September 27, 2020
It seems that in the blink of an eye summer has left and we are in the middle of the beauty of fall with changing leaves, crisp mornings and beautiful sunshine. I hope that you take the opportunity to enjoy some of nature’s splendor in the coming weeks. Fall is a fleeting season in our corner of the world.
This past Tuesday, Pastor Henry and I participated in another virtual Town Hall event for religious leaders. The purpose of this meeting was to talk about what possible next steps in re-opening are, and to give more information on several significant Covid-19 outbreak events that have occurred in religious groups in Alberta. There was also opportunity for groups to ask questions about their specific situation and implementation of the guidelines in their worship practices. The next steps in re-opening will be specific guidelines for children’s activities for faith communities, as currently we are using the day-camp guidance for our programs. Outbreaks that have occurred in faith-based groups have been traced to three main contributing factors: poor ventilation in buildings, improper attention to physical distancing and precautions at small gatherings in people’s homes, and congregational singing with improper use of masks. The purpose of the meeting wasn’t to spread fear or shame among religious groups, but to recognize that small events can have unintended consequences. There was also an acknowledgement that there is a need for community and the ability for faith groups to worship together. This balance between risk and ministry needs remains the tension that we navigate through.
Council executive will be meeting in the first week of October to discuss West End’s current approach and to decide what (if any) changes should be made to our current practices. As always, our priority will be the care and safety of congregation members, and adherence to the Chief Medical Officer of Health guidelines and recommendations. Plans for ministries for the fall are well underway, several youth events are planned, and it is heartening to see small groups such as book clubs and Bible studies prepare for a new season. We also welcome opportunities to use our talents and facilities to serve those in our community who need support, including an ongoing need for volunteers. Please watch the bulletin for volunteer opportunities and contact the appropriate people if you can contribute in any way.
Much of my work and church life currently finds me deep in Covid-19 case numbers and interpretations of guidelines, and more recently talking to and offering supports for individuals undergoing testing or who have tested positive. As case numbers rise in Edmonton and we are all bombarded with statistics of what this may mean, it is easy to become discouraged. This past Wednesday, Bill and I had the opportunity to hear a musician friend play an outdoor backyard concert. In a week filled with meetings, deadlines and emails to send, the lyrics of a song pulled from Isaiah struck me “Fear not- I will hold your right hand”. The full verse from Isaiah 41:13 is “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” The song and this verse were a reminder that we do not walk our journeys alone, but our God walks with us. It is my prayer that we will continue to find comfort in this image, that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, our God holds us firmly in His grip.