Black Lives Matter
Indigenous Lives Matter
Lives of People of Colour Matter
I will return to the “We Share” series next week.
This column, “A Moment with the Mission Centre President,” got started back in March for the purpose of addressing the rapidly changing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the members and congregations of Canada West Mission Centre. The current situation with the pandemic of the last couple of weeks makes addressing it from a church context relevant again.
The ”second wave” of the pandemic was predicted almost from the very beginning of the “first wave” in the early part of this year. Further, it was predicted to be worse than the first wave. That is exactly the situation in which we find ourselves across Western Canada at this time: more diagnosed infections than in the spring; more people in hospital and in Intensive Care Units; front-line workers who are even more exhausted than in the spring; and, sadly, more deaths in all jurisdictions.
You, and your circle of friends, acquaintances, and associates, will all have experienced the last 8 months quite differently. You may or may not know people who have been infected – with or without symptoms, with or without hospitalization. You may or may not know anyone who’s death was attributed to COVID-19. You, or someone you know, may be confined to a continuing care facility where COVID-related restrictions have affected everyone, whether infected or not. Perhaps you or someone you know have had scheduled surgeries or treatments delayed due to the priority assigned to dealing with the pandemic.
The church gave initial direction on closure of congregations around the world in mid-March. This was followed by several updates up to, and including, the release of guidelines for cautious re-opening of congregations in late May. Over the summer, church leadership released guidelines for the conduct of sacraments (other than baptism) in situations where officiating priesthood members and receiving members could not be in close proximity to each other. On the more “business” side, guidelines were also released to help local jurisdictions hold meetings to conduct needed business using video-conferencing tools.
Pastors and leaders in all congregations in the Canada West Mission Centre have been doing what they can to maintain communication with members. Those efforts have included online meeting opportunities and/or regular messages or newsletters sent to members. I am also aware of some very intentional telephone ministry that has occurred to ensure contact is maintained, comfort is provided, and spiritual connection and support is reinforced. Over the summer some congregations were able to enjoy some outdoor activities that at least brought people together in a physically-distanced manner. Beginning in September some congregations initiated in-person weekly worship services while abiding by World Church and local health authority directives and guidelines. Most have discontinued in-person services again in the face of the “up-tick” in cases in their surrounding areas.
Our camps and retreats were cancelled in their usual in-person formats. Many were “re-incarnated” in online formats that appear to have been mostly well-received.
All of us are looking forward to getting back to some semblance of “normal” whenever circumstances allow. It is very likely that the new “normal” will be different from the old “normal” that we left behind in March. I expect that congregations will continue to offer online ministry for members and friends in some form. Camps and retreats may also very well continue some form of online components. Personal attendance and participation habits in all church activities have been interrupted by the pandemic and may or may not return to their habitual and traditional forms.
Our collective and individual experience of church and of our life of faith may be quite different in the months following the pandemic. The world and life, generally, certainly will be quite different as well. Speculation about all of that will need to wait for another time.
Let me close this review and summary with the affirmation that God, directly and through the Holy Spirit, continues to be with us and to bless us in all of our lives. A scripture shared in a “Virtual Visiting Fellowship” meeting this week seems appropriate to close with here:
Do not be discouraged. You have not been promised an easy path, but you have been assured that the Spirit that calls you will also accompany you. …
Do not be defined by the things that separate you but by the things that unite you in Jesus Christ.
(Book of Doctrine and Covenants, section 162:3a,5a)
I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537