With a determined focus to move into where God is calling her and members of the Edmonton diocese next, and in celebration of all that is new, the Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander publicly concluded her 13-year episcopal ministry of “outrageous love” by presiding over the Holy Eucharist at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral in Edmonton on the most joyful day of the Christian year – Easter Sunday.
Bishop Jane began her April 4, 2021 homily by reflecting on a “wonderful” passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 8.
“I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love,” she said through a camera lens to more than 270 people watching the service live on All Saints’ YouTube channel. “Absolutely nothing, not even a pandemic, can get in the way of this truth that holds firm for all times and all places…Today, we receive the promise of salvation and the assurance that we are redeemed,” she said. “Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and promises us life forevermore.”
The notes of the opening hymn, “The Day of Resurrection,” (Francis Jackson): “Let all things seen and unseen their notes of gladness blend, for Christ the Lord is risen, our joy that hath no end,” played by All Saints’ organist and music director Jeremy Spurgeon, rang triumphantly through the nearly empty cathedral. A surge of variant strains of COVID in Alberta and across Canada limited the cathedral congregation to fewer than a dozen people, including Bishop Jane’s husband Dr. Tim Alexander, their youngest son Peter and soon-to-be daughter-in-law and the bishop’s executive assistant Jennifer Wirun.
Bishop Jane greeted worshippers, both present and online, proclaiming: “Alleluia!” Christ is risen,” and was met with the familiar response: “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!” The Dean of Edmonton and rector of All Saints’ Cathedral, the Very Rev. Alexandra Meek, shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation in the first (Acts 10:34-43) and second (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) readings: “that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The Rev. Ruth Sesink Bott, vicar of All Saints’, shared the Holy Gospel (Mark 16:1-8), describing the visit of three women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Salome, to the tomb. There they expected to find the crucified body of their beloved dead, Jesus. Instead, they received astonishing news: Jesus had been raised from the dead.”
“If you go further into the gospel – into what we call the ‘longer ending of Mark,’ said Bishop Jane, “you will find that Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and she tells the others. At the time of Jesus, it would be impossible to imagine for a moment that such amazing and earth-changing news could first be given to women. And then it is Mary Magdalene: not Peter, not John, not James the brother of the Lord, but Mary, who becomes the apostle to the apostles, the first Christian evangelist… What was he (Jesus) thinking? Everything is changed, turned on its head.”
The church continues to change, “we have new ways of doing things,” she said. “That’s been true this year!” Since March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and Bishop Jane made the difficult decision to suspend in-person worship services, parishes of the Edmonton diocese have used digital technology to hold virtual worship services and provide opportunities for communities to connect online. Transformational change has shaped the Edmonton diocese throughout its 108-year history. When Bishop Jane was installed as 10th Bishop of Edmonton in May 2008, she succeeded Bishop Victoria Matthews, the first female Anglican bishop in Canada. (In 2019, the Anglican Church of Canada elected Linda Nicholls as its first female primate.) Now, in addition to women taking “an equal role in the leadership of the church, people, regardless of their sexual orientation, can receive and share in the sacrament of marriage in equal measure,” she said. “There are lots of other things for sure. This Easter life of ours is exciting, unexpected, and keeps us on our toes. Resurrection life always looks for a bigger family; more love, abundance and outrageous love, in fact.”
Concluding her last sermon as Bishop of Edmonton, in the cathedral where she was ordained as a deacon and then a priest, where she was subsequently inducted as a rector and a dean, then elected and installed as a bishop, Bishop Jane said, “Let me tell you a secret. The message to get up and get out there and tell someone about Jesus is mine to share today, tomorrow, and in a year’s time. It has nothing to do with being a bishop and everything to do with being a daughter of God. You see, Jesus rose from the dead so all of us can believe the power of sin and death is broken once and for all time. We are now asked to live this new resurrection life.”
Or as @bishjane put it to her Twitter followers on Easter Sunday morning: “He has gone ahead of you to Galilee. He has gone ahead of you to Edmonton, Cold Lake, Frog Lake, Ponoka, Wainwright, Jasper, Buyé......even to the ends of the earth. Christ will always be there wherever you find yourself.”
Thanks be to God. Alelluia! Alelluia!
Photos by Jennifer Wirun and Margaret Glidden