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One year ago, March 18, 2020, the Provincial Health Officer with full support of the Provincial Government ordered that everyone must restrict their activities and remain in their homes as much as possible. The US/Canada border was also closed down on March 20, 2020 by order of the Federal Government. Essentially we moved into a semi-lockdown state that has not changed all that much in the last 12 months, and it has been a difficult time on many different levels.

On March 25, 2020, Diocesan Council passed a financial relief to parishes resolution, the basic details of the financial assistance package were the following:

  • the waiver of assessment payments for 5 months, from April 1 to August 31, 2020 for all parishes.
  • diocesan payment of the salaries of all stipendiary clergy through the end of May 2020 with the exception of those parishes in our diocese that have $750,000 or more in the Diocesan Consolidated Trust Fund or in other investment funds.
  • the ability of parishes to draw up to 20% of their capital in the Diocesan Consolidated Trust Fund to use for parish operational expenses.

The response from clergy and lay parish leaders was extremely positive with a number of parishes acknowledging that without this aid, they would have been in serious trouble.

As COVID-19 continues and the large majority of parishes have experienced significant drops in revenue, suggested motions were moved at the March 17, 2021 meeting of Diocesan Council. The first of three was that parish assessments be waived from January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021.

I am very happy to announce that this and the supporting motions were carried.

This assessment waiver aid initiative, and the receipt of the CEWS is due to the hard work of Director of Finance, Shailene Caparas, and the Synod finance team. And many thanks to the members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Property chaired by Treasurer, Bob Hardy, ODNW.

Bob Hardy during his presentation of DC Item 7.2.1 – Proposed Fair Share Assessment Relief (linked here) assured Council that diocesan staff and leadership will carefully monitor the financial health of parishes and revisit the need for aid in September of 2021.

This has been an incredibly difficult year for all the parishes (and other places of worship) in the Diocese. We have had very little in-person worship. Finances have been affected greatly as parishioners have not been able to come to church and present their offering. We have worried about the future and how we will be able to go forward. 

On the positive side, we in New Westminster have adjusted in some incredible and inspiring ways. We have seen meetings, Bible Studies, as well as liturgies move to online format. We have seen many new people watch and participate in our worship on YouTube, Facebook or Zoom. We have seen lots of creative ideas come about as clergy and lay leaders find ways to connect and form community despite it all. I am so grateful to all of you for your hard work, vision and faith.

I am also so grateful to Diocesan Council for waiving the assessment for all parishes for the first three months of this year. It brings with it enormous relief to very tight financial situations for all parishes of our great Diocese. I am so delighted that we have done this to support the work of all the churches of our Diocese and help us all look to the future. It is inspiring and encouraging to me in my first month as Diocesan Bishop.

Please know that you are all in my prayers as we journey through the rest of Lent and into Holy Week and Easter, as we look to the future to which God is calling us.

            Holy and gracious God, we pray for all the people who have died from COVID over the past year. We pray for their families and friends missing their love and companionship; may they rest in Your peace now and always. We continue to pray for all those on the front lines in this pandemic; those who care for others in a variety of ways that brings hope to this world. We pray for all places of worship, especially in this Diocese, that Your Holy Spirit may continue to lead us and guide us to live and do Your will. Strengthen us, O God, as we are coming near the end of this pandemic, help us to live out Your calling to love You and love our neighbour as ourselves.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our healer and hope.  Amen.