Let us Pray…

This is a familiar way we invite everyone to draw nearer and join your hearts in meditation for those we love and their healing. Sometimes we pray for people we do not know well, people we’ve never met. We are sending our energy out into their world so it can reach them in a healing way.

Sharing in a congregation-wide silent prayer in the middle of worship is a bonding moment for the community. We name our sorrows and lay them before each other. We put our own and each other’s friends and relations first and pray for their wellbeing.

When my mother died in 2018, I asked Cheryl not to name her on the prayer list. I feared being prayed for as, “the family of Josephine Stetzenko ”. I was also not ready to “announce” her death in front of a church full of people.

What made matters worse was the following Sunday after her death was the annual “All Saints” memorial service. At this service we light individual candles and name all those in the congregation (or close family of) who have died in the last year. I could not walk to the front of the sanctuary and light a candle, of course because I was still in shock and denial. I did not even go to church.

Some time later, Cheryl told me that someone did light a candle for my mum that morning in 2018 and you did say her name in that holy hall. Last November, I shared in that ritual too. I lit a candle for mum. Moira lit one for Harold Magel. And you all lit candles for Joan Dalgliesh, Bill Greenwood, Harold Magel, Allan Richards, Noreen Simkins and Lisa Wensink. And some of you named others out loud and lit candles for them. It was very painful and yet very healing.

We know the ritual of naming and praying for people is cherished and is incredibly meaningful, for those who enact the practice, and for those being held up. It is another way that we strengthen our commitment to care for one another.

If you have someone you would like the congregation to pray for, please ask them if it is ok to share their name with the congregation. In a digital age, we want people to choose whether their privacy can be shared electronically in this way. This is also important for adding names “live” in our zoom worship.

Once you have permission, please e-mail prayer concerns to me. Names will normally stay on the worship prayer list for four weeks unless they require more time. I can attest that communal prayer is healing. And sometimes it takes a little more time.

Thank you for praying for me. I was comforted because you shared my grief. I know, Cheryl did not have my permission to put my mum’s name on the prayer list that November. But I can admit when she is right. Do not tell her I said that.

~Tanya Pritchard

Update from El Triunfo, El Salvador

Young people disinfecting all of the vehicles that enter the community.

In a recent e-mail, Narciso Ramos, one of the young leaders in our Sister Community, sent greetings to First United and shared the following about the effects of the current 30-day lock-down in El Salvador:

“For young people in the towns and villages, the Coronavirus is not their only challenge in this crisis because they encounter many persistent social inequalities, one of which is the challenge of virtual education. The great majority are excluded from the proposed virtual education because of lack of resources.”

Narciso explained that for the students, it is difficult to have access to the Internet (there is no Wi-Fi out in this rural area). They are searching for data plans to purchase for their phones and to share with other students to make it possible to perform their school-work at the high school level. Also, the students in kindergarten up to grade nine have been without any classes whatsoever and that is a worry.

He wrote that in the community (of El Triunfo), thanks to God, there is an abundance of fruits and the rainy season has arrived so they are going to be able to grow the basic grains.

Narciso ended with this hope: “that the spirit of Monsenor Romero accompanies and protects all of us in these difficult times and will continue to take care of those we love.”

~Pat McPhee

Grieving COVID-19

One thing I learned while working with Hospice is that grief has many faces and uniquely fits each griever’s circumstances. Grief occurs not only in bereavement, but in response to many types of loss, and may appear similar to varied emotions, including anger and depression.

The goal of grief is to integrate the loss into our new reality in a life-affirming way. How does grief relate to COVID-19? If someone loved has died, it is fairly straightforward, but for most of us the question would be grief for the loss of what? Personal freedom, the good life, the ability to gather with friends, our familiar comfortable lifestyle, employment and the ability to support our family?

Let me suggest that the good news is that in none of these losses has a death occurred, so as inconvenient and unpleasant as they may seem, these losses will end. When they end, what might be the dividends of having endured through the inconvenience?

One way to contemplate this time of release from restrictions on movement and gatherings is to contemplate what we will have discovered is more important and precious to us than we had realized previously.

In this sense, the current crisis may be like a wake-up call inviting us to rediscover our interdependence and the actual fragility of life and our former status quo. Perhaps we will rediscover simple pleasures, the preciousness of family and relationships, the societal foundation of caring and sharing, the impact each of us has on other people and society and Creation.

The initial sense of loss may become a realization of gain as we recalibrate the way we choose to live as our “new normal.”

~Tom Kemp

The Other Pandemic

Linda Gilmour’s hearts and their shadows

What will it be like when this crisis is over?

My record on future predictions is 100%. Wrong every single time.
So, I won’t predict.

But I can tell you what is becoming more and more precious to me, as Bev and I sit here in semi-isolation. Community.
This last week we had a note from Mary Robertson in Naramata. Her last remaining sibling, a sister, had died. And because of the pandemic we couldn’t drop over just to talk. Mary couldn’t go to Alberta to celebrate her sister’s life. Mary understands. Of course she understands. But she still aches.

Several weeks ago, we lost Joan Taylor, a friend of many years. Her husband (who writes in the Courier every week) is my closest friend. We yearn for whatever it is that happens when a community gathers to mourn and celebrate. And so we ache.

We’re making lots of good connections electronically. The staff at First United deserve gold medals. Skype, Zoom, the internet are fine tools and we need to use them to get us through this.

Bev and I are well taken care of here at the Dorchester. The staff here are amazing and provide everything we need. Everything except the thing we need most.

At the very beginning of the Bible God is quoted as saying, “It is not good for the human to be alone.” And Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.”

We are fighting two epidemics. COVID 19 and loneliness. The second is more dangerous than the first.

I know that when this plague is done with us, the thing I will treasure more than anything is community – being with others – close enough to hug, to hold hands. Close enough to read the pain and the joy in their eyes.
To see the loving light of God in their smiles and tears.

Babies die, physically or emotionally, when they are not held and cuddled and loved.
So do adults.

~Ralph Milton

April 26 2020 Sunday Communion at First United , Kelowna

Happy Birthday Marina!

Marina Stark Leader

Do you remember turning 14? What did your world look like? Did you walk on water?

Marina turns 14 today. It’s certainly not the birthday day she ever thought it would be… but adapting to change is perhaps one of the lessons of this time. School online. Less human connection with friends. More time with her parents, which might sound great as a parent but think back to 14!

The children are adapting. Did you ever wonder, maybe we need to be able to really let go of what we are used to and adapt too? The children may lead.

~Myrna Stark Leader

2020 Earth Day Prayer

Taken from www.kairoscanada.org

On Earth Day
we give thanks for signs of spring
melting snow or blooming flowers,
singing robins or flowing streams.
O Creator, we give You thanks and praise.

THIS Earth Day
as we mostly see those signs through our windows or walking alone,
we notice that the earth has some rest from human activity,
Even while we worry and struggle, with people around the world.
O Creator, we learn in the midst of our concerns.

Each Earth Day,
We grieve the state of life and loss on the Earth, deteriorating faster than ever before.
We confess our selfish actions, taking – using – what we want, not only what we need.
Not all of our actions have brought You the honour we wish to bring
O Creator, we confess our sins with humble hearts.

The Earth cradles us in her sorrow
You, our Source, grieve with her, Your love for us abiding always.
In the midst of all our faults and blunders,
You forgive and love us still.
O Creator, we rest in the assurance of that love.

This year we have seen how swiftly humans can adapt
Give us the eyes to see wisdom in this moment.
Give us the courage to change our ways forever
to live responsibly, to advocate boldly,
to honour and protect what You have created.
O Creator, with your help, we will change our ways,

Through the power of the Spirit,
with Jesus as our guide.


~submitted by Pat McPhee

Hearts Around the World

Darlene and Tami’s window

Our window project started when we first heard of “Hearts in the Window” on Facebook. An individual in Nanaimo, BC wanted “A place where we can come together during this hard time and feel the sense of community and love. Place colourful hearts in your window for all to see, to spark joy during these times.” They encouraged anyone to post pictures and locations on this FB page.

We thought this was a great idea. After following them for a few days, we knew we wanted to do this too but weren’t sure how our window should look. One day someone posted heart flags with their thoughts for the world. We liked this idea because COVID-19 is affecting us globally.

Tami saw a posting about the White Heart Project at KGH. The next day she placed a White Heart, representing Essential Workers in Canada, on our front window. After that we had to figure out our project. It needed to come from our hearts. We talked about many options – putting up flags of North America; China where it started; and Europe who was really struggling. We planned to put up all the flags of the world but as Darlene researched she exclaimed, “Goodness Tami there are over 200 flags!! Are we doing them ALL?” With great enthusiasm, Tami replied, “Why not?”

It quickly became apparent that we needed to focus this project better, so we took a few days to consider what it should look like. Tami had great plans (grandiose!)!! After a few attempts, Darlene reminded her about our limited artistic abilities so we finally landed on a simpler design we could master. We focused on places in the world where we personally knew people.

How did we tie it together? A picture of the world viewed from a satellite was cut into a large heart. Around that are smaller hearts with flags of the countries where family and friends are living. A map of the world, with countries identified by their flags, really puts in perspective where and how we’re connected.

Canada was first since our contacts live coast to coast. We’re grateful every day that we live in this beautiful country. Darlene has siblings/relatives in the USA who work in Essential Services. India is where our Canada World Youth participant from 25 years ago lives; she’s a teacher in Bangalore. On Easter weekend we were privileged to ZOOM conference with her and her daughter. One of Darlene’s Oncologists, who did his Fellowship at VGH, is also from India where he now lives and works. Our neighbour has 2 daughters who live with their families in Italy and UK; they continue to be healthy. Our close friend and her husband (who designed/built our ramp when Darlene was unable to walk) live in Fiji. After we put up our flags, we thought it was important to include El Salvador, where First United’s sister community is.

When it was all done 18 flags connected our design with hearts around the world. For us, this was a prayer for each person we know, their communities, and the world as a whole.

~Darlene Cockerill and Tami McMurphy

50th Anniversary of Earth Day

As global citizens, we are facing unprecedented challenges: “One is immediate from a pandemic and the other is slowly building as a disaster for our climate. We can, will, and must solve both challenges. The world was not prepared for a coronavirus. Leaders ignored hard science and delayed critical actions. [But] we still have time to prepare – in every part of the world – for the Climate Crisis.” . . . “ Thanks to heroic actions around the world, we will overcome and recover from the coronavirus. Life will return to normal, but we must not allow the return to business as usual. Our planet – our future – depends on it.”

This quote is from the www.earthday.org website that offers great resources, tasks, suggestions for us to take action for our planet. The site features: 22 days of Earth Day Challenges, apps & maps, posters, eco-friendly actions, “isolutions”, how to become a Citizen Scientist, plant-based recipes, and a multitude of ways in which we can work for the earth, both virtually and in ‘real life’.

During this pandemic, it has been said that the lungs of the earth are cleaner, and we have proven that collectively we are able to work toward a common goal in ‘flattening the curve’ of this outbreak. On this 50th Anniversary, while we can’t be out marching for the planet, we can still exercise our individual and collective responsibility to take action in this climate crisis. Together we can make a difference for the Earth!

~Pat McPhee