May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
I mentioned in my reflection on Sunday that there is so much pain, so much grief, so much heart-break, so much anxiety in the world today. Between the war in Ukraine, anxiety around the uncertainty with Covid, and all of the personal and communal losses so many of us have suffered this year, so many of us are struggling right now.
And as I mentioned on Sunday, God invites us to rest, to take shelter under God's wings, like chicks can stay safe and warm under the wings of a mama hen.
We are called to act against the injustices in the world (and last week I shared a number of organizations that you could choose to donate to in support of Ukrainian people), but we are also called to pray. We can pray on our own, we can pray with our families, and on Friday evening there is going to be a community prayer vigil for Ukraine in the parking lot of the WorkSafe Rehab Centre in Grand Bay. This will be at 7pm, and will be held outside no matter the weather, as we stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine who don't have a choice about what weather they are outside in. This prayer vigil will be ecumenical, led by the churches of Grand Bay-Westfield.
This is also the week when the Covid Mandatory Order was lifted in New Brunswick, and with it, all of the requirements are gone. Without the government telling us what we need to do, it's up to each one of us to figure out what is the right thing to do.
All through this pandemic, one of our guiding principles has been that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and so the decisions that we make have to take into consideration the impact of those decisions on the people around us. With that in mind, and knowing that we have people in all three of our churches who are more vulnerable from a medical perspective, at this point in time:
We will be keeping our designated "Physical Distancing Pews" in each church - these have extra space roped off in front and behind for anyone who wants a bit more space around them.
Even though no longer required, we are strongly encouraging ongoing mask use in worship, especially during the hymns (because when we sing, we not only take deeper breaths but we also spread more droplets and aerosols). This way, we can protect each other.
For small group gatherings and meetings, it is good to have a discussion with the group about masks - if everyone is comfortable being unmasked, that is fine; but if someone in the group is more comfortable with masks, then the loving thing to do is for everyone to wear their masks. Having open and honest communication here is key.
With no more mandatory self-isolation, it is doubly important that if you have any symptoms at all, please don't come to church and choose the virtual options instead. Normally in church, we promote sharing and generosity, but not when it comes to viruses, whether it's a cold virus or the 'flu or the coronavirus!
And for now, we are holding off on coffee time and food etc. There are still many people who are cautious and wouldn't be comfortable in a space where everyone was unmasked.
Beyond Covid though, I have a couple of other announcements to pass along this week:
Paul Smith's Funeral: Eldon and Wilfred, along with their families, have set a date for Paul's Funeral - it will be on Tuesday March 29 at 1pm at Fundy Funeral Home, with visitation the day before, March 28, between 2 and 6pm. You can read Paul's obituary by clicking here.
Inter-generational Interviews: Ken and I have been talking about an idea to bring the different generations of our churches together in the form of interviews that would be recorded and shared (in either an audio or video format - still to be determined). We are looking at inviting our Youth Group and younger members of the church to interview some of our more... seasoned... members of the church to collect some of the stories of our churches. I know that we have many story tellers and historians around the church! If this is something that you might be interested in being a part of, I encourage you to get in touch with Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org
United Church of Canada Survey: The United Church of Canada is conducting a research survey to better understand the opinions and perceptions of the church on a variety of topics, including communications. If you would like to participate in this survey, you can do so by clicking here. As a thank you for your time, by completing this survey you will be entered into a draw for a $500 donation to the charity of your choice.
Reader and Greeter Lists: Elaine normally prepares these lists every 6 months (January-June and July-December), but because Covid shut down our in-person worship so early in January, these lists weren't printed until recently. There are now copies of these lists in all three of our churches - please pick up a copy next time you are at church (if you haven't already) so that you know when it's your turn to read and/or greet!
Worship on Sunday: This week, we will be worshipping at Long Reach at 9:15 and Westfield at 11:15 with livestreaming of the Westfield service to Facebook. This week Jesus is still on the road to Jerusalem when some people come to him with the news of tragic violence (echoes of what is going on in the world today?). Jesus responds to this news with a challenging parable (Luke 13:1-9). The Long Reach service will include a baptism - Vanna Campbell, child of Gina Fudge and Neil Campbell will be baptized into Christ's church!
Weekly Gatherings: This Thursday at our Lenten gathering, we will be practicing the Daily Examen - 7pm at Westfield and on Webex (let me know if you want the Webex link). Our Wednesday bible study gatherings continue on Webex at 10am each week (again, let me know if you want the Webex link).
And I think that's it for announcements this week!
As a closing thought today, I offer you a "blessing for the in-between (that weird middle space that stresses us out" by Kate Bowler:
blessed are we, somewhere unnameable, fully present to our reality.
tracking it, with all its subtle gradations and colors and contrasts, the sweetness and the struggle, the stuck and not-quite-fitting.
authentic to it, mapping the full strangeness of the new emergent landscape.
blessed are we, dear ones, not calling it too soon. not settling for the neat and buttoned-up, the too-tied-up, the not-quite-true.
bless all of it, the way we might widen our gaze to encompass it and embrace it.
and bless you, moving into the unknown, waiting, daring to hope. (You can see her original post by clicking here.) Blessings to you and yours, today and always! Kate.
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."