May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
The subject line in this e-mail could have read "Mid-Winter Message" rather than "Mid-Week Message" as today is the Winter Solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year.
I have been thinking about the solstice and seasons today; and I think that I prefer the winter solstice (Dec. 21) to the summer solstice (June 21). Today is all about hope - we know that after tonight, the days are going to slowly start getting longer, incrementally at first by a couple of seconds each day, but by March the increasing daylight each day will be noticeable. Today is a day of hope, because we know that the day will never be any shorter than this day is. (As compared with June 21, the longest day of the year, which always brings me a touch of melancholy knowing that the days are going to begin getting shorter.)
I think that I shared this song with you last year, but it is my very favourite song for the winter solstice so I will share it again - "Bringing in the Light" by Gathering Sparks.
Most of my announcements this week are about things going on this week and next:
Our Blue Christmas Service will be tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 7pm at Westfield United Church. This is a service that isn't designed to make people sad, but is a service where it is OK to not be OK. It is a place where we can give ourselves permission to feel whatever it is that we are feeling at this time of year. It is a space where we can acknowledge any grief or loneliness or loss or anxiety. But at the same time, it is a service that is brimming with hope - the winter solstice kind of hope that tells us that the night doesn't last forever, for the Light of the World was born at Christmas.
Christmas Eve is on Saturday - I've been following the weather forecast closely, and hopefully this weather system forecasted for Friday will have moved on by Saturday afternoon. Our three services on Christmas Eve will be Summerville at 3pm, Long Reach at 5pm, and Westfield at 7pm. (I keep making the offer that if anyone would like to attend all 3, they are welcome to hop in my car with me, but so far no one has taken me up on that offer!) The Westfield Service will be livestreamed on the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge Facebook page, beginning shortly before 7pm.
Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year - as we do each Christmas, we will have a single service for the Pastoral Charge - it will be at 10am at Westfield (and also livestreamed on Facebook for anyone not able to make it in-person). In terms of the offering (because that is always a question when we have these combined services) - any envelopes will be directed to the congregational treasurers; and any loose offering will go towards Mission & Service.
New Year's Day also falls on a Sunday this year; and even though we aren't having any in-person services at any of our churches, you have two different options for worship. The churches of Grand Bay-Westfield are holding a joint service at the rink, followed by skating afterwards. (And if you don't want to worship in a cold arena, the service will also be available in the heated lobby!) This service will begin at 10am - you can download the poster by clicking here. There will also be a pre-recorded service that will be posted to the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge Facebook Page at 10am on January 1 for anyone who isn't able to make it to the rink (or for people who want a second worship opportunity on New Year's Day).
I will be on vacation from Dec. 28 - Jan. 4 (inclusive) - heading to Ontario to celebrate Christmas with my family! While I am away, if there are any pastoral emergencies, please call Margaret Stackhouse at 721-4307 and she will connect you with a minister.
And finally, if you were in church on Sunday (in-person or virtually), or hanging out on our FB page, then you probably heard Ross Sherwood's announcement about the Mission & Service fundraiser - as of Sunday, the total was $5002 raised, above and beyond our regular offerings. Thank you, Ross, for your enthusiasm for Mission & Service; thank you to all of the volunteers who made the phone calls; and thank you to all of you for your generosity in loving your neighbours, including neighbours that you will never meet.
For a closing thought today, I want to share a handful of links:
A Christmas Message from the Moderator of the United Church of Canada, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne: click here
A Christmas Message from the World Council of Churches: click here
A Blessing for the Longest Night from Rev. Jan Richardson: click here
An Advent Blessing When You Need a Little Hope from Kate Bowler: click here
A hope-filled, winter solstice-y version of "O Holy Night" sung by Ben Caplan: click here
This will be the last Mid-Week Message of 2022, as I will be on vacation next week. Thank you to all of you, for your commitment to BEING the church as you travel the way of Jesus. I wish all of you a very merry Christmas, and may 2023 be a year when you know God's presence, when you are filled with the peace of Christ, and when you sense the Spirit's nudging.
And blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."