I greet you in the name of Jesus, the same yesterday today and forever. Saturday morning, at the electoral synod, I learned of the recommendation by the Provincial House of Bishop that Anglican churches in Ontario suspend worship services until at least Palm Sunday. Bishop John, in the Diocese of Ottawa, concurred with this recommendation.
I am certain that this was a decision that was not lightly taken. Worship is at the centre of who we are as Anglicans. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, “we are Anglicans because we meet.” However, there are other themes and consistencies in Anglicanism as well. These include care for our neighbour and particularly the vulnerable among us. The Covid-19 virus is especially dangerous for the elderly and those whose health is already compromised. These are the people we are seeking to protect with this extraordinary decision.
In today’s gospel (Lent 3) Jesus meets one of those vulnerable people, a Samaritan woman at a well. Samaritans were considered outcasts by the Temple Judaism of that day because they allowed marriage to Gentiles. This is no ordinary Samaritan woman. She had a checkered past, having been married five times and now living with a man who was not her husband. She was an outcast from her own village of outcasts. By every standard of the day, Jesus should not have had a conversation with this woman. Jesus went far beyond that though. He offered her the living water of eternal life and told her that He was the messiah, the long awaited one. This is an example of a recurring theme in John’s gospel of Jesus finding faith in the most unlikely of places and among the most unlikely of people.
In the next few weeks we have a similar challenge. Without the benefit of regular worship, we need to find ways to deepen our faith as we continue to walk the Lenten road. While we cannot worship together, we remain a vibrant community of faith. On Monday our Provincial House of Bishops convene to make further decisions about the way ahead. On Tuesday I will meet with the other priests of our Deanery and we will discuss ideas for how ministry can remain vibrant during this time. On Tuesday evening, our Parish Council will gather and forge a path ahead for this parish.
We will communicate our intentions through the website, Facebook, e-news, and telephones. I want to assure you that I am available to you. I will be keeping regular office hours and will respond to your text, phone calls and emails. I encourage you to pray for those most affected by this virus. If you are able, I hope you will look for opportunities to serve others during this time. Ask for help if you need it and remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I end this letter with Good News. On Saturday, 14 March, the Diocese of Ottawa elected a Bishop. Pray for The Very Rev Shane Parker, who will shortly be the 10th Bishop of Ottawa.
Called to serve,