Outreach Update

~Cheryl Perry

With the weather becoming warmer we have moved our operations into the sunshine and fresh air—placing a table across the doors at the back entrance and serving sandwiches and handing out bags of groceries from the vestibule between the doors. This now only requires two volunteers—one to handle sandwiches and another to hand out groceries. (And on Thursdays the grocery volunteer is able to make up the bags for distribution the following Tuesday.)

As we have increased the amount of food we are handing out (providing about 10 non-perishable items in each bag plus toilet paper and other “extras” such as fresh vegetables, bread, or eggs when these have been donated) we are exceeding our monthly budget for purchasing groceries. We have diverted the funds we would normally use to buy grocery gift cards to the purchase of groceries and we have also had many extra donations through Tithely and offering earmarked for outreach/Food Shelf.

One of the toughest challenges of the new way we provide our outreach is that physical distancing forces us to help people without the ability to be close to them. We are used to giving hugs when needed and asking them how their day is going and having a chat with them when they need it.

Yet we recognize that those we serve are very difficult to engage in health care and because of this are the most vulnerable. Many don’t have a regular doctor and many have underlying mental and physical health conditions that make them more vulnerable. The virus has forced us to consider other cautions in our approach to distance our volunteers from the recipients, and each other.

Because we know physical distancing can be difficult and boring, we have been putting out a table of items to help through this time of social isolation. Items include books, jigsaw puzzles, yarn, Sudoku/crossword/word find puzzle books, board games, and books. This is another way you can help—if you have items such as puzzles, decks of cards, or yarn to donate you can drop these off at the church or phone me to arrange a pick up (250-575-1780).

They say that this virus doesn’t discriminate, but it is also true that it doesn’t affect people equally. It affects people who don’t have the resources to not work, or who can’t afford to buy gloves, to order groceries online for pick up, or to take care of themselves in other ways.

I am really aware of this, whenever I come in to the church and use the supplies to sanitize my hands or wipe things down, or when I don my gloves before helping people. It makes me grateful each day for the work I have, for the country I live in, and for the ways that we are able to continue to help those we share our community with.

Thank you all for your continued support of our Outreach program—with your donations, your time, and most especially your prayers!

Coffee Time Jazz music by Mike Chiasson May 17 , 2020

Worship May 17 , 2020

Not “At Home”

~Sharon Wilson

During these long weeks of isolation and pandemic fears we have had to confront the feelings of not feeling safe ‘at home’. The community and friends we so often take for granted have become sources of worry and caution. ‘Normal times’, when we know a sense of refuge and peace in our lives seem to be just out of reach. Simple acts like hugging our grandkids or popping into the store, now require us to stop, consider, and make a wise decision to stay home.

Our local paper has included several fascinating articles about Kelowna during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. It reminds us that we are far from the first generation of folk who have gone through this kind of turmoil. What came to mind as I read those articles were the other ways our sense of balance can be knocked asunder.

Anyone who has travelled will know the sensation of being in a place that is totally unfamiliar—different language, unrecognizable food, sketchy public sanitation. In the best circumstances, this becomes an adventure that broadens our understanding and nurtures openness to our world.

I went to South Africa in 2000 to work on the Church of England’s Land Reform Project. Our objective was to return the large church-owned mission stations, which were often thousands of acres, to local families. Part of our mandate was to assist groups of local farmers in creating larger scale cooperative farming operations. It was an exciting time for me to explore a new place. What surprised me was the presence of people with guns—at every ATM.

Photo by Sharon Wilson

I paid someone to guard my car when I parked on the street. I witnessed the daily rounds of women checking garbage to find anything that might be of use at home. But what stays with me in a visceral way is the experience of walking past a group of men waiting in the town centre to be hired as day labours.

?I was conscious that I was afraid primarily because there was a crowd of African men and I was a white woman walking alone. I fought the feeling, telling myself these men were just going about their work. There was no need to read something sinister in this. Suddenly, I was the ‘other’ in that setting.

Some years later, I was on sabbatical in Chicago. I was delighted to find a central and affordable place to stay in a city that is notoriously expensive. The Cenacle Centre is a convent and retreat centre operated by an order of nuns. After the long drive from Winnipeg, I settled in for the night.

With several meetings planned for the day, I arose early and went to the common kitchen to have breakfast. Another woman arrived shortly after me and, wanting to be a good guest, I greeted her and began to engage her in a lively conversation. After no response for the longest time she got out a piece of paper and pen and wrote a note. She handed it to me and I read: “I’m on a silent retreat”. Oops!

Photo by Sharon Wilson

On one of the days in Chicago when I didn’t have a full schedule I decided to do a museum visit. I hopped on the EL and headed south. As I looked out the window of the train, the buildings and yards got worse looking: more graffiti, abandoned cars and barren, litter-filled lots.

Part way along my journey, the door of the car opened and in came a transit security officer with the largest, meanest looking German Shepherd complete with a metal muzzle. As with everyone else, the officer directed the dog to come and sniff me for drugs, I assume.

Photo by Sharon Wilson

When the train reached my stopped, I went down the stairs to the station. Before leaving, I went to the station agent to confirm where I would catch the bus to the science museum.

She looked me over, pointed across the street to the bus stop situated between two liquor stores, and advised me: “honey, don’t go out there until you see that bus”.

?Sure enough, in spite of waiting patiently for the bus to approach, a group of half a dozen men materialized in a nanosecond demanding money. I scurried on the bus thankful that I was safe but wondering what kind of place I was in.

I am reminded of a concept that appears in 1 Peter 2 but also frequently throughout the Bible:

11 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 12 Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

How do we adjust to this world that does not feel like the home we once knew? Verse 12 of this passage echoes the daily advice we have received from Dr. Bonnie Henry all these long weeks. She reminds us first, to be kind. No matter what our doubts or fears or distress, if we begin with kindness the stranger will become a fellow traveler on the road.

She tells us to be calm. As people of faith we can reach out to God even in moments of greatest isolation and experience a peace that grounds us and allows us to move forward.

Finally, she asks us to be safe. This means we must marshal our God-given gifts of intelligence, compassion and mercy so that the whole Creation will be able to rise above this present trial. We’ve all had small experiences of not feeling ‘at home’. Remember how you handled them and what you learned from them. As we grow in understanding we get stronger!

Moving, masks, flybys and thanks

Photo by Graham Zell

This weekend Bob and I are returning home to Coaldale to pick up a load of furniture that he is taking from our house to furnish a two bedroom apartment that he will be renting here in a Kelowna for the next year. He has discovered that producing an online Zoom worship service and doing all of the Zoom meetings that he has to do require more space than he has here. And we hope that the weather stays nice for the journey, and that the floods and snowstorms stay away.

But before we leave after the Church service on Sunday, I wanted to thank everybody at First for the warm welcome I have received from everyone when I jumped into my car on March 18th and quickly drove over here to be with Bob as you all were going into lockdown. I wanted to be with him as he set out on the uncertain seas of the newly minted Zoom church services that he has been technically shepherding your way. All with the help of your fantastically gifted Church Staff and all of the super talented volunteers.

Everyone was so helpful to put together the services at the high holy time of Easter. And I appreciated being included in bringing the services to you. I will always cherish my five minutes of being a recording star as I was a part of the virtual choir on Easter Sunday, and helping with other parts of services have made me feel truly welcomed. But I hope that I never see that grumpy old woman impersonating me in that skit on Palm Sunday morning again! And your Blethers and the Staff Tailgate Party, safely social distanced in the park, and hymnsings have been wonderful. And thanks to Susan Sullivan for sewing masks for Bob and me!

I also wanted you all to know that I, too have enjoyed seeing the animals in Kelowna while I have been here, from watching the bird wars on the condo roof across from us as the Crows and the Magpies tried to settle who would be in control of the lookout point, to watching about fifty ducks follow each other one by one across a busy intersection here. And Bob and I watched with interest as a Great Grey Heron looked for goldfish in the pond in our Courtyard here. And we saw a large herd of mountain goats on the highway across the lake as we were going up to the Okanagan Resort where Bob had ordered a take out Mother’s Day brunch for my Mother’s Day treat. And of course the Eagles and the Ospreys have been fun to watch as they do their flybys!

So I have been made to feel really welcomed here. And my hat’s off to your Health people and your first responders. Shortly after I arrived here, I suddenly experienced swelling and tenderness in the glands on the right side of my neck. When I was having difficulty swallowing that afternoon, I called your Health Link, and after an understandably long wait, finally a very knowledgeable and comforting nurse came online to tell me—after questioning me— that I did not have COVID, thank heavens. He didn’t know what I had—it was SOV (some other virus)—but he told me to use hot water compresses on my neck. And I was to take Ibupropfen and to stay in quarantine for ten days, which I did, and my neck got better. So your health care people here are great!

After we get Bob moved here again, I will probably head home to babysit our house, but I have had a wonderful time here. And I’m going to paint little rocks and put them by the walkways in Coaldale.

~Sarah Wallace

Memories light the corners of my mind misty water-colored memories of the way we were…

Beryl Itani. Photo courtesy of Ralph Milton.

Over the last several weeks I have been listening to music. I have over 100 CDs and so I started at the top of the stack and I am working my way down. The lines of this song quoted above (sung by my favorite female singer of all time Barbra Steisand) started me remembering why music is so important to me.

Music has always been in my life. I can remember my grandfather with his big booming tenor voice keeping us all entertained. When I turned 7 my life changed, when my Mom remarried and I finally was like all the other children in my class – I had a Dad!! And from then on music was a part of our daily life.

Dad was a violinist and played with the Edmonton Symphony and its many subsidiary groups. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to all the concerts, operettas, Ice Capades, and had the best seats in the house.

At home Dad has us all taking part in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. What fun that was. I was able to sing in our church’s youth choir. What a great experience that was and I was fortunate enough to be picked by the School District’s Music Program to part of several on air singing events. It was great. I was also chosen to be part of our school’s music program and was involved in many city wide musical productions.

I find music to be very soothing and I have an amazing collection of music from ABBA to Madame Butterfly. When I have finished going through my CDs I can then start on my over 100 Vinyl records. I wonder if I will get through them all before this Pandemic is all over and we get back to “the way we were”.

~Beryl Itani

Worship May 10 , 2020 Mother’s Day

Looking at What Might Lie Ahead

Wisdom arises in surprising settings. Friday’s Blether produced some amazing insights for me. We were talking about how we are doing now, and whether things seem to be settling into a sort of familiarity! Are we getting accustomed to masks when we go out? Are we okay with lining up, and keeping distance?

Amidst this discussion, I heard a growing consensus that things will never go back to what they were before…that we ought not to erase the learning we have gained from going through these experiences. And there was concern raised about “virus-deny-ers” pressuring us to allow them to regain what they believe are their lost privileges, and that maybe we will surrender to their demands. So, there was pessimism and optimism in the same gathering.

Later that day I was catching up on some reading. In an e-magazine entitled “Faith & Leadership” there was an article entitled: “How To Think About What’s Next When The Future is Unclear.” The author, Nathan Kirkpatrick, wrote:

Fewer and fewer of us now believe that after this crisis, life will just go back to the way it was. It is becoming clearer that life on the “other side” will be indelibly and irrevocably changed.

Nathan Kirkpatrick, Managing Director for Leadership Development https://faithandleadership.com/nathan-kirkpatrick-how-think-about-whats-next-when-future-unclear

That led me to think about those formative stories of our ancestors in the faith, who found themselves in times of transition and change, and how, amidst all that they experienced, they began to see the hand of God working and shaping them towards their future, to “make all things new” as it were.

So, here’s some of my guesses about going forward.

  1. Relationships are critical. Our “on-line time” has taught us that people are the essence of Church. When we see one another “in our electronic squares on the screen” we are conscious of all the connections and stories that bind us – and we see everyone, not just the few around us in pews.
  2. Distances shrink. Electronic worship demands more person-to-person interaction. The distance between pulpit or choir loft and pew shrinks to the distance between you and your screen. There is an intimacy there, and people are appreciating that feeling of being personally connected. And people will be able to connect with us from wherever they are, not just by coming to one place at one time!
  3. We will cherish vulnerability in our worship. We are letting one another into our homes, our bedrooms, kitchens, dens – even our play-tents and studios. Dogs and cats appear on our screens. Bloopers are visible – and may be being recorded for posterity. Ministers seem themselves preaching as if they were sitting in the pews – and that is truly humbling!
  4. Diversity will become a hallmark of our churches going forward. We have learned that not all things appeal to all people – some will forever want an on-line presence to worship, for many reasons.
  5. The shape and focus of our buildings may significantly change. Like business, we may discover that we do not need as many facilities (or ones as large). Maybe we can share buildings with other congregations or even faiths. We are discovering that relationships are more significant than property…though what this will mean about our use of space in the future is not yet clear.

In all this, and more, there is one thing of which I am sure…We are not alone! Our faith tells us stories over and over again of God’s people encountering challenging times, only to discover that God is there with them, in the midst of those times, and at the same time, is awaiting them on the other side.

We are God’s beloved. We are never alone!

Thanks be to God.

~Bob Wallace