Community of Christ Enduring Principles Spotlight
Sacredness of Creation
Elsewhere in this week’s news and events columns you will see my announcement about the cancellation of Canada West Mission Centre in-person events until at least the end of August. This provides an opportunity for some reflections on the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Community of Christ. I will offer a bit more of a retrospective on the whole year of COVID in the third week of March when we are at the one-year anniversary of the shut-down of local church services.
We find ourselves at a promising time in the pandemic. The vaccine roll-out, after a discouragingly slow and inconsistent start, now appears to be on track. All four provinces in Canada West Mission Centre are now reporting significant numbers of vaccinations, particularly among residents of long-term care facilities and now moving to some health care workers, senior citizens outside of facilities and some first responders. In Alberta (where I live) it is being projected that all persons of any age or occupation who desires a vaccination will be able to receive it by about the end of July. A recent article in the Edmonton Journal described the very positive and promising effect of vaccinations in long-term care facilities in Alberta.
Meanwhile we are all still dealing with at least some level of the restrictions which have become common in recent months. Travel is discouraged, except for necessary purposes. Indoor and outdoor gatherings are still restricted. The basic measures of masks, distancing and hand washing/sanitizing now seem ever-present and almost just a natural part of what we do each day.
The continuing impact of the pandemic on Community of Christ operations is obvious. Most congregations in Canada West are still not gathering in-person in any way. Many congregations are encouraging participation in some kind of regular online gatherings to maintain some sense of connection among members. These gatherings may be for worship purposes, “Sunday School” purposes, or just plain social visiting purposes. Some have instituted or increased telephone ministry. Only one congregation has returned to in-person services since October. They report significant efforts to abide by health authority requirements but report positive impacts of gathering together – despite masks and distancing – after the previous months of no services.
In the fall of 2020 Community of Christ leadership released procedures for conducting the sacraments of the church in situations where personal contact was not possible. Procedures for all sacraments except baptism were provided.
On February 6 over 130 members and friends were able to join in a service of ordination for two individuals where the ordinands were in different cities and the person offering the ordination prayers was in another country (the U.S.A.). It was an excellent worship experience in which the significance of the sacrament was truly felt and the presence of the Holy Spirit was evident. I am aware of inquiries concerning offering the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick (“administration”) using electronic means. I have yet to hear of such prayers actually being offered.
It feels like we may be at a turning point in the pandemic. The authorities continue to warn us to not let our guard down lest the virus re-emerge, or its new variants take on a greater hold. Still, it seems that there is hope that we may see the end of the pandemic by late summer or sometime in the fall. We have come this far, we can deal with it for another few months.
As always, I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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
I cannot quite believe that this is already our seventh COVID-19 Statement! Watch for a new name next week. Although COVID-19 is still “top-of-mind” for us, I want to start transitioning this column into more of a general weekly message from the Canada West Mission Centre to all of our members and friends. Got an idea for a new name for this message? Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is beginning to be some good news on the virus front. Many jurisdictions are reporting a leveling out of confirmed cases. It will be another week or two before we know for sure if we have passed “the peak” of the situation. We are all cautioned to continue with our social distancing on and health-maintenance practices for the foreseeable future.
There have been no new announcements or direction received from Community of Christ world leadership. The official suspension of church services and programs continues to be in place until May 1. Some congregations have indicated to me that they do not plan to open for services on May 3 and are awaiting instructions from church leadership for future weeks. Certainly local restrictions are not likely to be lifted and resumption of services is unlikely any time soon.
I have mentioned various program cancellations and postponements in previous statements. I will not repeat those here. They are noted elsewhere in the “Weekly Wire” as well as on the Events Calendar for the mission centre.
This past Sunday I know many people took advantage of the opportunity to tune in to the Community of Christ Easter Service. It was hosted in Independence, Missouri, and included participation by members from around the world. In case you missed it, you can view the entire service here: Living Hope: A Worldwide Easter Service You can also see the service in French or Spanish on the video page of the Community of Christ YouTube site. Many other videos are also available there, including the recent weekly messages to the church from President Steve Veazey.
Here is a link to the YouTube video page of the Toronto Centre Place congregation where you can find a recording of their Easter Service: Christ is Risen. This was also an excellent worship experience involving participation by persons from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Before closing, let me put in a plug for the Canada West Mission Centre’s “Virtual Visiting Fellowship” meetings. They are available via “Zoom” on Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings. For details contact me directly at email@example.com. These gatherings have proven to be popular opportunities for people to visit with others from across the mission centre (with occasional participants from Ontario and Washington State) and to share generally about what is going on with them in these COVID-19 times.
Take care. Stay Safe. Be Healthy. God bless.
Canada West Mission Centre President
The common first question after “Hello” has become much more heartfelt and honestly intended than had been traditional before our COVID-19 social distancing: “How are you doing?” We are truly interested in the answer to that question. We want assurance that our friends and family are, in fact, staying safe and being well. They wish to know the same of us. Yet we also want to be able to express our support if the answer to the question is the expression of some kind of health issue or personal concern that has arisen in the lives of those we love.
There are families and individuals in Canada West Mission Centre, and elsewhere in the church, who have been directly touched by COVID-19 in the form of illness or job loss. I know of people who continue to struggle with various medical, physical, and personal issues not at all related to the pandemic. And in the unstoppable cycle of life, there are families among us who mourn the loss of loved ones. All of these persons and families are worthy of our prayers of love and support.
So: What have you done to keep your outlook positive in recent weeks? What good news do you seek out to assure yourself that humanity is good and that we will all get through this together? What miracle or beauty in the natural world around you gives you hope and assurance and perhaps even inspiration? What books have you read? What friends have you reached out to by phone or electronically? And, yes, what social media connections have been beneficial for you? What images, stories, or anecdotes have kept you smiling, if not outright laughing? Please email some answers to me (firstname.lastname@example.org ), and I may share them in the future.
Let me offer a few “good things” for you to consider and to look forward to in the next few days.
Community of Christ President, Steve Veazey has provided the latest in his weekly messages to the church. Go to the church’s website at www.cofchrist.org and you will see the message displayed on the front page, or follow this link.
Also watch for the broadcast of an Easter Service from Community of Christ World Headquarters on Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. Central Daylight Time. To provide opportunities for interaction from home, the service will be broadcast on the church's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Viewers will be invited to share in the comments on Facebook and Instagram or by using #CofChristEaster on Twitter at several points during the worship. The broadcast also will be available at www.CofChrist.org/live-webcast and the church's YouTube channel.
Let me suggest a “non-church” option that I think is positive and uplifting in a more secular way. Go to the YouTube site and search for “Some Good News John Krasinski” or follow this link.
May God bless you with health or healing and with God’s good and uplifting Spirit.
Canada West Mission Centre President
I hope that you are continuing to stay safe and remain well in whatever social-distancing or confined-to-home situation you may find yourself. It is a challenging time for all of us.
I have a few things to share with you this week.
First, as I mentioned last week, some Mission Centre events in April have been affected by the church’s suspension of services and programs as well as by governmental recommendations. The Nurturing Justice Retreat at Samish has been postponed with the hope of rescheduling to a later time. The Samish Campground work week has been cancelled.
In addition, events in May have now also been affected. The Creating Connection Facilitators training scheduled for the first weekend in May at Chilliwack has been postponed, also hoping to find an alternative date later in the year. Watch for announcements about the Jan Kraybill weekend in Vancouver and the Nurturing Friends and Family Retreat. Neither event will be able to proceed as intended, but alternative arrangements may be able to be made.
Moving into June please also watch for an announcement about the Spiritual Retreat at Hills of Peace for alternative plans.
We know there is much concern about our summer schedule of camps and reunions. The mission centre staff have set a mid-May deadline to make decisions for those events. We feel that at least six weeks’ notice for those events is necessary for those planning the events as well as those planning to attend.
Here is a good question: What are you planning to do with your Sunday mornings once our suspension of services is over? Will you return to your congregation’s activities as you did before? What do you think you might like to see change about how your congregation “does church” in the aftermath of this period of self-isolation? Maybe call your Pastor if you have some ideas. Just something to think about while you have time to think about it!
In closing, let me encourage you to make that phone call to a friend or relative that you have been putting off. That bit of connection may do as much for your well-being as it will for the person you are calling!
Stay safe! Be well! God bless!
Canada West Mission Centre President
March 25, 2020
Canada West Mission Centre Statement #4
On Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19)
I hope that all of you are staying safe and being well. It is amazing to me how quickly any variation on that greeting has become so common to us. Yet it is an expression of that which is most important to us as we find our way through this COVID-19 environment.
The most important update since last Wednesday is that our Community of Christ leadership sent word late last week to extend the suspension of services and other church activities through to Friday, May 1. This means we are really settling into an unfamiliar routine of NOT going to church on Sunday. It also means that we have had some mission centre activities affected for the first time, specifically with the postponement of the Nurturing Justice Retreat at Samish Campground, the Creating Connection Facilitators Retreat in Chilliwack, Samish Island work week, and the intended meeting of the Hills of Peace Campground Board of Directors converted from an in-person meeting to a Zoom video meeting.
I hope you are finding alternate ways to connect with each other in place of our weekly services and activities. I have heard from different people how they have felt good about making phone calls to people they were missing from church, and I have also heard from others how much they have appreciated receiving such phone calls. This is not a difficult thing to do! Please feel free to pick up a phone and make a call – or two or three. I know that the number of viewers for Edmonton congregation’s worship service was way up last Sunday. I also understand that Vancouver experimented with an online Bible Study followed by a worship experience. At least one other congregation has told me they are investigating an online option for Sunday mornings to include their members and keep them connected.
This week was the first attempt at what we have called the Canada West Mission Centre “Virtual Visiting Fellowship.” Our first session went very well and included people from BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. You will see a notice about this elsewhere. If you are interested in being involved in this, see the notice and then email me to be included: email@example.com
Here are two good links for you to explore. First is a video of President Steve Veazey and a "Spiritual Check-In". Second is a resource that he refers to, a "A Spiritual Check-In for You and for Your Community". Check them both out.
I have gotten away from the pattern I set in the first couple of these updates to reinforce things that were happening at our government levels that were affecting us. I believe that most of you are keeping up on those things without me telling you. If you really need an update, email me or call me and we can talk.
My continuing prayer is that you are doing your best to stay safe and be well. May I also suggest that we look after each other to the extent we possibly can.
Mission Centre President
Greetings and best wishes to everyone in the Canada West Mission Centre.
Today I am going to trust that you are getting your fill of information from the media about the COVID-19 situation in your province and across the country and, indeed, around the world. Today alone (Wednesday) we have had further economic situations occur and a closing of the Canada-U.S. border to discretionary visitors in both directions. I am not going to deal with specific details of the situation in this statement.
Instead, I wish to talk to you as the human and spiritual beings that all of us are. How are you doing? No, really, how are you doing? How have you been affected by the governmental responses to the COVID-19 situation so far? Are you working from home? Are your children home from school? Are you missing direct contact with friends and neighbours – perhaps even visits with loved ones living in care-homes with restrictions on visitors now? Are you sick? Are you self-isolating? Are you keeping your spirits up? Or are your spirits a bit low as you consider your own situation or the situations of those around you?
Thank you to the Pastors, and their congregations, who responded to the direction of Community of Christ leadership late last week and suspended worship services and other activities at our congregational buildings across the mission centre for the next three weeks. This was not an easy thing to do. We are still the “chatter-day saints” and we love to gather – to visit, to share testimonies and stories and prayer needs, to catch up, to shake hands and to hug, to celebrate and to comfort. We love to gather because we love each other and it is hard to not gather. But let me be clear: at this time we must not gather in our congregations or our social times or our service groups. It is for our own health and for the health of those around us that we must not gather. Not for now. Hopefully not for long. But, certainly, not for now.
Please find other ways to connect and share with each other. Phone each other. Email each other. Text each other or use social media. Find ways to ensure that those who we know depend on Sunday mornings for their social “fix” hear from friends through the week. This may well be your seniors, but don’t forget those who live alone, maybe your young adults, and even those who may be feeling confined to their house, especially those with children home from school. Congregations are experimenting with “virtual” services online – not just Toronto and Edmonton. This can help everyone still feel connected. Please join in. (Let me know if your congregation is giving this a try.)
Let me leave you with two things to consider: First, an entertaining reminder to “don’t be a spreader”: Mel Brooks and Social Distancing (scroll down to find the video and make sure you make it full-screen. Second, some tips on Caring for Self and Others in Times of Trouble.
Finally, if you want to tell me “how you’re doing” – please email me! We’ll talk! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Grace and Peace,
Mission Centre President
Canada West Mission Centre President Steve Thompson has issued an update concerning COVID-19 (Coronavirus) as it pertains to the church in Western Canada.
Click the button below to view the full statement.
A Statement on COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus)
The Canada West Mission Centre has been following developments of the well-publicized COVID-19 (or Novel Coronavirus). This may be of concern to Community of Christ members due to the confirmation of cases in British Columbia and Washington State. No cases have yet been confirmed in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba.
There have been no advisories concerning gatherings of persons in any jurisdictions in the Canada West Mission Centre or in Washington State. We do not expect any impact on our planned retreats, youth camps, and family camps/reunions. We will monitor each jurisdiction in case any advisories are issued that may affect our event operations. However, you can expect at our events reinforcement of the directives from all health agencies on how best to protect ourselves against all respiratory illnesses including flu and COVID-19:
Current government information about the disease for each respective location can be found at these links:
President, Canada West Mission Centre
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