Easter Letter from the Churchwardens - April 3, 2020
Post date: Apr 6, 2020 7:21:46 PM
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
“Subject to subsection (3), no person shall attend […] a gathering of more than five people for the purposes of conducting religious services, rites or ceremonies.”
—Emergency Civil Protection Act, Ontario Regulation 52/20
When the early apostles first spread across the Eastern Mediterranean, they borrowed a common Greek word to describe their participation in the work of God, their community practices that reached friend and stranger: leitourgia, literally “public work”. Today, the liturgy remains above all an act of turning to others, a corrective to our inclination to retreat into our private selves, thoughts and needs, a time to honour Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (2:4).
Of course, liturgy is also built around shaking hands, sharing communal cups, and—well, a whole lot of practices that were still observed just a month or two ago but now seem downright unthinkable.
What is a congregation that can’t congregate? How do we worship when we can’t gather?
It’s challenging, to be sure and we’re still figuring it out. But in the beginning was the Word, and ever since, the Christian message has flourished by adapting quite capably to whatever medium is at hand. And for as long as there have been Christians, there have been people forbidden from gathering who have still found ways to be the Church.
A few of us have been gathering (in small numbers, at safe distances) on Saturdays to produce a weekly prayer, reading and music video, posted to YouTube on Sunday morning. It is followed by a conversation on Zoom, where a few dozen folks have joined (by video or phone) for reading, reflection, music, prayers, and blessings.
There is even a certain intimacy in the videoconference format, a Hollywood Squares screenful of people in their kitchens, living rooms, and makeshift home offices—their natural habitat—with all of us following a dress code more Staycation Casual than Sunday Best. And, in fact, some St. Anne’s programming has not only migrated to Zoom but expanded: the monthly book club has vowed to meet again a week sooner than scheduled; the monthly Messy Church has, at the kids’ urging, become a weekly playdate.
Our wardens’ meetings have also moved from monthly to weekly, while the Ministry Advisory Council (MAC) still held its March meeting, with new members and renewed energy. And in this time when so much has slowed or even ground to a halt, our faithful staff—Gary, Juli, Mervin, Mary Lou—have remained remarkably… busy.
Over in the Parish Hall, our March Community Dinner was served as a takeout meal, and it looks like we’ll do the same in April. We’ve also opened up the Skey Room to our neighbours at LOFT St. Anne’s Place as they hold mask-fitting sessions to help protect their residents and staff.
And now we enter the journey of Holy Week.
Needless to say, the format will be a bit different this year—but from Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday, journey we will. And yes, there will still be Easter lilies, thanks to many donors this year.
We have purchased flowers for use in Holy Week worship videos, which will be delivered as a gift to the homes of people of St. Anne’s, especially those who are alone over this season. We also plan to decorate the church with flowers our first Sunday back with the listing of names as part of that celebration.
St. Anne’s has been blessed with considerable generosity in the face of the COVID-19 crisis: the Diocese has proclaimed a Jubilee for April and May, waiving parishes’ usual monthly payments; online donations, previously rare, have started rolling in; cheques have arrived in our mailbox. We are so very grateful for this support.
Still, financial pressures have affected every sector of society, and St. Anne’s is no exception. So if you usually drop an envelope or a cheque or a bill in the collection plate, and are in a position to still give regularly, please contact Mary Lou at firstname.lastname@example.org about setting up a pre-authorized remittance (PAR). You can also donate through CanadaHelps, either monthly or one-time via our online donation page.
Above all, what we ask that you give to St. Anne’s in the uncertain weeks and months ahead is your continued presence and witness. We can’t say how long our building on Gladstone Ave will sit empty.
But of course, that’s not St. Anne’s—you are. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we wish you and yours a happy and blessed Easter.