Ministry Team Messages
March 13th, 2020
21 I want all of them to be one with each other,
just as I am one with you and you are one with me.
I also want them to be one with us (John 17:21)
When humans achieved the goal of flight into space, one of the things that struck the astronauts as they took pictures of earth, was how connected we all are…that we are one.
In Jesus’ long prayer in the gospel of John, he prays that the people may be one. That they sense they are part of each other, and that they are one in God’s spirit.
In this time of Covid-19 spread around the world, we are increasingly aware of how connected we are. The actions of people in one part of the world affect people in other parts of the world. And we in the church are working to respond faithfully, ethically and caringly so that Jesus’ vision for connection might be done in a way that brings life.
While the risk of infection for people living in Vancouver is still low, at Pacific Spirit United Church, we have developed the following precautionary steps to address care of people in our community and the wider world:
a) we will be suspending the sharing the sacrament of communion until further notice.
b) we will continue to celebrate Sunday worship at 10:00 am.
c) Wednesday Table meal and worship, will not be meeting the next two weeks due to Spring Break.
d) groups and committees will meet as they see fit, and will connect with members to give guidance.
e) we encourage people to follow Health BC guidelines: wash hands with soap and water frequently, avoid touching your face with your hands, and stay home if you are sick.
f) in a caring community we will: embrace each other simply with a smile, hold each other lovingly in prayer, and leave space between ourselves for the Holy Spirit to join us.
The Maundy Thursday Meal and the youth Easter Vigil will be cancelled this year.
At this time we will continue with Sunday and Wednesday study groups “If I should Die Before I Wake” but we will meet in a larger space in the East-West room.
We will continue with PIE day this Sunday and Coffee Hour after church with the following precautions:
Pie and coffee/tea will be prepared and served to people rather than self-serve
Servers will wear gloves
Prayers and Pastoral Care: Because one-on-one contact is less of a concern than gatherings, Deborah and Maggie are still happy to visit you at your home or meet in the church. And we are having early conversations about setting up a phoning tree so that people don’t start to get isolated in their own homes. Please call the church office if you or someone you know in the congregation is looking for prayers or pastoral counseling. If you need help, want to talk, or to make an appointment, please do! Continue to pray for our community and the wider world. Pray for health care professionals. Pray for leaders. Pray for those who are ill and their families.
Food Cards: There are a few community meals that are being closed throughout Vancouver, and this is hard-hitting for people who live on the edges, with little income or housing opportunities, and rely on these meals. You may not be aware that Pacific Spirit United Church offers $25 food cards to people in need every two months. It is not a lot, but for many it is important. A year ago, a member of this congregation made a generous donation that has carried us more than a year in this ministry. In recent weeks, the fund that pays for these cards has become seriously depleted. If you are in a position to make a special donation toward this ministry for some of the most vulnerable in our community, we would be most grateful.
We will review and revisit our response as we receive new information. Watch for future updates. This is based on the information we have today – we will continue updating our plan with clear, compassionate and prompt communication as needed.
Finally, please be sure to practice self-care, compassion, kindness and understanding. And let’s all be attentive to the most vulnerable in our midst.
(for the Ministry Team)
March 6th, 2020
You may recall that Jesus told a good number of parables about seeds and plants and growth cycles…. and for good reason and with good results. Jesus knew, as many of us our learning, that the natural world has much to teach us.
One morning this week, I espied a fellow out in front of our church gymnasium - digging in the dirt. My first thought was that the Property Oversight Committee had responded to my broadly dropped hints about resurrecting the garden boxes and was taking action… for there are several wonderful folks on this committee who do just step in and make things happen!
When I went outside to check in with the person, however, I learned it was a total stranger that was making my dreams come true…. “Could this be Jesus in the guise of a gardener?” I wondered. It turned out it was someone who frequents the roller skating programs offered in our gym, and he just wanted to brighten up the entryway that he walked a couple of times every week. He talked about the joy and hope he found in growing food and flowers. He thought that some green and growing things would bring joy to himself and others. He had asked the roller skating club about doing this and they had said: “Sure, go ahead”.
I will admit that, at this point, my inner response was not particularly charitable… and was, in fact, quite territorial. This was CHURCH land, I thought, and WE have the say-so over what happens upon our property! Fortunately, God gave me the grace to be more conciliatory in my outward speech. We talked about the benefits of the garden boxes, and together worked out something of a plan of what might be done. I have great hopes that we can enlist some of our other user groups (perhaps our Scouting groups) to be involved in the planting and tending and harvesting. I have great hopes that this can make for more communication and partnering with our user groups, and even our neighbours-at-large. I did notice that folks are more apt to stop by when someone is out in the front yard digging in the dirt…. and who knows what seeds might be planted and one day bear fruit!
Maggie, for the Ministry Team
February 28th, 2020
Leaning into Lent
There is an oft-asked question in United Church circles:
“How do we invite people to commitment and serious spiritual practice, without moving into the realm of harsh finger-pointing or guilt-inducing?”
This question comes into sharp focus in the Season of Lent.
Lent, the traditional penitential season of 40 days prior to Easter, has often been criticized by the more liberal church as an unnecessarily dour time in the Christian calendar. Many will be quick to point out that Sundays are not included in the count of 40 days, as each Sunday is a “little Easter”, meant to celebrate resurrection, and thus we are allowed to be joyful and sing our Hallelujahs, even in our Lenten church services. In typical, paradoxical fashion, I say “Yes, AND we are invited to deepen our reflection, our confession, our intentional searching for how we might better grow in our relationship with God, with one another, and with all of creation.”
This year, our Lenten season will be shaped by the theme “Unraveled”. This theme comes to us from a liturgy-writing group called “Sanctified Arts”, who offer the following description of this theme.
Lent invites us to think about how we are unraveled - by shame, identity, fear, grief, dreams, and expectations. What happens when our world falls apart? What does it look like to search for God in the gray area of our lives? How do we press onward when our tightly-knit plans unravel into loose threads?
Some synonyms for unravel are: untangle, unsnarl, unwind; elucidate, decipher, reveal, clarify. Sometimes we need to be unraveled—from shame, fear, patterns, or identities that cause harm. To unravel is to acknowledge and grieve what has fallen apart in order to allow God's newness to unfurl.
-Sanctified Arts Website
I think it is fair to say that many of us are feeling a little unraveled by current events in our world…. so Lent is a good time to ask ourselves how that unraveling might lead not to “falling apart” but to more faithful responses and more leaning into the grace of God.
Lenten blessings, Maggie for the Ministry Team
February 21st, 2020
The Season of Epiphany is closing and Lent is about to begin. A time of lengthening days, the return of life after the hibernation and rest of winter. It is a time to fast and pray. In our church year, we tell the story of Jesus’ teaching, promises and courage as he makes his way to Jerusalem for a final confrontation with those who seek to destroy him. This is a season that asks us to summon our courage and strength.
To that end, it is with incredible gratitude that I can tell you that the Pacific Spirit United Church Survivor’s Manual is now here, and ready to be picked up on Sunday or Wednesday. It is a booklet of daily reflections, stories and prayers for the 40 days of Lent. The stories have come from people in the congregation, speaking about what they have learned from life and faith by facing important challenges. As I read the finished copy, I am inspired and lifted up by the depth and wisdom of the people in this church. They sit beside us, work with us and for us in all kinds of capacities, and carry their own personal share of struggle, resilience and hope. We are profoundly blessed. Please pick up a “Survivor’s Manual” and give it to yourself as a gift this season.
And secondly, an invitation to join others in life-giving conversations about death.:
If I Should Die Before I Wake:
Time and place:
Sundays in the Lounge: 1:00-2:30 February 23, March 8, 15, 22, 29, April 5
Wednesdays in the Lounge: 4:00-5:30 February 26, March 4, 11, 18, 25 and
Week 1: Our experiences of being Accompanied by Death: When and How do we speak of death? Cultural messages. Starting a “book of the dead.”
Week 2: What does it mean to “get your affairs in order?” Understanding my own grieving and what others may experience when I die. What practical, personal and legal preparations would I like to make? Decluttering.
Week 3: Making a “Heart Will”. A legacy of yourself for others. Who and what matters most to you in this life? Thinking about writing or leaving messages to others and future generations about what is important to you.
Week 4: Honouring the Body What do I imagine, want for after-death care, good-bye rituals and services, how my body will be cared for. Budget and values.
Week 5: Is there such a thing as a “Good Death?” When I think of the process and possibility of death, what can make it better? Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) “Courageous conversations” with family members. Mending broken ties. Dying broke? Four Healing phrases: “I love you. Thank you. I forgive you. Please forgive me.”
Week 6: Spiritual Strengths for us to Share What is the hope of our faith? What do we know to be true? Is it possible to leave fear behind? The place of God, prayer, poetry, loved ones, solitude and song.
Lots of deep things to consider in this season And fine companions for the journey. May God bless us in this season of strengthening.
For the ministry team.
February 14th, 2020
Someone at Bible Study suggested it might just boost Sunday attendance if I let everyone know, ahead of time, what subjects would be covered in the upcoming scripture passages. I am thinking that this week, however, such foreknowledge might just drive people to stay home and watch a nice, comforting re-run of “Leave it to Beaver”, or a lovely romance movie broadcast especially for Valentine’s Day weekend. At the other end of the spectrum, while perhaps not quite qualifying as “a text of terror”, is the section we will read from the gospel of Matthew which has some pretty harsh words for us. It makes me think that Jesus never heard the old adage that my mother loved to repeat to me: “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
It is always a question for me how much, in our church life together, we should steer clear of the hard topics, and how much we should take them on head-on! Last week I made reference to the “comfortable pew” (an oxymoron, if ever there was one!) and the church’s desire to be a place that does not add to the discomfort, hardships or fear that people already experience in the world. I also know that sometimes staying quiet about particular issues or heartaches only magnifies the inner angst.
So… this week we will be examining some of the not-so-pretty parts of our own human nature, and the manner in which these things can get in the way of right relationships. You are invited to join in this examination… but NO pressure to do so!
Blessings to you for this weekend, wherever and however you spend it,
Maggie, for the Ministry Team