+Todd Atkinson
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To my beloved Via family,


“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).


You are no doubt aware that on March 12 the World Health Organization declared the
coronavirus a pandemic, and have urged all countries to make every effort towards eradicating
it. In response, our government agencies in Canada will be doing everything within their power
to support that goal. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is providing Canadians
with regularly updated information and with measures that we can all take to help
mitigate the health risks caused by this virus.


We in Via need to honour what our government is asking of us. This, as you know, is an
expression of our love for God. “Let every person be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been
instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has
appointed…” (Romans 13:1-2).


We also need to address this in a way that honours the important place of His Church, a
refuge in a time of crisis, and especially the place of Holy Communion amongst us,
which is a source of health to us, both spiritual and physical. Since there is widespread
fear in our country at this time, it is important that we, the church, help to calm those
fears.


Therefore, I would ask the following of us:


1. Please exercise proper hygiene, which includes a thorough and regular washing of your
hands with soap and water, and taking extra care when coughing or sneezing. See the PHAC
website for information on precautions we can take (https://www.canada.ca/en/public-
health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks.html). We love
one another by not putting one another in harm’s way.


2. Our people thoroughly enjoy being together and are wonderfully warm hearted towards
one another on the Lord’s Day. But during this time we will have to find ways of expressing
that love for one another that doesn’t increase the risk of contagion. Please refrain from
shaking hands at this time.


3. When you come forward for the Lord’s Table, we will no longer be self-intincting (taking the
unleavened bread and dipping it ourselves into the chalice). Instead, open your hand flat
and the priest will put the bread into your hand. This is the way the Eucharist was originally
received because it embodies the truth that ‘we receive grace’ and don’t ‘take it.’ Once the
bread is placed in your hand, you can [1] eat the bread and drink from the chalice, or [2] eat
the bread and touch the chalice (if you cannot imbibe alcohol OR are reticent about the
common cup at this time), as your expression of faith in receiving the Grace available there.

4. If your parish passes an offering plate on Sundays, another means of collecting offerings will
be provided.


5. If you or your children are showing flu symptoms, please stay at home and allow yourselves
to recuperate. Phone the office and let us know so that can be praying for you. Via
Lethbridge, our Cathedral church, are looking for ways for our Via people nationwide who
are quarantined to join us in worship online.


6. Those who are most at risk from the coronavirus are our seniors and those with respiratory
disease. Therefore, I charge you to make every effort in caring for these people. For
example:
a. If our seniors have to limit social contact, would you think of phoning them regularly
and checking in on them?
b. Perhaps do their grocery shopping for them?
c. If your own health is good, would you consider driving them to a doctor’s
appointment? Picking up their medications for them?
d. To our beloved seniors, and those with respiratory disease, your Lead Pastor will
provide you with phone numbers that you can use if you need help. Please take
advantage of that. We sincerely want to be there for you!


The nativity story that begins with words that have been impacting me for months, “And…there
were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” In the darkness of that
night, the glory of the Lord came and the light of God shone around them. In that dark and
gloomy night the angel of the Lord announced, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of
great joy that will be for all people.” This is the Gospel we have been given!! It will always come
to dark places and bring glorious light! It will come to people who are afraid and offer them
‘great joy’! Therefore, I earnestly believe that the pandemic that we have found ourselves in
has the potential to be a Gospel rich time.


This “good news of great joy” was to be for “ALL PEOPLE”. The Gospel holds out immense hope
in the midst of this pandemic, not only for Christians, but for “ALL people.” Please see this as a
time to ‘love your neighbor.’ I have never seen our country so alarmed by something they
cannot see. May they come to realize that salvation also comes by something they cannot see –
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.
Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17). When people have to come to terms with their humanity, mortality,
and vulnerability, they can become more openhearted to the Gospel. This is not a time to hoard
food but to give food. This is a time to care for those around us. To be a calming influence. To
share our hope.


Notice my above directives – they seek to love God by honoring government! To love God’s
Church and His Altar where we receive “the medicine of immortality”! To love the most
vulnerable people amongst us! And to love our neighbors who may be anxious and unsettled.
We who have received the Gospel are motivated by love, not fear.


I will continue to send you updates as this situation unfolds. Until then, as your Shepherd under
God I charge you, “Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all persons;
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit; and the grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

Affectionately,

+Todd Atkinson
Bishop of Via Apostolica
Missionary District
Anglican Church of North America