May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
Yesterday morning, the hymn books were moved back into the pews at Summerville and most of the physical distancing tape was removed (there is still going to be a "Physical Distancing Zone" in each sanctuary for anyone who wants a bit more space around them). This morning the same thing happened at Westfield, and tomorrow it's happening at Long Reach.
When I eat my lunch in my office, I often have a book in hand, and I wanted to share a short except from the book that I'm currently reading. The book is called Interdependence: A Postcolonial Feminist Practical Theology, and it is written by HyeRan Kim-Cragg, one of our United Church of Canada theologians, currently on the faculty at Emmanuel College in Toronto. In this excerpt, she is reflecting on a community dinner that her church began hosting, but as I read it, I ended up thinking about the pandemic, and our experiences here at Two Rivers.
She writes: "It is not good to be too comfortable about ways of being the church and being Christian. To be too familiar is often not conducive to learning. While it is good to cultivate muscle memory through practices of repetition that are formative in faith, it is also critically important to acknowledge when such familiar and comfortable practices prevent us from moving forward, preventing new understandings from emerging" (p. 23).
If you think about attending church and being the church before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was pretty predictable. On Sunday morning, everyone sat in their favourite pew, the service usually followed a predictable order, and even if we didn't sing your favourite hymn every week, you were pretty sure that you would get to sing it every so often. Looking at the church calendar, the church picnic happened (in June, or more recently in September), the Westfield Remembrance Day Dinner came up in November, Church in the World collected our White Gifts during Advent, Christmas Eve rolled around with communion and candlelight, Annual Meetings were in February, and in April everyone watched the river levels rise to see how we might be called upon to help out our neighbours. As Kim-Cragg writes, this familiarity, this predictability helps us to be formed in our faith.
But she also writes that if we want to grow as the church, grow in our Christian walk, sometimes we need to be shaken out of the familiar into the unfamiliar. And that is precisely what the pandemic has forced us into. Just off the top of my head, here are some new ways of being the church that we have grown into over the past 16 1/2 months:
- drive-through dinner fundraisers
- Mission and Service "Build a Manger" fundraiser
- Romero House Gratitude Challenge
- Worshiping online with a congregation from across Canada and occasionally around the world.
- Virtual Pie Day
- Parking Lot Coffee Hours
- Live Nativity
- Board Meetings, Session Meetings, and Bible Study gathering virtually
- Outdoor Christmas Carol Services around the bonfire
- Outdoor Flower Services
- Online gatherings to check-in, read scripture together, and pray together
Did I miss anything? In what ways do you see the challenges of the pandemic forcing us to grow in our faith? One of my hopes for the future is that the creativity that the past year and a half has unlocked will continue - that we will continue to embrace new and creative ways of being the church; for I believe that creativity is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
For announcements this week:
Our Church Family Movie this evening (Wednesday at 7pm in the Westfield Parlour) is going to be The Necessities of Life - see you there! Next Wednesday, we will be watching the movie Indian Horse (adapted from the novel of the same name by Richard Wagamese).
On Sunday, we are continuing our series of "Things Jesus Didn't Say" - this week, we will be tackling "God sends pandemics." Our services will be at Summerville at 9:15 (outdoors, weather permitting - bring your lawn chair) and at Westfield and on Facebook Live at 11:15.
Next week (Aug. 3-8) is Saint John's Pride Week - for details of all of the planned events, check out their Facebook Page by clicking here.
This is for everyone who lives in Grand Bay-Westfield - the town has launched an emergency notification system. You have probably already received the information in your mail box, but just in case, you can read the notice and register your phone number by clicking here. I have just signed up myself - it just takes a couple of minutes to enter your address, phone number, and e-mail address.
And that is it for today! I hope that you all have a safe and fabulous New Brunswick Day long weekend; and see you soon!
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."