New Anglican Church of Canada resource offers theological reflection for pandemic era

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New Anglican Church of Canada resource offers theological reflection for pandemic era

A new web page on the Anglican Church of Canada website offers a collection of theological essays that address the Eucharist and other spiritual practices in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Eucharistic Practice and Sacramental Theology in Pandemic Times: Reflections by Canadian Anglicans” includes theological writing from 44 pastors, educators, lay leaders and bishops from across the country and the Anglican Communion.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, with in-person gathering suspended in most areas of the country, Anglicans have faced decisions about how to conduct worship—whether to suspend celebration of the Eucharist, or adapt the Eucharist for online services.

The Faith, Worship and Ministry committee of General Synod began inviting submissions for theological reflection on eucharistic practice and sacramental theology in the spring of 2020, says the Rev. Eileen Scully, director of Faith, Worship and Ministry, who holds a Ph.D. from St. Michael’s College, Toronto School of Theology.

The collected essays “include teachings about the spiritual foundations we need to cultivate during these times, reflections on congregational experience, and elucidations of core matters of doctrine,” Scully wrote in the preface to the collection.

While the scope and subject matter of the pieces vary, “[a]ll exhibit in some way the Anglican ethos that seeks to integrate pastoral, liturgical and theological concerns together,” she wrote.

The essays are organized into six categories:

  • Spiritual roots for stressful times
  • Learning in context: Congregational life and mission
  • Discipleship and mission
  • Theological foundations and journeys
  • Reflections from Ecumenical and Communion partners
  • Epilogue: A theology of lament and hope, Psalms for lament

The aim of the project was not to offer “positions on particular eucharistic practices and [weigh] in on their validity,” according to Scully. “Rather, it was our intention to invite a ‘going deeper’ set of considerations. In other words, instead of an approach that would directly address issues of pastoral and sacramental practice for the specific and unique time that is this pandemic time, we felt it important to invite reflections into the foundational matters of what our Eucharistic and sacramental theology is in the life of the church,” she wrote in her preface.

Scully told the Journal that she is “extremely grateful to all the writers who worked under pressures of time and pandemic conditions” to put the project together.

Scully is also working on a study guide with questions for discussion that will be available next week. The content of the website will also soon be available to download as a PDF for those who wish to read it in e-book form.

To read the full collection of essays, visit https://anglican.ca/faith/ministry/pandemic-times/

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Joelle Kidd
Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The compilation of reflections is an excellent resource. The material is generous in terms of quantity. I have not read all the offerings by any means; but among those that I have read, I have found several perspectives that are most helpful.

    Deacon Alison Kemper’s essay is a combination of wisdom and solid scholarship. The connection between spirituality and the increase in folks baking bread at home was something that had not occurred to me. Dr. Richard Leggett’s erudite piece is very thought provoking, especially in terms of an appeal to keep the discussion open and ongoing. Bishop William Cliff ( Brandon) draws a very useful distinction between ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. His final paragraph on church as The Body is insightful. The paper from Queen’s College faculty is an interesting group effort.

    I reckon my experience during the pandemic is fairly typical of most. During the spring lockdown here I celebrated Eucharist at home a couple of times on behalf of the church. ( “Do this in Remembrance of me.”) Spiritually it sets up a real dialectic between the absence of a fuller immediate community and the sacramental presence of the transcendent Christ. I participated in one online/virtual Communion service, as a worshipper at home, offered by one of our ecumenical partners. Our parish Sunday Eucharist has been celebrated here in strict conformity with provincial public health guidelines i.e. masks, social distancing, communion in one kind and so forth. I have been able to attend that each week. (We are currently on public health ‘pause’ again in our region of the province.)

    The essays offered in this collection, from my limited reading anyway, provide an engaging matrix which may be used to reflect upon and ‘test’ one’s immediate experience against that of thoughtful voices from the wider church. As with any anthology there is a tendency to gravitate, at least initially, towards authors that seem to be within one’s own horizon. I will have to go back and re-read a few of the essays where I find common ground more elusive.

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