The May issue of the Journal—written in mid-March

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COVID-19 concerns had members of St. John the Divine, Maple Ridge, B.C. worshipping in the parish hall and sitting two metres apart March 15. In-person worship was suspended in the diocese two days later. Photo: Laurel Dahill

This editorial letter first appeared in the May 2020 print issue of the Anglican Journal.

Editorials don’t usually appear on the front page of the Anglican Journal—but these are unusual times, so here we go.

One of the challenges of producing a print publication, especially a monthly one, relates to timelines. In order for you to receive your copy of the Anglican Journal at the start of the month, we have to print it nearly a month before. This, in turn, means most content is finalized at least a week, perhaps two, before the end of the month. I write this on March 23, for example.

Normally, this progression of deadlines presents itself as an irritation: perhaps a minor detail has changed before we publish, or maybe it looks like we’ve missed an important piece of news because it came out just after we went to press. Let’s take (with apologies to her in advance, for this is merely a good example) Bishop Jane Alexander as a case study. In late January, she announced her intention to tender her resignation in April, effective in July. We couldn’t get her news into the March paper due to timing, so we placed it in the April paper—which you’ve likely yet to receive, as I write this. In March, Alexander publicly announced she would not resign until at least December 31, 2020, due to the pandemic. We may see similar decisions elsewhere.

This is but one example of how difficult it can be to assemble the Journal during a period of unprecedented change. Reality changes day by day. Today, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops was postponed until 2021. It is impossible to know what tomorrow will bring. Perhaps by the time you receive this paper, Lambeth will have decided to meet by Zoom. We’ve not bothered to include news of this in the Journal, assuming you’ve likely heard by now—or that circumstances have changed. We cannot know the future.

With this in mind, we’ve tried to divide this issue’s focus between COVID-19 and our previously planned theme, evangelism and revitalization. And maybe, as some have suggested (including Canon David Harrison via anglicanjournal.com), there’s a bit of a link there. My hope is that this blend of content seems worthwhile in your present moment.

As a final note, I have promised to take up, as a matter of exploration, suggestions made about the church’s future since publication of our January 2020 issue, themed on church statistics. We had planned to do so in this issue; I am convinced, at this point, that such a discussion would be, at best, off key. Please accept my apologies.

Know that you have been in my prayers during this trying time. May God grant you good health.

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Matthew Townsend
Matthew Townsend has worked in editorial, journalistic, and web development roles with a variety of organizations, including the The Living Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY, and the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. He is a member of Episcopal Communicators and has consulted with a variety of ecumenical organizations, including Atlantic School of Theology, the Presbyterian Endowment Network, and the Associated Church Press.

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