What Children and Their Families Have to Tell the Church About Their Pandemic Experiences and Church Reopening – Part 1

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What do the children have to say about their away-from-the-church-building experiences of Zoom Sunday school, online worship, and mid-week programming over the course of this past year and a half? 

What has been concerning them the most throughout the pandemic? 

And, what are they looking forward to when we return to our church buildings? 

We only have to ask!

And guess what? Some wonderful and caring people have already started the conversation for us. And, they have some very interesting things to share. 

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Reopening Church Buildings in Ontario – Step Three

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Friends, by now I am sure everyone is aware that we have moved to Step 3 of reopening in the province of Ontario. In terms of Places of Worship (and other religious rites) this is what is now permitted:

Religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services (does not apply to receptions): Indoor and outdoor permitted with capacity limited to permit physical distancing of 2 metres.

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Book Review: Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook

“You may kiss the bride.”

I remember it as though it were yesterday. I had planned a marriage service with a couple, but would not be able to perform it. A colleague stepped in to help. When I got back to the office, the order of service was lying open on my desk. The above sentence was scrawled out and in its place was written:

“You may seal your vows with a kiss.”

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Children’s Bible Story Videos: Comparing Two Options

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I am often asked to recommend bible story videos for children to watch at home or for Sunday school teachers to use with their classes. Unfortunately this can be more challenging question than it first appears. While there is certainly a lot of bible story videos out there for parents to choose from, there are very few that I can happily recommend that present the bible from a Reformed theological perspective, and even fewer that take into consideration how children of a young age hear these stories and understand them given their stage of development.

Recently, a minister sent me an email asking about a video series called the Bible App for Kids. It had been found by a member of her congregation, and rather than immediately beginning to use it with the kids of the church, she asked her minister to have a look at it and let her know if it was a good fit for their kids. While having a look for myself I thought that it might be helpful to share with you what I discovered as well as what I look for when I’m reviewing children’s videos, bible storybooks, and other resources.

Hopefully this might help give you an eye for viewing materials you come across along the way and wonder if you should use.

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Away At the Lake

Join Cairn Camps in Baysville for a summer retreat experience!

Cairn is excited to be offering Away at the Lake this season, an all-inclusive retreat on the shores of Echo Lake!

This summer, leave the busyness at home and immerse yourself in the beauty of Creation, enjoying a Muskoka getaway of reading on the beach, walking through the forest, engaging in camp activities at your leisure, and enjoying meals where you don’t need to cook OR do the dishes! This is an opportunity for rest, for Sabbath, and for retreat. 

Looking for more information? You can view the Away at the Lake Information Package here.

Please also know that the Cairn Campership Fund and other bursary programs are available to help cover Away at the Lake registration costs. Community Funders are eager to see their dollars be used this summer, and so we encourage anyone to apply who may find this helpful. You can view the Campership Form here.

We can’t wait to welcome you to Away at the Lake this summer!

For more information, please visit ilovecamp.org/away-at-the-lake.cfm or contact the Cairn office at admin@ilovecamp.org or by phone at 705-767-3300.

A Statement Regarding Residential Schools

Dear friends,

In response to the devastating confirmation of unmarked graves on the grounds of former Residential Schools in Canada, a statement was published on June 15, 2021, written in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council, a Committee of the General Assembly, and signed by both the Rev. Dr. Dan Scott, Moderator of the 2021 General Assembly, and by the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator for 2019–2020. It speaks, through repentance and lament and in humility, for the lives of all the children who were lost, those we know who died at the schools and those still to be found in unmarked graves. The statement makes many commitments for the church to act upon.

In various ways, the church has begun responding to the commitments outlined in the statement. However, any work regarding former Residential Schools and the land they are or were on must be done in conversation with and after listening carefully to the affected communities and in line with their wishes. Additionally, we work in consultation with the National Indigenous Ministry Council.

This work takes time and must be respectful of the impacted communities’ wishes. We know there are cemeteries associated with some of the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but we do not know for sure whether there are unmarked graves on the grounds of these schools, though it is likely. We are working on opening conversations around searching the grounds of both Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School and Birtle Residential School. The church has also begun looking into how to approach those affected by the schools that The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran but that closed before 1925. We have also contacted the United Church of Canada about how we will work together with regard to the schools The Presbyterian Church in Canada ran before 1925 but then became associated with the United Church of Canada.

As a colleague in ministry, I am writing to ensure that you and those associated with the ministry you serve have seen, read and considered the statement, available here.

You can learn more about the ongoing work for reconciliation and Indigenous justice as well as any news regarding this issue at the Indigenous Justice page of our Social Action Hub. It is a living resource that we keep updated.

Get Involved

We all have a responsibility to deepen our understanding of the ongoing impacts of anti-Indigenous systemic racism, of which residential schools were part, and to act. Here are only some of the ways to respond after reading the statement issued on June 15, 2021

Read the Statement publicly. Additionally, read Calls to Action 71-76 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

Learn about the Ministries with Indigenous Peoples of The Presbyterian Church. Watch a worship service by Indigenous ministry leaders to mark National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Seek to understand the harms of intergenerational trauma on Indigenous peoples and communities. 

Read the Final Report and Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and use the PCC study guide on the final report: Why work to decolonize?

Read the resources and support the work of Indigenous organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Learn about the impacts of colonialism, why it was necessary for the church to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and PCC-run residential schools. Resources are online here

Learn about any schools operated near your community. As much as possible, seek information from Residential School Survivors, Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

Read about the work that has been done regarding the cemetery for the Regina Industrial School in “The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological” by Douglas Stewart (available through Amazon).

Sincerely,  
The Rev. Ian Ross-McDonald, 
General Secretary, The Life and Mission Agency  

Information for Congregations Following the Adoption of Remits B & C: Marriage and Ordination of LGBTQI Persons in the PCC

logo of the 2021 General Assembly of the PCC

This past week, the 146th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC) took place. At least two things made this General Assembly significant. The first was that it was the first General Assembly to be held virtually. The second came with the adoption of Remits B & C concerning human sexuality; the PCC now affirms that LGBTQI couples may be married in a PCC Church, and that married or single LGBTQI persons may be ordained as ministers and elders in the PCC.

As we begin to consider the implications of these decisions, it is worth spending some time understanding how we came to this decision, particularly for those who have not been following the steps taken that have brought us to this place.

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Some One-Liners to Ponder

InterGenerate/Children’s Spirituality Summit CNOB Team

“As Christians, how we relate to each other should set us apart” (Douglas Powe)

Earlier this week a team of six people from our synod attended a virtual conference by InterGenerate and the Children’s Spirituality Summit. We spent Monday through Wednesday listening to thought provoking keynote presentations by world leaders of children’s and intergenerational ministries, attended a broad variety of workshops and/or research paper presentations led by leading practitioners and academics, and joined affinity breakout groups that applied to our areas of interest in faith formational ministry.

It was a great week!

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Are You Losing Sleep Over Your Congregation’s Future?

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Covid-19 has been a very uncertain and challenging time for congregations, and it appears that for some their congregation’s health might be getting significantly more precarious.

First a little bit of history.

A year ago, when we were all trying to make sense of the pandemic, a sister denomination predicted that they would lose about 20% of their congregations as a consequence of Covid. I agreed at the time; it made sense to me given what I knew about the synod and its congregations. However, as the weeks turned into months, our congregations continued to survive. In fact they seemed to be doing okay. CERB and CEWS helped, as did special grants and gifts. For some congregations, reduced expenses also made a big difference along with a mild winter keeping utilities to a minimum.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

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Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17, 18)

A few weeks ago I was standing in line at a convenience store. There were two registers open, one of which was the lottery terminal. By the number of tickets in his hand, the fellow behind me clearly had a significant lottery transaction to complete, so when that register opened, I invited him to go first. He thanked me and said; ‘that’s the first nice thing someone has done for me since Covid began.’ I hope he was exaggerating because it sure didn’t feel like much, but my greater fear was that he might have been right.

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