Somehow I had not imagined a time when I would be sending out a message to a congregation to remind them not to come to worship on Sunday. But here it is. Services have be suspended officially for this Sunday and next (Mar 29). However, since the decision was made last Sunday, the situation in our province has changed and the restrictions on gatherings have tightened. So, in reality, you may not be coming to Sunday worship for a while. Yesterday I watched the video message sent out by Archbishop Smith of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton in which he cancelled all masses within the Archdiocese until further notice. The Pope is considering celebrating the masses and memorials of Holy Week and Easter without any congregation present. This an “interesting” time in which to be the church. But some of you may have seen a post on Facebook with a picture of a notice from a newspaper published in Kelowna in November, 1918. In the notice, the mayor announced that: “All Schools, public and private, Churches, Theatres, Moving Picture Halls, Pool Rooms, and other places of amusement, and Lodge meetings, are to be closed until further notice. All public gatherings of ten or more are prohibited.” The reason was to prevent the spread of Spanish Influenza. We have been down this road before. We all need to be thoughtful and careful. Some people have argued that this is all “over-reaction.” However, if we “over-react” by being thoughtful and careful, and fewer people get sick or die, then we will probably realize it was worth it. So as a reminder of what is expected of us by our province:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20-30 seconds regularly. Hand sanitizer containing alcohol can be used if soap and water are not immediately available, but should not be used as a regular substitute for soap and water.
- Know the symptoms of Covid-19 (Cough, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath)
- If you have cough (Covid-19 related or not), cough into the crook of your elbow, and avoid touching your face.
- From the Alberta government Corvid -19 information site: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
- and please self-isolate for 14 days
SO, WHAT ABOUT WORSHIP?
- Worship at home. Set aside time on Sunday. Light a candle, read the readings for THIS SUNDAY, read and discuss my reflection on the readings, and pray.
- I may try to record a “sermon” that would be available by Sunday on our church Facebook page (details to follow, if I figure this one out)
- “Attend’ one of the live-streaming services from another United Church through the link at SUNDAY SERVICES LIVE-STREAMING… below.
- Also remember that if you are not on PAR(Pre-Authorized Remittance), you can still contribute to Spirit West during this time. See ANOTHER WAY TO CONTRIBUTE… below.
THIS SUNDAY – The Fourth Sunday in Lent - “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”
The readings for Sunday are 1 Samuel 16: 1-13, Psalm 23 and John 9:1-41.
I don’t think many of us realized at the beginning of Lent, way back on February 26, that we would be observing Lent in so much isolation. That we would have to give up Sunday worship and distance ourselves from those around us. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, we may be there somewhat longer. And many of us wonder when it will end.
One of the readings for Sunday is Psalm 23, the Shepherd Psalm. Psalm 23 is full of images of rest and refreshment, green pastures and still waters. But right in the middle is that “darkest valley” or “valley of the shadow of death.” This Psalm took on a great deal of meaning for me while I was serving in Afghanistan. You never really knew from one day to the next what might happen. I was not in the thick of things on the battle-field, but the Kandahar Airfield where I lived and did most of my ministry came under rocket attack twenty-five times during my six months over there. I had the opportunity on one occasion to join a supply convoy that was going out to one of our small FOB’s (Forward Operations Base). I was riding in a LAV (Light Armoured Vehicle) at the end of the convoy. As we turned off the main highway to go more or less across country through a dried up river bed, I heard a voice in my head-set saying, “Padre, we’ve entered IED Alley, I thought you should know.” IED is Improvised Explosive Device, the biggest threat to Canadian troops in Afghanistan. That’s when Psalm 23 took on new meaning, “Even though I walk (drive) through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.” We were careful, and lucky, and I am here to tell this story. There are times in our lives when we walk in that darkest valley, the valley of the shadow of death. We might be in one now. So what do we do? We keep moving forward, it is a valley. It has a beginning and an end. We may not be able to see the end, and that can be fearful. We need courage, and as one of my military colleagues once said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” So in this troubling time, let’s wash our hands, move forward, and pray for the world.
SUNDAY SERVICES LIVE-STREAMING ACROSS CANADA
There are a number of United Churches (and some Presbyterian) across Canada who are able to live-stream their Sunday services. Three Edmonton churches are doing this: Millwoods, Robertson-Wesley and Southminster-Steinhauer. Check out this interactive map for livestreaming services across Canada: https://arcg.is/1TaKqS (and remember to take into account time zones for churches outside of Alberta)
WHAT ABOUT HOLY WEEK AND EASTER?
A number of people have expressed concern about what we will do for Holy Week and Easter. Easter is a date on the calendar, and changes from year to year anyway. If worship services are still suspended over Easter, a highly probable situation, we will celebrate the Resurrection when we are able.
ANOTHER WAY TO CONTRIBUTE FINANCIALLY TO SPIRIT WEST DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
You are stuck home, Spirit West is not holding services, you are not on PAR, but you want to make a financial contribution to the work of Spirit West, because the church has bills to pay even when we are not gathering on Sunday. Check out the online donation option on our website spiritwest.org and click on the Donate tab in the navigation bar.
At the present time, the Spirit West Church office remains open.
PASTORAL CARE DURING A PANDEMIC (never thought I would be writing that!)
A team has been put together to begin a phone ministry. We will be reaching out by phone to members of Spirit West to remind ourselves that we are a community of faith, even if at the moment we have to practice social distancing, and in some cases self-isolation. The team will initially target those whom we believe are most likely to be isolated. We may not always get it right. If you get a call, and think you really didn’t need it, thank the caller anyway. If you don’t hear from anyone in the next week, and really would like a call, let me know. We are playing this by ear in an “interesting” time.
If you are self-isolating for whatever reason (you are not feeling well, you are in a susceptible population, or you are just not taking chances) and you cannot get out to do shopping, let us know. There are people in the congregation who will do your shopping and deliver it to your home. Mention this to the caller from the phone ministry, or call or send an email to the church to let us know.
If you would like to volunteer as a “shopper” let me know by phone or email.
David S. has started a Casserole Ministry as part of Pastoral Care. Volunteers from Pastoral Care at Spirit West will deliver a casserole to someone in isolation, recovering from illness, or grieving the loss of family members.
We would need a supply of three or four casseroles made by members of Spirit West in tin foil pans and frozen in the church freezer available for delivery. The casseroles should be dated and labelled with all ingredients and the instructions for reheating. The supply of casseroles can be replenished as needed. If you are interested in providing a casserole please call David S. so he can keep an accurate inventory of casseroles (not too many, not too few).
Spirit West Prayer Chain
Prayer is important. We know that people still face challenges and difficulties not related to Covid-19, and we cannot forget them. Our Prayer Chain will continue to be active. If you have a prayer request, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. These requests will be shared regularly with the prayer chain.
SPIRIT WEST ONLINE!
Facebook: Spirit West United Church
- Norma => Noon to 5:00 pm, Monday to Thursday
- Larry => 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday to Friday
(Rev.) Larry K. Wright, CD, BA, MDiv
Spirit West United Church