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Christians around the world are facing something new with COVID-19. We need each other — for ideas, for encouragement, for hope. Our “Ministry During COVID-19” series are conversations with a diverse array of leaders, all over the globe, about how they’re coping and how God is showing up to unite and strengthen the church during this time.
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Bishop Dhiloraj Ranjit Canagasabey is the Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka and also the current Bishop of Colombo in the Church of Ceylon.

What is the ministry like in your context right now? 

Every crisis is a moment where God sharpens our spirituality, and this experience can be very painful. This has been a time of anxiety. And we believe that the Lord is on the Throne, and is in total control of the situation. And this draws us closer to one another and to God.

Though we are in a lockdown situation, the shops are open, the pharmacies, the supermarkets. Those people who are state employees and those working in the private sector are going to work. But others cannot leave their homes, and some people who have broken curfew were arrested and have had their cars taken by the police, for example, if they are caught driving without a Curfew Pass. 

Our clergy is standing in the gap, and doing whatever we are called to do. We are delivering thousands and thousands of dry ration food packs to those who are in need. We are ensuring that the beggars on the road are served with cooked food to be fed. We are identifying those who need medical care, and we help them. 

It is an opportunity to incarnate yourself in the name of Jesus, and being His living presence, so that people will know who we are and whose we are.

The Anglican Church of Ceylon has developed a framework for ministry which we call “Marks of Mission,” or the “6Ts”: 

  • Tell: Proclaiming the Good News
  • Teach: Baptize and Nurture new believers
  • Tend: Respond to human need by loving service
  • Transform: Transforming unjust structures in our society, challenging all forms of violence, and pursuing peace and reconciliation 
  • Treasure: Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation
  • Transcend: Continuing religious coexistence through interfaith dialogue

There are 41 ministries in our Diocese, and every one of them is focusing on these 6Ts. I feel that every ministry is leading us to establish the Reign of God. COVID-19 has driven us to contextualize our theology and ministerial efforts in our mission fields.  

What relationship or partnerships are being formed across denominations or faith groups? 

We have been working as an organized body with other denominations through National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) and also with people fo other faiths which stems out from what we call our intrafaith work. And we work with people of other faiths through the Congress of Religions. We have been doing this for a long time, and now, during COVID-19, it’s become more important than ever.

We must do things together. We cannot do this alone. 

What are the lessons that you have learnt about faith and your people that will outlast your pandemic?

People have come to realize what God is doing. Some people are asking the question, “Where is God in all this?” and some of them say, “No, God is there. God is actively present.” And I hold that view. The world was slowly and gradually trying to swallow up the church. I know God’s church cannot be swallowed up; God’s church is supreme. But people had begun to conform to the standards of the world. People had driven the Lord outside their lives. They believed they could manage on their own affluence and influence. The Lord was driven outside of their families, outside their churches, their community, industry, schools.

COVID-19 has meant that people must bend their knees in total repentance. It’s a time for renewal and refreshing. We can listen to what the Lord is calling us to, and preparing us for. God can turn this into something beautiful and fragrant. Something that will bless us.

Every crisis moment is a window that God opens with a clear message. May we listen to this message today.

How are you thinking through your post pandemic ministry? 

In my opinion, this pandemic situation cannot be completely eradicated, but can be managed. Our ministries and missions often depend on gatherings and relationships, thus we are called to find new ways to implement the same efforts we have been focused on for some time. Once the situation is completely managed, we hope that we can restore all our activities. 

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