September 16, 2021
It has been 18 months since Covid 19 was first added to a Council agenda. For the last several months we have experienced loosening restrictions, and we have enjoyed the ability to travel, visit and spend time together. As a Church we have also been excited to plan ministry programs and looked forward to a new church season with anticipation. However, that has been tempered in recent weeks with the unease of growing case numbers, the steady rise of hospitalizations, and increased deaths due to Covid. As I am sure you are all aware, the government has announced new restrictions designed primarily to avoid a complete breakdown in our critical health care system. Hospital wards and ICU units are strained to the breaking point, and our front-line health care workers, who have already given much in this pandemic, have been asked to bear the burden of care for another wave.
As Christians, we recognize that we live as part of our wider community. We recognize that there are diverse views on the place of restrictions and the necessity of vaccinations, however our current crisis has shown that those who are not vaccinated are at significant risk of severe outcomes of this disease, regardless of age and health status. We have a collective responsibility to reduce the number of covid cases in our communities, working together in this to demonstrate love to each other and our neighbours. If you are looking for guidance or have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to contact your physician or AHS.
The new restrictions will also have a tangible affect on our worship and activities. Wednesday evening Jo Van Berkel, David Van Berkel, our Pastors and I met to discuss the impact of the new guidelines. In addition to the mask mandate that went into place a couple of weeks ago, the following measures are now in place:
- Worship services are capped at 1/3 of fire code capacity and physical distancing must be maintained between households. We feel that we can accommodate the numbers we have seen in recent weeks without utilizing a registration system. Our ushers and council members will assist to help us meet this.
- Coffee after the service is paused, as the current outdoor restrictions require physical distancing, which is difficult to maintain. The congregation will be asked to exit the building directly after the service.
- Faithwalk and Compel! will continue to be offered and we will work to determine how best to deliver these programs with distancing requirements. This week Faithwalk will meet in the Fellowship Hall, with Compel! in one of our larger classrooms.
- Faith based programs can continue, provided distancing is maintained and masks are in place. As we have done previously, we are prioritizing ministry programs for in-person options, while administrative activities such as committee meetings will move back to remote (Zoom) delivery. Our church staff will remain working in the building.
- Fellowship group social activities are suspended, until gathering limits change. We will pursue community events such as the Corn Maze, recognizing that we will need to comply with their requirements for participation.
It is disheartening to be back in this place; we all long for an end to the pandemic and continuation of the familiar patterns and activities that we were becoming used to again. However, I have also been reminded of the compassion of our congregation, our resilience, and our ability to care for each other, and I am confident that we will meet this challenge with grace and kindness for one another.
The last several weeks have been busy ones for me, with long hours at work. But there has been an unexpected benefit to this, as I have been treated to some of the most beautiful sunrises as I drive to my office. The remarkable colours of the sky last only for five or ten minutes, but they have been a reminder of the beauty of creation that surround us. At our orientation meeting this past Monday for Council, staff, and fellowship group coordinators, we opened with a reading of sections from “Our World Belongs to God”. These words have carried me through the craziness of the last 48 hours, the reminder that we serve a God who will always hold us and our world in His hands.
As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world—
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
as history unfolds
in ways we know only in part,
we are assured
that God is with us in our world,
holding all things in tender embrace
and bending them to his purpose.
The confidence that the Lord is faithful
gives meaning to our days
and hope to our years.
The future is secure,
for our world belongs to God.