When we first moved to Wolfville over 11 years ago our children were just four and six years old. Up until then they had only lived in one other community, so this was a big move for them. As we were settling into our new home, particularly over the first year, one of them would often ask: “when are we going home?” My reply was typically: “we are home.” To which they would reply: “I mean home home.”
This new place we were living in was not home. It was a house. Our furniture was in it. Their toys and books and clothes and special things were here, but it didn’t feel like home to them. That’s likely because so much around them was unfamiliar – the house itself, the community, their new church family, not to mention the children and teachers and classmates in their nursery and elementary schools. I think it was hard for our children to find an anchor; something that gave them a sense of security about this new place…something that would reassure them that they belonged here; that this new place was indeed their home, or would one day feel that way.
We often need that kind of reassurance, too. Since the beginning of this global pandemic, it’s like we’ve been living in a new place that doesn’t feel like home. It’s not familiar or comfortable. And while we may have spent more time in our actual homes than we normally would over the past year (more time than many of us might have liked), that doesn’t mean we’ve felt “at home” at all.
So much around us has changed as a result of Covid-19 – the way we gather with family and friends and neighbours and fellow parishioners (if we can even gather with them or see them at all); how we worship; where we go; how we shop; what we do; how we greet each other. It has been incredibly disorienting and I know that many of us are yearning for what is familiar and comfortable. We want to go “home home.” I suspect this is even more the case as Christmas approaches and so many of the traditions and customs we look forward to have had to be either discarded or adapted.
And yet, regardless of the challenges and grief that this year has brought, Christmas will come. In one way or another, we will hear yet again the story of the one who came into the world and made His home with us, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God-with-us. This is a year when we desperately need to hear this story again: the story about a couple who travelled far from home in obedience to a government decree. Mary and Joseph were not in familiar surroundings with the people they knew and loved. Still, they experienced the grace and love of strangers, the wonder of God’s love, and the birth of a child who would change this world forever.
This year, regardless of whether worship is held in-person or via an online platform (or both) or in the church parking lot or via some other format, Christ will come and dwell among us. Regardless of whether you are able to gather around a table together or not, Christ, who was born in a stable far from his extended family, will make His home with us and in us. Regardless of whether you can sing Christmas carols in full voice or softly while wearing a mask, the song of the angels will resound, announcing “Glory to God, peace on earth, and goodwill to all people.”
This is good news. This is our good news. Wherever we are this Christmas, we can be assured that we are “home home” because no matter where we are or who we are able to be with, in the coming of Christ God has promised to be with us and will remain with us always.
As our family prepares to share our last Christmas dinner in this place that even our children have called home for many years now, know that our prayers surround all of you, our larger diocesan family. May God richly bless you this Christmas and always.
In hope and peace and joy and love,
+Sandra, Jim, Emma, Alec, and Yoda (our loveable Shih’tzu)
If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
On behalf of me and my family, I’d like to thank you for the prayers, support, messages and love you’ve offered us since I was elected to become the next Bishop of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. As some of you will know, this year has been an incredibly difficult one for my family, COVID-19 aside. My father died at the beginning of January and my stepfather of over 30 years died in early September, just the week before the episcopal election. As we’ve tried to come to terms with these losses and the many transitions we’ve been facing as a family (not to mention the enormity of the task that lies ahead), I know without a doubt that it is only through your prayers and the grace of God that I am able to even attempt to take on this ministry among you. Throughout this challenging and changing time, I have felt upheld in a way I have never quite experienced before. Thank you for your part in that, however small it might seem to you. It might have been as simple as praying for me as a candidate or Bishop-Elect or now as your Diocesan Bishop, but know that your prayers, spoken and unspoken, have sustained me “through all the tumult and the strife.” I ask for your continued prayers in the years ahead.
Thank you also to those who made it possible for us to be united in prayer and celebration for the service of Consecration and Installation earlier this week. The livestream of the service made it possible for people across our Diocese and beyond to watch and participate virtually, many of whom would never have been able to attend in-person on a Monday night even if there were no pandemic restrictions in place. I know for sure that there were people across Canada, in Mexico and the United States, and in England and Scotland who were praying and celebrating with us. And then there were all those who have gone before us whose presence was felt among us. The Cathedral might have looked empty, but what a great cloud of witnesses encompassed us ‘round about on Monday night!
As the Rev’d Dr. Joanne Mercer noted in her homily, no one ever has all the gifts needed for the ministry to which God calls them and I am no exception. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Consecration Planning Team who met weekly – and sometimes more often than that – to ensure that everything would go smoothly. I am also deeply grateful to Cathedral Organist Paul Halley and his family bubble for selecting and providing music that welcomed us into this holy space and time. And thank you to Diocesan and Cathedral staff and clergy who worked behind the scenes in advance to ensure that everything was ready for us on Monday night.
As the pandemic restrictions increased in parts of HRM and we wondered whether we could even proceed, it was the dedication and faithfulness of all of these people and so many more, including our Diocesan Chancellor and provincial Medical Director, that made it possible for me to make my vows and take my place as your next Bishop. To all of you, and to my family who have loved and supported me through it all, and to God, I say thank you. It somehow doesn’t seem like enough, but I’m willing to trust Meister Eckhart on this and hope it will suffice.
With gratitude and the assurance of my continuing prayers for you,