May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
This has been quite the winter so far, hasn't it? Looking out my window (and at the thermometer), it's hard to believe that the first day of Spring is just over a month away. I was saying to someone the other day that this year, we're having a "proper" winter, with cold and snow (and just enough rain and ice so that we remember that we're in the Maritimes!).
I love living in a place with seasons - I spent 3 years living on the equator, and I was surprised at how much I missed the changing of the seasons (both in terms of the weather and the changing hours of daylight throughout the year). I guess the rhythm of our North American seasons are in my bones!
One season rolls into the next, and even now (in what is arguably the "bleak midwinter" even more so than Christmastime) there is a promise of spring. The days are lengthening. Birds are perking up. There is more warmth in the sunshine. In a few weeks, the sap in the trees is going to start to move. (In Ontario, my father usually likes to tap his maple trees shortly after Valentine's Day to make sure that he doesn't miss any sap once it does start to flow!)
We follow seasons in the church year as well, with one season rolling into the next. Right now, we are in one of the periods of "Ordinary Time" (sometimes called the "Season After Epiphany") and we have been exploring how Jesus calls us to follow - how Christmas is only the beginning of the story and not just the end of our Advent waiting. In another two weeks, we will be entering the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday on March 2 - this is a time when we can nurture our faith journey and draw closer to God. This will be followed by the pain and suffering of Holy Week when we are reminded that God is with us when we are suffering, because God has been there before. And then comes Easter with the joy of resurrection and the triumph of love over even death.
I think that the rhythm of the church year must also be in my bones.
And the great thing about seasons - either weather-related seasons of church-year-seasons - is that God is with us through all of them. Throughout the church year, we are reminded in the different seasons about different ways that God is with us in different seasons of our lives. God is with us when we are celebrating newness (Christmas); God is with us when we are waiting or preparing for something new (Advent); God is with us when we are suffering (Holy Week); God is with us when the excitement of new things us upon us (Pentecost). God is with us, period. (or exclamation mark!)
In these last couple of weeks of "Ordinary Time" before we move into Lent, we have some things going on in the church:
Sunday Worship: This Sunday, we are planning to shift back to hybrid worship with some people choosing to attend in-person, and others choosing to worship with us on the livestream. Knowing that there is still a lot of Covid in our communities, we do ask the following:
If you have any symptoms of Covid (even if you have taken a negative rapid test), please stay at home and worship via the livestream.
Don't forget to bring your proof of vaccination with you when you come to the church, as our Greeters will be checking them.
Physical distancing in Level 1 is at your discretion (and we still have a couple of designated "Physical Distancing Pews" at each church for anyone who wants to ensure more space around them). Please be mindful that your neighbour's comfort level may be different than yours, and ask first before moving in for a handshake or a hug.
This Sunday: Our services will be at Long Reach at 9:15 and Westfield at 11:15, with livestreaming of the Westfield Service on the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge Facebook page. This Sunday's reading is one that I'm struggling with - Jesus telling us that we are to love our enemies - that we are to want the best for those who do not want the best for us (Luke 6:27-38). But what if my enemy is blocking an international border - do I need to love them? But what if my enemy wants to lift all of the measures that are protecting the more vulnerable members of society - do I need to love them? (Or we can take the opposite perspective - what if my enemy wants to force my children to be injected with a vaccine that I'm not certain about - do I need to love them?) How can we read this commandment to love our enemy in a world that is so very deeply divided?
Bible Study: We made the decision this morning to stay on Webex for at least the next couple of weeks due to ongoing high Covid case numbers around us. Let me know if you would like to join us, and I can send you the connection details. We are wrestling with some of the challenging stories in Genesis right now, as we meander our way though the Old Testament.
Annual Meetings: As announced on Sunday, our annual congregational meetings will be held during worship:
Bayswater-Summerville: February 27 at 9am
Westfield: February 27 at 11:15am
Long Reach: March 6 at 9am
Our meetings will be held in the sanctuary at each church, woven together with our worship - if you would like to participate in your congregation's annual meeting but aren't comfortable or able to attend in-person, please let me know - there is a telephone option that will let you participate from home.
Annual Reports: You can download an electronic copy of the 2021 Annual Report from our website by clicking here. Scroll down to "Annual Reports" and click on "2021," and a .pdf file will download for you. If you prefer a paper copy of the report, copies have been printed and are available in each of our churches.
Ash Wednesday: As I mentioned earlier, Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of Lent) will be on Wednesday March 2 this year. Our Service will be at 7pm - the current plan is to have this at Westfield United Church with livestreaming.
For a closing thought this week, I have another piece of writing by Nadia Bolz-Weber to share with you (and yes, I know that I just shared one of her sermons in last week's e-mail). This one is about the importance of having an open communion table - to celebrate communion in a way that everyone is invited to join the feast. I read this on Monday, the day after we had celebrated communion in the virtual space where we've been gathering, and it brought me both goosebumps and tears. (And I also wonder how it speaks to this upcoming Sunday's sermon.) You can read it by clicking here.
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."