Rt. Rev. Bishop Linda Nicholls
in conversation with
Rev. Marty Levesque
HCN: If you could try to encapsulate in a word how do you feel right now, immediatelly after the eclection?
Nicholls: Joyful would be a good word. Just trying to take an enormity of the moment, what it means to be elected by the Diocese, what does it mean to be their Diocesan Bishop down the road, delighted with the welcome I have received from the people as the day ended and getting ready to get on the board with the next steps because it was a long journey to get to this day.
Once I am here, the first step will be to get to know the Diocese. To literally study the maps, to see where the parishes are, get out and visit, meet clergy, meet laity, hear people’s stories they want to tell me, to read some of the stories of the history of this Diocese, a little bit of which I know but I’m sure I don’t know the whole. To listen to the needs and concerns that are being expressed and to begin to get a sense of what is it that the Diocese needs going forward. I’ve seen some of that in a profile, I’ve seen some of that in the conversations I had with people at the meet and greets, but it is different now when you know that you are going to be responsible for it in the long run. I am looking very much forward to working with Bishop Bob in the coming months and trusting the wisdom and discernment of clergy to help me in this journey.
HCN: As you went through different meet-and-greets, from Listowell to Chattam area, Brantford and then London, and then going through today, was there a moment in this whole process, in this whole journey, that you really felt that this is going to happen and the Holy Spirit is moving and you have been called to episcopal ministry here in the Diocese.
There have been a couple of moments, and the first one happening very, very early on, when I was approached about considering this. For me I would not have said yes if I did not believe that at some level the Holy Spirit might have been calling me to do this, if I had not believe that I have things I have to offer to this Diocese, and that God might want me to be of use here.
During the meet-and-greets it was more about of sense how much I did not know and realizing the enormity of the task if I get elected on this day. Today, the most anxious moment was prior to the first ballot, just having no idea whether the Diocese saw in me what they were seeking and being very clear throughout the whole process that this had to be the discernment of the Holy Spirit for the person who would be right for this Diocese. And if it was me I would be delighted but if it wasn’t me that would be fine – and knowing that there were excellent candidates alongside me, so that firs ballot was probably the most nerve-racking. From there, a sense that this might be what was going to happen. Finally, that last ballot moment when the results were announced and you go OK, And then the Bishop asked: Will you accept it. I’m thinking, my goodness, I’ve come all this way, this would not be the moment to say NO.
I did have some people along the way asking, well couldn’t you redraw, I said I could, but I made this discernment early on and I am prepared to see it through the end because I do believe that God was calling me at least to offer my gifts. Now, they have been offered and the Diocese said we would like to use those gifts in Huron. So now we start this journey together.
HCN: What are the most urgent issues and opportunities facing the Church and the Diocese today?
People distrust institutions, and they particularly distrust the Church because we have been in the news for the all wrong reasons. We are facing a huge credibility gap with those around us and we have not kept pace with learning how to express the faith that is within us.
We have huge demographic shifts, we have people leaving farms and ending up in the cities, we have changes within the cities, we have immigration, we have so many things around us that are moving in new directions. And we have not been on top of this as a church. We have not actually asked what can we do to show them the love of Christ, to be their neighbour, to show them that God cares if they are in the neighbourhood.
We need to share our faith with joy, with vigour, with passion so that people can see that it`s something good and lively and life-giving. Because just then they might want to ask us to tell them more about our faith.
We have a wonderful tradition in our Anglican heritage. We have many things that people can connect to. We have rich tradition of music that comes anywhere from jazz vespers to Anglican chant, we have the richness of our liturgy that allows people to enter into the mystery of God.
The Church has to ask itself what is its place in the public square. We have allowed ourselves to be shuffled off to the side. We are not the only voice, we are not the most important voice but we are a voice within a wider scope of all the people in the community and we share a concern for a common good. And for that reason we have to speak up. We have to say when the things are not right, just or good. We need to say when something is wrong and we want to be part of the solution in partnership with our oecumenical and interfaith partners as well as the civic society, the government. It does not mean compromising our principles or our faith but it does mean being passionate and engaged in the wider community.
We have to listen together what is God calling us to do now. And I am always excited by that, always excited by the opportunities. Because I know that God is here, God is present, God is just waiting for us sometimes to wake up and notice and be willing to get out there and do something that shows the world that God through Christ matters and cares.
HCN: How do you feel we can better communicate the good news?
We do have to use the tools that we have around us. But the most important communication we have to do is that personal relationship with other people in which we share what Christ means to us.
People do not want a theological dissertation, they do not want a doctrinal argument, they want to know that it makes a difference to you, and if it does, what it means to you and can you articulate that. So we have to learn to tell our story and to tell it in a way that is winsome and that is honest and that recognizes failure in ourselves, and that recognizes pain and woundedness but recognizes also when and how Christ has been the healer, forgiver, the one who gives us life and hope…. We have to be passionate about what we do for it’s the joy that will speak most loudly.
HCN: What do you want the world to know about Jesus Christ?
What I want people to know is that the love of God is there for us all the time, everywhere, and it`s a healing love, that would take us when we are most wounded and broken and we’ll heal through the forgiveness that comes when you admit that you`ve screwed it up; the forgiveness that allows you to forgive yourself and then to forgive others; through the healing that comes from that knowing who you are is beloved in God and God wants to use all of who you are to share that good news and that love with others. And that’s what I want people to do, just to show that love, that forgiveness.
And another piece of that for me has always been community. The Church is meant to be community that demonstrates what Christ has done for us, with each other and then for the world around us. We were created to live in community. God is community in the Trinity and that very Trinity is meant to feed and nurture us in community for the sake of each other. We do not exist for ourselves alone. We have to nurture that foundational life in Christ that every one of us is called to as those who know the love of God and then want to share it.
(Feb. 13 interview with Rev. Marty Levesque combined with the highlights of Bishop Nicholls’ answers to the questions of the Electoral Procedures Committee)