Friday May 29th at 7:30 pm
RSVP to Debra Donohue firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Thursday, May 21, the First Presidency of Community of Christ issued their latest Statement on the COVID-19 Pandemic. There is no “blanket” continuation of the direction to close congregations beyond the end of May, but there is clear caution to avoid re-opening without adequate preparation. There will be further direction given in the next few days. I have advised all Pastors in Canada West to avoid the temptation to open in the next few weeks. In conjunction with whatever the First Presidency provides, there will be instructions provided to assist congregations in planning for re-opening. No date for re-opening of any congregation in Canada West has been established.
The other key point in the current statement is the official direction to cancel summer camps. Canada West, along with several other mission centres in Canada and the U.S., has already formally cancelled our summer programs. Watch for announcements about possible alternatives to be offered, especially for our youth.
On Monday, May 25, President Steve Veazey released his most recent message to the church. It is entitled, Hope in Trying Times. In the video, President Veazey explains a budget reduction that is being implemented in early June requiring the reduction in church staff by 18 positions. These changes were being discussed before the onset of the pandemic and are not related to it. He also discusses the preparations that are necessary before congregations re-open and reinforces the need for caution and patience in this process.
Community of Christ has issued many statements and announcements about the work of the church during the pandemic. For a list of all such announcements, please see the “COVID-19 Announcements” page on the World Church website.
I have regularly mentioned in this column the online opportunities that are available as alternatives to our weekly services and programs. Once again let me direct you to the listing of Online Ministries on the World Church website. I know people who are participating in events on Sundays from several areas across North America and even internationally. Pick just one and give it a try this Sunday.
There are also various opportunities offered through the week. Many people are tuning in to the Toronto Centre Place Congregation’s “Beyond the Walls” services (see links on the page referenced above), which draw participation from essentially a world-wide audience. See also the “Online Events Directory” appears further down in this newsletter for opportunities in Canada West. Please be sure to check with your local congregation leadership for anything happening in your area. I know that weekly online opportunities are being provided in Vancouver, Calgary, and Regina as well as some initial efforts happening in Victoria. Please note that the online services from Edmonton have been discontinued until further notice.
Once again, my prayer is that God may continue to be present in your life. May you feel the support of your church community around you. May you be blessed with health - and/or with healing – and with a positive spirit. May God bless us all with God’s warm, loving presence.
Grace and Peace,
Canada West Mission Centre President
We are holding our virtual conference this weekend in place of the Fastathon we usually hold. Take a look at the poster below and share it with others who might be interested.
The live and recorded sessions will be available on the World Accord Facebook page and their Youtube channel. Hope you can join us!
I am sure I share with you a longing to be able to freely gather with family, with friends, and with church brothers and sisters – and even with co-workers in our work places or fellow students in our schools – without the current constraints imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There seems to be some “light at the end of the tunnel” as our various government jurisdictions begin to loosen some of those constraints. Yet even that loosening comes with cautionary warnings to continue to practice all of our social distancing principles which have become commonplace in the last couple of months.
You probably have one or two good stories to share of experiences during these last few weeks. Perhaps a story of something in your home or family that is related to forced isolation. Perhaps a frustration of not being able to visit with family members in hospital or care homes. Perhaps unexpected humour in your life despite the trying times.
For the last several weeks we have been holding “Virtual Visiting Fellowship” meetings via Zoom on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. People from across the Canada West Mission Centre (and beyond) have joined these meetings. We have fairly consistent groups of 15 to 20 people at each meeting. We enjoy an hour of sharing about whatever is going on in our lives and then a bit of sharing in response to a “theme question” to encourage a bit of creative thinking. I have two quick stories to share from each of the last two meetings. Last Thursday we enjoyed hearing from one of our members about her recent trip to Africa. She shared pictures and stories about the people and the animals and the landscapes that she encountered over about 18 days of travel through four different countries. This led to others sharing about “bucket lists” or “living life lists” of things they hope to see or do. On Tuesday morning people arrived and began actively visiting with each other before the “program” actually started. As I finally invited each one to introduce themselves (as we do for each meeting), just about everyone continued to share on the emerging theme from that informal sharing: experiences with mice, rats, or snakes! We entertained each other for a half an hour with our amusing stories. If you are interested in joining us, be assured there is always room for more “at the table.” Email me for details: email@example.com
I hope that you have been able to maintain contact with those who are important to you in the last few weeks, whether by phone or email or video links. I hope you have felt supported when you needed support. I hope you have been able to offer and provide support to others when the opportunity has been presented.
May God continue to be present in your life. May you feel the support of your church community around you. May you be blessed with health - and/or with healing – and with a positive spirit. May God bless us all with God’s warm, loving presence.
Grace and Peace,
Canada West Mission Centre President
To all members and friends of Community of Christ in Canada West Mission,
Many of you have been waiting for decisions on a number of events occurring over the next few months. Somewhat unexpectedly decisions on pretty much all events through the summer have been made and this message is to share them with you.
SPEC: The church’s international headquarters has announced the decision to cancel this year’s SPEC event at Graceland University. The event attracts over 1,000 youth from across North America. This is a major event for the church. The decision was shared with delegation leaders in a conference call Thursday evening and delegation leaders have been, in turn, sharing it with youth, parents, and leaders on Friday. The Canada West delegation leader is Lisa Neudorf. The decision to cancel, although certainly the right one, was not easy to make. SPEC will be greatly missed by all those who had planned to attend this summer.
Samish Family Camp/Reunion: The BC/Canada West Family Camp Reunion scheduled for Samish Campground has been cancelled. See this message from Reunion Director, Chris Phelps. Many participants have been expecting this decision. We have heard very clearly the concerns about crossing the Canada-U.S. border this year. This event draws participants from all over BC as well as from Washington, Oregon, and beyond.
Camps at Hills of Peace Campground: Finally, all three camps scheduled at Hills of Peace in July have been cancelled. These include the Junior Camp, Family Camp/Reunion, and Junior High and Senior High camps (which were scheduled for the same week). These cancellations are being announced due to the confirmation by the government of the Province of Alberta that the restrictions on gatherings of more than 15 persons will extend through the summer. Please see this message from Lisa Neudorf, Camp and Retreat Specialist and Hills of Peace Reunion Director.
All regular participants look forward to these events as times to renew friendships and experience a week of being immersed in a loving community with priorities of acceptance and inclusion and of experiencing the blessings of God in many different ways. Occasionally in the past it has been necessary to cancel one event for some reason. It is unprecedented that all of these events have been cancelled in a single season. The absence of these events will be a disappointment for people of all ages.
The Canada West Mission Centre looks forward to offering a full range of camps and retreats again next year. In the meantime, may God bless you and your loved ones, and may you feel the love of your camp friends even if from a distance.
Grace and Peace,
Canada West Mission Centre President
See this FAQ Document for additional information about these cancellations.
In the first of the COVID-19 “statements” from the Canada West Mission Centre, I shared links to the then-current information on each of the provincial websites of the mission centre that I thought was relevant to us. As most provinces are beginning some kind of phased processes to “open up” again, it is worthwhile to be updated and reminded of the legal and societal situation in which we find ourselves. Here is a brief summary moving from west to east.
The Government of BC has published this COVID-19 Guidance to Faith-Based Organizations. It has not changed since March 31. Gatherings are limited to groups of 50 persons or fewer. This order is in place until at least May 31. All physical distancing and other measures to limit the spread of the virus are in place.
Similarly, the Government of Alberta has published this Guidance for Places of Worship. This has been updated within the last 10 days. It provides for maximum attendance of 50 persons, with proper exercising of physical distancing. Social activities such as lunches or dinners are not allowed. Interestingly, it specifically notes that “Congregational singing is a high-risk activity and is not allowed.” Alberta has also published Guidance for Day Camps – which does not generally apply to most Community of Christ activities (except Vacation Bible Schools), but this document carries the explicit statement that “Overnight camps are prohibited.”
The Government of Saskatchewan has provided guidance on Public and Private Gatherings. The maximum size of a gathering is 10 persons for any purpose. All the now-common rules around physical distancing apply. In “Phase Three” of their re-opening process the allowable size of gatherings will increase to 15 and in “Phase Four” to 30 people. “Phase One” has started as early as May 4. “Phase Two” is scheduled for May 19. No dates are yet identified for future Phases.
The Government of Manitoba is in Phase One of its recovery as of May 4. All public gatherings remain limited to 10 persons or fewer. “Serious consideration” to reducing group restrictions may occur in mid-May depending on disease activity. However, no larger gatherings or events are expected to be allowed until at least September.
We continue to look forward to a time when we can resume our local congregational worship services. I expect that we will receive updated advice from our First Presidency in the next week to ten days with direction for June and possibly the summer months. We have already made decisions about our camping and retreat programs which have been reported to you previously. Watch for news about plans for Mission Conference coming very soon.
In the meantime, stay safe, and be well.
Canada West Mission Centre President
I am writing to you, our cherished donors, on behalf of World Accord. You usually hear from our Executive Director, David Barth, but in these unprecedented times, as president of the board, I felt it was important you hear from us as well to assure you that David, World Accord staff and partners are all healthy and well.
We understand you may be anxious to hear about the welfare and well-being of our programs and partners. All our partners’ staff are healthy at this point and attempting to work from home. This is challenging and frustrating for our dedicated partners because many of their tasks are accomplished in person. This means that a lot of progress will be halted for the time being in hopes of keeping the participants safe and healthy.
In El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nepal, partners report that the participants who grow perishables for the market are losing their harvests. As COVID-19 spreads, it seems that different protocols are being introduced which make life significantly more difficult for farmers around the world. There is no point in trying to get their produce to markets since those same markets are closed. This has caused financial stress since many of our program participants incurred loans to buy agricultural land, seeds or livestock and may not be able to pay off their debts. Also, our partners remain uncertain of receiving funding from their other funders in Europe and the States.
Our partners across the world are being presented with an unprecedented crisis that is affecting their safety and well-being. Not only are they dealing with the threat of COVID-19 spreading through their nation; they are also facing increasingly difficult monetary issues. In all countries where program participants are engaging in micro-enterprise activities, business has stopped completely which consequently, has caused a lack of cash-flow to our participants. With this occurrence, food security and access to water has become much more difficult and inevitably, it seems that it will continue to get worse. This is why we are grateful to have such excellent leadership at each of our partner organizations during these uncertain times. Currently, our program partners lack the proper equipment to protect themselves in the communities. As a result, most of our projects are on hold until Covid restrictions are decreased and participant safety can be assured. In the meantime, education or information on social distancing and proper hand washing is key to helping protect themselves and other participants. This education and information at least can be shared with participants using the phone.
The staff of World Accord here in Ontario are doing what they can to function as an organization while working from their homes. At the moment World Accord staff are self-isolating and are healthy, including David Barth. After an extended construction trip with other volunteers, he arrived home safely on a repatriation flight made possible by Global Affairs Canada. As well, our volunteer construction team leader, Al Wigood, elected to stay in Honduras. At the age of 90, he thought he faced more risk in the travel to Canada than to simply remain in isolation in his Honduran home.
World Accord is blessed with a community that not only supports our work but also has a sense of ownership of who we are and what we have been able to achieve over the years. We have great hope for how the world will evolve through the challenges we face as a global community. More than ever, this pandemic is demonstrating how intrinsically connected we all are across the globe. At World Accord, we are proud to cultivate the seeds that have taken root and enabled us to contribute towards this global collective through our partners’ work. We look forward to helping shape our collective future and we are grateful to have such an incredible community to stand with us. We want to support our partners in any way that we can.
If you are in a position to donate, host a virtual fundraising activity, or forward ideas of ways we might be able to creatively help our partners, we would greatly appreciate it. Thank-you for doing what you can to help us. Please stay safe. We will continue to do what we can to help those most vulnerable and attempt to end poverty and suffering.
In our “Virtual Visiting Fellowship” meeting on Tuesday morning this week I used an article titled “Tourist and Traveler” to set up some sharing among the group. The article (from the “Christian Century” magazine, April 20, 2016) begins with the use of the term “the Way” in the Bible, including Jesus’ self-description as, “I am the Way.” The terms “tourist” and “traveler” are defined and contrasted. Without going into detail here, a “tourist” will generally take the safer, less-risky paths while perhaps learning along the way; a “traveler” is more likely to strike out on their own and willingly take on the challenges and significant rewards of seeking out their own answers and really getting to know “the locals” on their own terms. In our discussion we seemed to agree that in different situations each of us are travelers sometimes and tourists at others. Some crave the adventure of being a traveler most of the time. Some know they enjoy the world around them from the relative comfort of being a tourist.
In this COVID-19 world of the last few months all of us have been thrust into the role of traveler whether we wanted to or not. As we have been endlessly reminded, this time is “unprecedented.” We are in new territory both economically and socially. It is a challenging time. And those of us who prefer to be tourists have sought out the familiar where possible to get us through. The travelers among us, if they are not already in “essential services” or “first responder” types of roles, have been looking for ways to personally contribute and assist others to get through this time safely and in good health.
If you are like me, I have been mourning the cancellation of our camps and retreats this summer. While such experiences often have a bit of adventure associated with them, they have been constants in our lives – events that we can rely on to be there year after year. Except they are not there this year. As a mission centre this has pushed us a bit more into the “traveler camp” to explore some new and innovative ways to provide some semblance of our camp experiences in a non-camp environment. Watch for these as they are presented in the next few weeks. Watch for an online version of the Hills of Peace Spiritual Retreat that will enable people from across the mission centre (and possibly beyond) to participate without traveling all the way to Hills of Peace. Watch for something, yet to be defined in any way, to be announced to appeal to our youth who have been disappointed by the cancellation of the Graceland Spectacular (“SPEC”) this summer. And watch for alternatives to our youth camps that may still give the chance for our kids to “get together” and enjoy an experience unlike anything they have had in past camps.
Despite our disappointments in this COVID-19 time, there are some real opportunities to do some things a bit differently and still enjoy our church life, our life of faith, and our own personal lives in ways that are at least as good as they have been in the past.
Come along and be fellow tourists AND travelers on this journey!
Stay safe. Be well. God bless.
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