Category Archives: Congregational Development Archive

On the Anniversary of the Pandemic

Pixaby

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1 NRSV)

On March 12 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared the Coronavirus to be a pandemic.

On March 16, 2020 the province of Ontario recommended the closure of all recreation programs, libraries, private schools, daycares, and churches and other faith settings.

This week we commemorate the one year anniversary of the Coronavirus pandemic, an event that has changed lives worldwide. It simply repeats the obvious to try and recount how different the world is today from a year ago and how uncertain the future remains, even with a vaccine. This truly is a once in a century event.

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Free Money!

Did you read that right? Yes – money for free!

Michelle Spollen – Unsplash

As Covid restrictions have continued, two things are happening. First I spend way too much time in front of a screen, often on the same old websites. Second, it seems like every time I open my email or answer the phone, there is a new scam for me to be fooled by. It never ends.

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Dear Churchgoers

photo by Engin Akyurt, unsplash.com

by Laura Stephens-Reed, Clergy and Congregational Coach, laurastephensreed.com

Reprinted with the permission of the author

I recently posted the thoughts below on my Facebook page. They seemed to strike a chord, so I’m offering them here as well. Lay leaders, judicatory and denominational leaders, and ministers working outside the congregational context, I urge you to share these reflections on behalf of those local church pastors who cannot.

Churchgoers, I know you are tired of this pandemic. I know you want to hug your friends and see their full, unmasked faces on Sunday mornings. I know you are frustrated when your fellow church members start attending services and programs in congregations that are taking fewer precautions. I know you are heartbroken that Advent and Christmas observances won’t look the same this year.

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You Are the Light of the World

Gift Habeshaw, unsplash.com

A number of years ago, my then minister, Rev. Dr. Karen Dimock, preached a sermon in which she talked about light. She reminded us that the light of Jesus’ time was the light of an oil lamp not the light of a light bulb and certainly not the light of a spot light. Her point was simple, the light Jesus describes does not usually allow us to see the end of our journey or even the whole picture; often it only allows us to see the next step.

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Fear Not!

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?

I love to watch The Polar Express, and I’ve just finished binge-watching the new Netflix series Dash & Lily, but truth be told, my absolute favourite Christmas movie is A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I was already a committed Peanuts fan when the movie came out in 1965. I would grab the newspaper each day and delight in the wisdom of Charles M. Schultz shared through his Peanuts characters. It was no surprise that A Charlie Brown Christmas leapt to the top of my list when I saw it for the very first time. It has consistently remained there ever since I lay down on the living room floor in my pyjamas that first time and became mesmerized by the story shared so many years ago.

Won’t you watch it with me again. 

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Considering A Longest Night Worship Service

Jessica Delp – unsplash.com

Monday, December 21 is the longest night of the year. In 2020 we have had many long nights and this year, perhaps more than ever, it is important to have a Longest Night Christmas worship service at your church.

Also called Blue Christmas, a Longest Night worship service is traditionally held to acknowledge that for many people Christmas is not a happy time of the year. Typically it is held for those who have lost loved ones over the course of the year, and for those who are lonely or separated from friends and family. 

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COVID-19 Updates for Churches in the City of Toronto and Beyond

I recently wrote the following letter to the churches of the Presbytery of West Toronto to encourage them to consider resuming Virtual Worship solely as we face a disturbing number of new cases of COVID-19 , and the prospect of increased restrictions within the city of Toronto.  

As much as the specifics of the letter apply to churches within the City of Toronto, I am also deeply aware that these concerns equally apply to Peel Region, as well as other regions of Ontario and other provinces in Canada, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Even though the language of this letter might be local, the issues are not. Thus I would invite you to use this letter as a resource for your session as you consider in-person worship in your own community. 

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Looking Forward to Christmas

Zac Cain, unsplash.com

In December of 2013, a week before Christmas, a major ice storm hit the Canada from Ontario to the Maritimes. This storm resulted in 27 deaths, loss of power to over a million residents and millions of dollars in damage. The strongest memory I have of that week was the anxiety over Christmas Eve services. Many churches cancelled altogether. Some, like ours, got power back just in the nick of time. Others chose to go ahead with candlelight services in coats and hats. For many of them, Christmas Eve 2013 was one of the most memorable ever experienced.

This Christmas, 2020 we face another storm, different in its scope but unique because we see it coming. We already know that this coming Christmas will be unlike any other in memory. The only question is how?

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The Coming Tidal Wave of Pastoral Departures

by Laura Stephens-Reed, Clergy & Congregational Coach (www.laurastephensreed.com)

reprinted with the permission of the author

[Note: when I originally posted this piece on my blog, I realized that few ministers would feel free to share it themselves. If it resonates, I hope that judicatory leaders, laypeople, and others who support you might have passed it along on your behalf.]

There are many ways I could describe the past six months, but I’m going with “revealing.” The pandemic has clarified systemic issues related to a broken healthcare system, racial inequities, lack of leadership at almost every level (governmental and denominational), and inefficient infrastructure for responding to crises. Specifically, though, I am thinking about how all the shifts prompted by Covid-19 have uncovered how unsustainable ministry is for so many pastors in their current contexts.

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Re-opening, and Possibly Re-closing, Presbyterian Churches

by Fred Stewart, General Presbyter with the Presbytery of West Toronto

I have had the opportunity to speak to many of you about your reopening plans for your church buildings. Sessions have created a variety of strategies largely based on the different circumstances of their congregations.  A lot of planning and debate has accompanied these strategies. As a result, some congregations have already opened for worship with protocols in place. Some are planning on opening soon. Some are waiting for what they consider a safer time.

However, the last week and a bit have significantly changed the risk factors in many parts of Canada, especially in the neighbourhoods of some of our churches.

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