Grace and peace to you, I’m Todd Townshend, Bishop of Huron.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, a time when our gratitude to God overflows as we recognize the bounty of the earth and the bounty of our lives in Christ.

It is also, especially this year, a time when fear, grief, loneliness, hunger, and pain may also overflow. It’s the little thresholds, the lost gatherings, the broken customs, that mark the loss we feel in the time of a pandemic.

Maybe it’s a time when you will need to reach out to someone for a little support. We usually don’t like to do that. Sometimes even making an outgoing phone call is too hard to do. But I encourage you, if you’re suffering right now, let someone know. Someone at your church. “I’m having a rough time.” Ask that person to pray for you and with you. Maybe she or he can help in other ways too. There has never been more people on earth hurting at the same time and in similar ways than there is now. You’re not alone and God wants to reach out to you through his body, the church. Just ask.

In addition to having a healthy spiritual life, there are four main ways to fight this virus: physical distance, sanitized hands, masks, and testing/tracing. We can do these things. Every day we recommit to these four main ways to do battle.

In a spirit of thanksgiving, I want to offer a word of thanks to our clergy, elders, and lay leaders: you have so faithfully laboured these last months to create safe places for us to worship. Thank you for your care and witness, your humility and perseverance.

With a second wave of the coronavirus rising, we are reminded that the pandemic will be part of our lives for quite a while yet. So, in order to show our love for one another, we remain vigilant, abiding by the protocols we have put in place in the Amber Stage guidelines.

At the same time, we are in a very different place than we were back in March. Then, we didn’t really know what we were dealing with, or how to respond safely, or how long it would last. Now, we know a lot more about COVID-19 and how to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. At a recent meeting of Provincial Bishops and Executive Officers, it was encouraging to hear that provincial health officials have commended our rigorous church protocols. Our gatherings are well planned, monitored, and much more safe than most other kinds of gathering.

We need to keep our gatherings brief, we need to wear masks, we need to follow the protocols, but we can gather to worship God in the beauty of holiness.

While we do not expect to have to close our churches across the entire diocese again, we will remain ready to pull back in various regions based on the current conditions. This pattern of tightening restrictions and then slowly easing them again may become part of how we will safely operate over the next year or so.

Life goes on and it is a gift. We hold in prayer the wellbeing of all people in our cities, towns, villages, First Nations, and rural areas – as the pandemic persists – following the call of the prophets to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Have a great Thanksgiving Weekend, and may God bless you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.