Engaging a Post-Pandemic World
On January 23 of this year I was ordained a Bishop in the Anglican Church. I was ordained in a pandemic, where very few people could attend and those working on the live streaming and audio almost outnumbered those involved in the liturgy. We wore masks, we cleansed our hands, we wondered if we could create a sense of worship where those watching from many parts of the Diocese and around the globe would feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
That is how my episcopacy began but I cannot help but feel that this beginning might just shape much of the time that I am Bishop. Because currently our entire Diocese is starting to ask what we have learned from living in a pandemic, and we have started to seek new priorities as we move forward. We have started asking how we engage a post-pandemic world. We have wondered about technology in liturgy and in ministry. We have questioned how we bring development and growth to parishes. We are looking at a new beginning and what our faith in a God transformation is urging of us here and now.
Just recently at our Synod, the biannual gathering of our Diocese, we affirmed some of our response to the Climate Emergency. We also wanted to look deeper into how the Church of this time responds to the housing crisis in British Columbia. Those were a couple of the named priorities but there were others: paying more attention to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the concern about food security in this area, bringing together science and faith, new possibilities in terms of ministry models, and living out the five marks of mission.
As I think about theological education in relation to all of this, it is clear to me that theological education needs to be nimble and accessible. Our faith in Jesus Christ leads us to a response of how we live out the grace of God. As we look deeper into God’s relationship with each of us individually and for this world as a whole, we recognize that we are being called to greater justice and more flexible faith. New models are needed and new responses are expected. These are exciting times! The pandemic is teaching us that we can adapt and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in new and vital ways.
Bishop John R. Stephens became the Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster on March 1st, 2021. He has experience in ministry in several dioceses in Canada but mostly served in the Diocese of New Westminster. Consecrated a Bishop during a pandemic, he is exploring how churches will respond to the new world post pandemic.