We approached year two of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2021. It continues to be the hot topic of conversation even though many of us are growing considerably fatigued by it. It’s a circumstance unprecedented during my lifetime surely to be remembered as it shapes everyone’s perception of the world, perhaps especially younger generations. Many will not remember a world not restricted by pandemic precautions. It remains to be seen how long those same precautions will last and how this experience will affect the world in the longer term. Of this we can be sure, it will affect us.
The effects on the Church will be real too. Many are fearful to imagine how many of our faithful will simply not return post-pandemic. Others are reporting that numbers of engaged people of faith have actually shown modest increase during these times. Most sectors of society have identified the unexpected reality that these trying times are not without some positive spin-offs. “Ne’re there be a cloud without a silver lining” – most of us have learned a lot and we are definitely doing things differently these days. We’ve been forced to reconsider what is essential and how to do what we do in such a way as to benefit even those who can’t be physically present. The true count of any and all scenarios will come as we wait patiently for what we like to refer to as “normal.”
With all that said, planning for the near future is next to impossible, as it has been for the last 20 + months. My challenge has been not falling to the temptation of being busy preparing for that which will never be. On the other hand, we do need to be ready for what can and will be. Knowing the difference is what is difficult and among those who plan, there is significant disagreement over exactly which is which. There is also an evident level of anxiety among us over so much being undetermined. I regularly have someone break under the pressure and exclaim “Just tell us what it's going to be!” We would all like to find someone or something to blame. The COVID-19 pandemic is nobody’s fault. It just is.
Among the most valuable lessons are those that help us to live in pandemic times. Many leaders have suggested we should have been far better prepared than we were, living our lives as if nothing could bring disruption. The human race, the economies of the world, society and culture are far more fragile than most of us previously thought. That in itself should be a valuable lesson. An eventual breakage of the internet on a global scale, for however long it might last, not if but when, will have us all reflecting on the fact that the COVID pandemic was easy in comparison.
most of us have learned a lot and we are definitely doing things differently these days
Christ Church Cathedral is blessed, not because it is more righteous, better, more powerful or more intelligent. It’s mostly true when we remain faithful. Those blessings include our being well supported prayerfully, spiritually and financially during the darker days of pandemic. We were successful, with the help of government subsidy and reduced spending, to see an end to the year without deficit. We have seen none of our number fatally ill with COVID-19 which may assure us that our precautions and protocols served us in an attempt to stay as safe as possible especially among those vulnerable in our midst. We‘ve seen many transition to both worship and ministry engagement by way of technology and while far from ideal, it does help us stay somewhat more connected and continues to communicate the Gospel and further the call to proclamation potentially even beyond our own community.
The year has also brought to light some future needs that may make the majority tremble a bit. The Cathedral itself has maintenance (some of it deferred) and renovation requirements that will be costly. The numbers far exceed the capabilities of the congregation itself. The Cathedral is the diocesan mother church. Invitations and partnerships with the Diocesan Synod, the parishes of the Diocese, the City of Fredericton and the wider community will be critical. Sunday by Sunday we enjoy “our space.” Over the next many months it’s going to be necessary to humbly reevaluate and perhaps challenge perceptions about for whom the Cathedral really exists.
The future of the church proper is not our only challenge. The Memorial Hall continues to age, remains inaccessible to many and will require a significant investment if it is expected to continue to serve practical needs for space outside of worship. We began and continued this year to provide hospitality to our Diocesan Synod staff at the Memorial Hall. Perhaps these pandemic times have made some of that more possible than if all had been functioning as “normal.” Good decisions about efficient and cost-effective ways to manage our current assets and to preferably do that cooperatively will be needed in the nearer future. That issue is still very much at the forefront of our mutual agendas.
My thanks to members of the Cathedral Staff without whom the job before me would be utter impossibility. Sarah Ecker joined us in September as Parish Nurse (half-time).
As always our thanks to Cathedral officers and members of Bishop and Chapter. We said goodbye this year to Kevin Percy following a tenure as Treasurer and to Lynn Meehan as member of the Chapter. Bonnie Greenwood has been a steady guide acting as chair of Christian Formation for two full terms and we thank her for her commitment. To those who have continued to lead other committees and organizations, thank you for continuing to keep the lamps burning in your respective leadership ministries. Last but by no means least, all who maintain their affiliations with many and various groups and serve in both small and not so small ways that make the sum total of Cathedral influence of note to so many. The Lord bless us and keep us, now and always.
Dean of Fredericton