Pastor Tim's COVID Update, February 2021
Current health orders from the BC CDC continue to restrict all indoor gatherings other than 12-step/support programs to be suspended. This means our Sunday worship gathering continues in its exclusively online livestream format. It also means that we still cannot use our church building as a meeting space for our small groups.
We need to take this very seriously and do our part. We would all love for this to be over, and the good news about positive results in vaccine trials is encouraging, but we are not home yet. Here are a few brief thoughts to prayerfully consider:
- We still have our Pilot. Our Almighty, All-Wise Father is also Emmanuel, God with us. In our recent Night of Worship and Prayer, as we meditated on Exodus 3, and I identified with Moses’ question, “Who am I to do what you’re asking me?” and God’s response, “I will be with you,” I sensed God saying to me, “Keep Calm and Draw Near.” What are you doing to allow the steady hand of Christ to calm your heart?
- Now is the time for the church to shine. Throughout history, the Spirit-inspired church at its best has been one of the most creative, innovative, intentional organizations in the world, facing seemingly insurmountable odds again and again, and prevailing in witness through the power and grace of God. We are no less resourced than the church has been in any other chapter of its history. “God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through our knowledge of him who called us to his one glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). We can’t offer vaccine development, political solutions, or financial bailouts, but we specialize in Christ-centred community. And that is something that should, must, and can prevail even in the absence of these other things. We must not give up meeting together! What kinds of options can help keep your people in touch with one another and with God in this time?
- Now is the time for our leadership to shine. The tone and attitude that we model for our group is crucial. If we model defeat, discouragement and surrender, our group will follow that lead. If we model optimism, hope, and creative solutions to carry us through, I believe many will follow that lead as well. What choices can you make to set a tone of hope for your group?
- Don’t underestimate the good fruit of perseverance. James tells us, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4). Similarly, Paul writes, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). This is true individually, and it is true in community. There are depths of trust, connection and resilience in community that we can discover only when we persevere, even when it is hard or less than ideal. What good fruit can you envision out of persevering together through this difficult time?
So What Can We Do Now?
Meeting Adjustments: It makes sense if you're thinking, “I just can’t see how we can do what we were doing before in an online context now." We will be adjusting our weekly guides to adjust to the fact that online meetings require an adapted format. Please let me know what you would find most helpful in that adaptation.
At the very least, I would encourage you to consider the following as a basic framework to consider for online gatherings:
- Communicate clearly. Make sure people have clarity about how and when you are meeting, and how they can join.
- Keep your time to no more than 90 minutes.
- If you have a larger group (12+), consider splitting the group into two Zoom calls, or use the breakout room feature.
- Use the first 20 minutes to give each person a brief opportunity to share a high and low from their week, a 3 word summary of how they have been doing (with a brief explanation), or an event that God used to encourage or speak to them.
- Use the second 30 minutes for a brief Lectio Divina experience with Scripture:
- Ready: 1 minutes of silent prayer before God: “Speak to me, Lord.”
- Read: Have someone read the passage out loud.
- Ruminate: Have someone read the passage out loud again, slowly; invite people to pay attention to the phrase, image, or character that catches their attention. Give people a few moments to read silently, and to prayerfully converse (pray, listen, pray, listen, repeat) with God about it. After about 10 minutes, invite each person to briefly share one thing they heard God saying to them through the passage.
- Respond: Invite each person, as they feel comfortable, to pray a short prayer out loud in response to what they sensed God saying.
- Rest: Invite people to rest in the loving presence of God. Remind them that of God’s love, pleasure, delight in them.
- Use the final 10-20 minutes to invite any requests for prayer, and briefly pray for each request in turn.
- Thank everyone for attending, and confirm your next gathering.
If this sounds like something you could use, please give it a try, and then let me know what you’re learning. Just as doctors and policy-makers are learning in real-time about how to address the medical elements of the pandemic, we’re learning how to do community in the same way. So anything we can learn from you is appreciated.
Hope Huddles: We all need a consistent dose of hope. What if your Life Group created what I would call “Hope Huddles”? The goal of a Hope Huddle would be to make sure you have interactive connection with a few other believers every Sunday, even though you can’t be together physically. In this way we can help one another “continue in our faith, established and firm, and… not move from the hope held out in the gospel” (Colossians 1:23).
Briefly, I envision a Hope Huddle as a 30 minute online connection (Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp) with a few others, immediately before (i.e. 9:45 am) or after (11:40 am) watching the livestream service from home. During this time:
- briefly check in about the week past and to come
- share one thing God spoke to you during the service
- encourage one another in faith, hope and love
- pray for one another, our church and our community.
If this level of restrictions continue beyond Christmas, we are considering purchasing a few Zoom licenses that could be shared among Life Group leaders. If this is something you would use, can you please let me know?
This will not be forever. As soon as we can open up the church for gatherings again, we will certainly do so. But until then, let’s not give up meeting together! Thank you, friends! I hope to talk with you soon!