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.
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.
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?
Last week I received an article from a colleague entitled The Coming Tidal Wave of Pastoral Departures by Laura Stephens-Reed. The article can be found here and I commend it to your reading: https://tinyurl.com/y66f5gea
There is much to learn in the article, but one paragraph in particular stood out:
“Prior to the pandemic, a significant number of my clergy coachees and colleagues were working under unrealistic expectations, whether those came from their congregations or from their own internal “shoulds.” And then, mid-Lent, they had to change the ways they did nearly everything – and fast. They became not just preachers but tech experts with all that entails: recording, editing, sound mixing, lighting, inviting people to and teaching them how to participate in and managing online meetings, exploring the most accessible social media platforms, and monitoring cyber security.”
As our churches have made the transition to new ways of doing worship through online platforms, I wondered how our families with children were doing. Knowing that all of our churches are working hard to keep everyone engaged in worship and the life of the congregation, I thought I would ask some parents how it was going and what they would say are the best practices they have experienced that assist their children and teens in feeling connected in worship, and what they might recommend to their worship leaders to consider as they plan for worship services that are more inclusive of all ages.
Marjorie Thompson, in Family: The Forming Center, says that “rituals are embodied ways of celebrating God’s presence in the midst of ordinary life.” Life doesn’t feel very ordinary these days, and the idea of celebrating communion in our homes instead in our church home with our church family feels just little bit strange. We wonder if we should hold off celebrating communion until we can gather in our churches once again. I wonder if these unusual days invite us to come to the table now more than ever before. We need to remember that God is with us and will not abandon us. Through the ordinary stuff of bread and wine we need to taste and see that the Lord is good.
And so we offer to you a communion service for celebration in your homes. It comes out of a request that John-Peter and I film a short, intergenerational communion service for Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church for Easter Sunday morning. We filmed it in our home with Alex Fensham and Holly Boyne, also members at MHP, who live in an apartment in our home. So please, feel free to use it at anytime throughout our time away from our church homes.
Greetings in the Lord’s name. We trust you are keeping well and safe in these strange, uncharted days. As we think about our Holy Week and Easter services of worship, we wonder, “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4) We hope we can be of help with a few thoughts, especially around communion.
I’ve been collecting a number of links to great websites/blogs/articles over the past couple of weeks that I think represent some of the best we can be doing, following or gaining insight from as we practice social distancing and stay home in our efforts to flatten the curve. I had hoped I could weave them into an article along the way, but for one reason or another, they never quite fit the article themes I was working on. I don’t want them to be lost in the shuffle, so I’m posting them all here in the hope that one or two might also resonant with you.
Dear friends in the synod, today I have witnessed much confusion and concern about whether or not to cancel church tomorrow or in the coming weeks. I am aware of a number of congregations who have already cancelled and a few who are having worship tomorrow but not the two Sundays following. It seems like the majority are planning to continue.
In our polity, it is difficult to find one person who can make this decision, I can’t make it either, however, I would like to offer a few thoughts.