On the anniversary of the pandemic declaration
Although we measure time in defined units of minutes, weeks and months distributed over 365 days, each year does not feel the same. As a child, a year seems to take so long to be completed; while as an adult, they seem to fly by faster with every year we age. This past 12 months have been extraordinary in the impact and rollercoaster of emotions felt. The upheavals caused by the pandemic have wreaked havoc on our lives in so many ways, disrupting expectations daily as it poured grief upon grief into our lives.
In Canada, more than 22,000 people have died due to COVID, from among 893,518 total cases (at March 9, 2021). Many of those who died were among the elderly — our parents, grandparents and elders. Thousands have been ill and some continue to suffer the after-effects for months. Anglican Indigenous communities have lost nine of their senior clergy. Indigenous communities desperately tried to fully lock down their communities and keep the virus at bay—given the vulnerability of the elderly, crowded living conditions and the lack of healthcare — all to no avail.
When the Council of General Synod meet in Mississauga on March 13, 2020, we were aware that a pandemic had been declared, but for some of us it still seemed remote. Within a week, we were in the first of many lockdowns, confined to home and isolated from family and friends. We learned how to find face masks that fit (and did not fog one’s glasses); we learned how to order many things online, from groceries to pet food; we learned to stay six feet away from those around us; and, we learned how to be the church online for worship, fellowship, study and comfort.
The past year is full of memories. We hoped to back in church by Easter… then by summer… then by Thanksgiving,…. then by Christmas, and now…. we continue to wait. Our optimism of a year ago seems so naïve, in retrospect, as we continue to wait — patiently — to find out when we may be vaccinated. Even then the restrictions will not go away, as COVID-19 variants circulate and a ‘new normal’ continues to evolve.
I invite you to reflect on the year just passed — on our naïve hopes in the early months; on the fear we often felt; on the images from around the world of devastating death tolls; on the saluting of health care workers risking their lives for us; on the gift of the summer being able to be outdoors with friends and family; on the resilience of being Church and the creativity of our people.
Let us also reflect on the multiple griefs of so many losses — of important events; of employment; of people we could not hug or mourn; of the elderly and others, vulnerable in retirement and long-term care homes.
Let us reflect on the research workers who were miraculously able to produce effective vaccines in such a short time; of government and public health authorities struggling to make the best decisions with constantly changing information; on family life — children in school and out of school — online and offline; working from home with new technologies on stretched internet capacities; on loneliness — on joys and sorrows — on exhaustion.
Then I invite you to remember — that through it all, God was and continues to be with us. We have learned how to pray together in new ways. We have met God, holding, comforting, reminding us that ‘…nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:39). We saw Jesus through the outreach programs which were able to transform into pickup or delivery services, and into online supports. We met Jesus afresh in the Daily Offices online with people around the world. We connected with people nearby and across the globe; with shut-ins and those quarantined. We worshipped online; we worshipped in small gatherings masked and distanced; we worshipped without singing and we discovered resilience we had not expected to be possible.
Today and in the days to come — let us be still and grieve deeply for what has been lost. Let us take comfort in all that has been possible, and let us give thanks for the faithfulness of God.
God of infinite compassion and mercy,
Our hearts are overflowing with a flood of emotions from the past year,
Fear and sorrow and grief — endurance, relief, and hope,
For the families of all who have died, who have been unable yet to mourn,
we ask your comfort
For health care workers persevering in the battle with the disease
we ask your strength and courage,
For government and public health leaders
we ask your wisdom
For all facing the relentless uncertainties that continue
we ask your endurance and peace,
We give thanks
for the resilience discovered within us,
We give thanks
for all who continue to work to protect and care for us
We give thanks
for your unending love and compassion in our midst at all times.
As we face the year ahead
fill our hearts with that same love and compassion for our world and its needs
For in you we find all that is needed — for whatever lies ahead. Amen.