My work as Bishop of the Diocese of Brandon has always been about connecting with the people of the congregations I serve. That has proven to be extremely challenging since the beginning of the pandemic from both a community and personal perspective.
Health protocols have evolved to a point where it really isn’t feasible for most communities to hold church services given the limits on numbers of attendees permitted. Plus, roughly half of my Diocese lies north of the 53rd parallel and those communities are shut off from outside travel altogether. This has been very challenging, especially as this is a time when people are experiencing a variety of struggles–spiritual health is more important than ever!
Overall, I think most of the people in my congregations realize that physical distancing is what’s needed to limit the spread of COVID but, like everyone else, they just want to get back to normal. Personally, I feel the same way. I live on my own and benefit a lot from personal connections. During the first lockdown we didn’t open our office at all and we shifted to recording a weekly service that we offer online for parishes that might not be able to. We’re trying to find ways to build those connections again, but we know we can’t insist on gathering when such a significant danger is present.
I think a major step towards normalcy lies in people getting vaccinated and I was very happy to receive my first dose at a local pharmacy last month. Once I heard I was eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine I registered online right away. And when I got that ping on my phone saying I could book an appointment I jumped at the chance!
After I received my shot, I felt pretty tired about six hours later and then had some mild fever and chills the next day. I know those side effects were my body’s immune system response, and that it meant the vaccine was doing what it was supposed to do. I’m already looking forward to my second dose, which I was told would be around August, but with the vaccination rate picking up I’m hopeful it might be even sooner. Our healthcare professionals are doing some amazing things and I’m filled with the utmost admiration for doctors, nurses and everyone involved.
In speaking with my parishioners I believe most are very comfortable with getting vaccinated but there are always some who are a bit hesitant. In those conversations I like to focus on the fact that we’re watching science being done in real time, which we’ve never really seen before, and that getting the vaccine is how we show love for each other right now so we can make sure everyone is protected. It’s that same love for one another I hope is even stronger when the pandemic is over.