By REV. LUCY REID
The most counter-intuitive task I’ve ever had to do in almost 40 years as a minister was locking our church doors in mid-March and putting up a sign saying we were closed and services were cancelled indefinitely. The pandemic has forced us to stay away from each other and cease our gatherings for worship, for weddings and funerals, for outreach, and for just being together in community to learn and grow.
In June Premier Doug Ford announced that places of worship could re-open at 30 per cent capacity, but Anglican churches in this province will remain closed until at least September, while we await a better understanding from public health officials on whether a second wave of COVID-19 is coming, and how to prepare to re-open gradually and safely.
So the doors of our church are still closed.
And yet this is a time for us to open other doors wide, and keep them open: the doors of our hearts and minds, our ears and eyes and hands, as we confront issues of massive importance to our world.
We have begun to see how quickly nature returns to urban spaces when we stop business as usual with its destructive environmental footprint. Can we open our hearts and minds to new ways of living post-pandemic that will sustain life, restore it and renew it?
We have also seen in brutal clarity the effects of racism in our midst.
It was always there, but white folks who benefit from it chose not to see it until they could no longer look away. So now the question is, can all of us open our hearts and minds to new ways of living that will be founded on justice and respect for every human being?
The COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis that caused us as a global community to enact huge changes fast and urgently. Will the human rights crisis of racism cause us to change our views, policies and actions with equal speed and urgency? Will the climate crisis?
We urgently need to open our ears and listen. So it’s not buildings that need to open so much as hearts.
It will be easy for me to walk over to the church and unlock and open its doors when the time comes. But I acknowledge that it is so much harder for me, as a white woman of privilege, to open my mind to the truth that yes, I too am racist, and have benefitted from the colonization of this land and the oppression of its Indigenous people.
It will be easy for me to open St Aidan’s doors and welcome people back to our services when the time comes, but so much more difficult, uncomfortable, inconvenient to open my heart to the cry of the earth, and give up my fossil fuel dependency, my consumerism, my wastefulness.
At the end of the day, the church is only a building unless we who gather in it become people of justice, love and courage with our minds, hearts and hands wide open.
The Rev. Lucy Reid is Incumbent priest, Church of St Aidan in the Beach.