the sixth Sunday of Easter, is that we are not going to be gathering again in our churches any time soon. We’ve been getting outside a little bit more, I hope, and still looking after one another as much as we possibly can. Thank you to all of the people who are caring for us.
We sent out a message yesterday talking about some of the planning that’s happening – at the level of the Diocese of Huron – for guidelines when things start to change. In the province of Ontario, not much is changing for churches yet. We’re going to be patient, we’re going to spend our time making sure that we do this as responsibly and beautifully as possible while we protect those who are vulnerable. So, we’re working on quite a detailed document that will be organized in phases so that we will all be really clear about what the best practices are for our churches – but also I wanted to assure you in that letter that, for those who are much more nervous about coming back together in a group, to protect their own health or the health of someone they’re close to, there certainly will be no pressure on anyone, clergy included, to be gathering too soon – for the sake of their health. We will find ways to do it well. I am grateful to the people who are finding ways to be church in this time.
Then other thing is that this week we have applied for the CEWS (Wage Subsidy) which will be a really great help to us financially – some of the churches will be getting pretty nervous about the financial situation that we’re in. That subsidy will help us quite a bit for the next month or so as grants are made to the congregations. We appreciate everyone who got that information in to the Church House staff – thanks to the staff for getting it together, especially to Paul Rathbone our Secretary-Treasurer.
What follows is parts of a letter from Bishop Marinez sent to me after some recent correspondence.
[Parts of the translated letter were read]
We have responded as a Diocese with some of the gifts that had been given already, and with other resources, to support ministry in the Diocese of Amazonia—our companion diocese. We will continue to do that. We thank all of you who have given gifts already. I’ve been asked by Bishop Marinez to send a greeting to them by video and that’s what will follow as part of this video – you’ll be able to see that – and they’ve also asked Archdeacon Graham Bland to send a homily and some encouragement in Portuguese, which is wonderful-that Graham is able to do that.
The message that follows after this will be addressed to the people of Amazonia but I put it here because it is the same gospel that is promised to all of us. It’s meant for each one of us. And that will follow now.
Greetings from the Diocese of Huron to our dear sister in Christ, Bishop Marinez, and all of the people in the Diocese of Amazonia,
Grace and peace be with you; we are companions in this time, fellow members of the body of Jesus Christ.
I’m Todd Townshend, Bishop of Huron.
Your bishop and I have been corresponding by email (with the help of Google Translate!, while I work away at learning some of your language.)
I am so grateful to Bishop Marinez, and all of those who have visited us in Canada, for making and deepening this relationship. Many people here love all of you so much and we look forward to a time when we can meet again.
Bishop Marinez sent a beautiful but heart-rending message about the time of COVID-19 in your part of the world. I shared that message with our diocese by video today and I want to assure you of our love and prayers, of our willingness to share our resources with you, and – most importantly – to assure you of God’s presence with you in this time of trouble.
After hearing about the rising rate of infection, the strain on your health care system, the many who are sick and dying – and then the added pressure of extremely vulnerable indigenous people and the destruction of lands in that incredible part of God’s world – we grieve with you. We want to be able to help bear all of this suffering in some way. We want to do this, I think, because that is what God is wanting to do. And what God is doing.
The gospel reading this week is from John 14. Jesus speaks to his disciples, his loved ones, about his coming suffering and departure and he makes a promise to them. He says,
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth . . .You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming to you.”
John’s gospel calls the Spirit the parakletos or Advocate – someone who is sent to your side as a source of help. This sounds like an advocate in the court system, or something like that. It may give the impression that the Spirit is the Advocate who brings our case up before God in the hope that God will do something merciful for us.
But here, and right now, it is the other way around – it is the opposite direction. Jesus is saying – promising – that God IS right-now sending this Advocate to you. Coming to you. Reaching out to you. The Holy Spirit of God, to all of us.
And, in the presence and protection of this Advocate, nothing will be able to separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. Even though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, nothing can separate us from this Spirit, the giver of life, who is with you right now.
This is a promise.
And it is not a promise from me. It is not even a promise from Bishop Marinez or any of the beautiful, faithful people who surround you.
It is a promise from Jesus. And Jesus keeps his promises. We do not know what will come, but we know WHO will come. The one who, in the end, brings the truth of love and life. And that makes faith possible. It makes life possible.
Please pray for us. We are praying for you and we will stay in contact so that God can heal the world through our common life. May the blessing of God hold you and heal you, now and for ever.