The Good Ship Zoom

As a single retiree I spend a great deal of time on my own. I have always stocked up on food to reduce unnecessary time spent in grocery stores. I am able to entertain myself with reading. Knitting, swimming laps, meditative walks, crossword puzzles, and such… So the Covid-19 lockdown in many ways is not a hardship to me.

But, in fact, the presence of a lethal virus and the lack of contact with family and friends and an outer world, is an intense discipline.

Additionally the water pipes burst in the condo upstairs flooding my furnace and water heater room. We are in the middle of extensive restorations. I am camping in my spare room with all my bedroom furniture propped up in various corners and spaces. I feel like a sailor afloat in a strange sea.

Fortunately I have been rescued by the good ship ZOOM. Anchored in a safe haven, The First United Church, the video casts and daily news is helping me ride the waves. The prayers and songs and spirit of goodness and love is calling me to weather the storm.

Good health and smooth sailing to all of us.

“The temple is the haven in the flux of life, accessible to all”
-Michael Ondaatje

~Catherine Doherty

How Long, O Lord?

Pea flowers by Graham Zell

Psalm 13 begins: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day long?”

And that seems to be the cry I hear a lot from people these days! – how long?
An on-line colleague reminded me of a book from the 14th Century entitled “The Cloud of Unknowing.” A classic of contemplative prayer life, this book suggests that time can become a tyrant, or it can become the place where we meet God.

In fact, the contemplative lifestyle is about making time (lots and lots of time) to encounter God each day. The author of The Cloud suggest that spiritual disciplines will “keep exact account of time by means of love.”

Most of us keep track of time with watches, calendars and electronic devices. And when we talk about how long we are looking at those increments that tick past with variable speeds, fast when we are enjoying things, and sluggishly when we are bored, isolated, frustrated, etc. And we increasingly hear about how long until we go back to the way things were! — as if we can turn back the hands of time and the learnings of our experiences through these times.

We can never turn back the clock and return to what was! And there is much I am hopeful we will leave behind in our past, never to reclaim.
· Do we really want to reclaim the selfishness of a “me generation gone amuck?”
· Do we really want to treat those we now know as “essential workers” with indifference, disrespect, and low wages?
· Can we ever return to pretend that we in Canada are isolated from the ravages and disasters of others?
· Would we willingly return to ignoring and failing to keep contact with family, friends around the globe, while we focus solely on our own pleasures?

To keep exact account of time by love suggests that we want to move into our days ahead changed by what we have experienced, open to holding fast to values inculcated by love from before, keeping practices that build loving community and relationships, and embrace the possibilities of new ways of living, working, communicating, caring bound up in our love for one another.

Our ancient texts remind us to love the Lord…with all our hearts…and our neighbours as ourselves. To love that way means keeping practices that empower ourselves and others – and which, in turn, become our way of loving God. To love that way means resisting the calling of greed and capitalism and consumerism to fall back into ways that deny the promises of a new community this pandemic has engendered.

And thus, how long, O Lord, becomes a question of how long it will take us to absorb and learn to live into a new reality, a new way of living, more closely aligned with God’s ways.

O Lord, how long will it take us to learn to live as your beloved children?

~Bob Wallace

Spring Into Reconciliation

Many Canadians want to become involved in reconciliation but may be unsure about how to begin or, if they have begun, how to progress in a meaningful way.

Click here to view a copy of Reconciliation Matters’ recently launched newsletter.

A Message from Our Treasurer

At our recent First United Annual Congregational Meeting, it was agreed there should be regular communication with the congregation on the finances of the Church.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I am pleased to report that we remain in a relatively good financial position, with contributions slightly ahead of last year.

We still face many challenges due to the necessary closing of the Church, and our inability to organize any of our traditional fundraising activities.

However, please note that we have applied to the various federal & provincial governmental support programs, as well as United Church of Canada programs, to assist us through this unusual and difficult period.

We appreciate and thank you for your continued support.

~Michel Marentette, Treasurer

Starling Prevention

Flower photo by Myrna Stark Leader

During Covid-19, we are blessed that we live in this beautiful part of the country where spring comes early. The lettuce and radishes in my garden patch are already poking out their leaves. I’m inspired by things that grow like seeing these lovely flowers on a recent walk, marvelling at the Arrowleaf Balsamroot turning the hillsides into a glorious yellow carpet and spotting wildlife like eagles and deer, which are easily taken for granted because there are so many sightings.

Seeing a flock of starling birds dance in unison in the sky is so impressive, really beautiful and intriguing. How they can all be so close together and change direction so quickly without the aid of some computer-generated navigational system amazes me.

Then, within the past couple years, I learned these birds are a non-native species and not related to native blackbirds. They not only take food away from other birds, they can wreak havoc on local crops – fruit, vegetables and grapes.

In addition to scaring the birds away and a starling capture program to destroy some of the birds, the public can help control populations of this pest that is NOT protected by the BC Wildlife Act.

Starlings nest in April, but if you find their eggs, please destroy them. It may sound cruel but this is one of the easiest ways to control the population, and more humane than destroying live birds. You can also ensure that your bird feeders and houses do not provide welcoming spaces for starlings or offer welcome food. A good choice for a feeder is black, small sunflower seeds since starlings can’t easily crack the shells.

Few birds will eat bread or pizza crusts but starlings will so that should be avoided if you are trying to help nature. Touring around your property to see if you can find nests or block potential nesting sites is also helpful.

Perhaps, in this time of homeschooling, it becomes a science lesson to learn more about the birds, how they came to be here, as well as an ethical discussion of human control of one thing for the betterment of something else.

Read more about starling prevention from the grapegrowers website here.

Happy bird watching.

~Myrna Stark Leader

Staff Hours

Since most of the staff at First United are working from home we want you to know when staff are available. As we know, it can be a challenge to work from home and keep life balanced. It’s important that they have some boundaries and ways to separate their work and family life in order to keep balanced and healthy.

Bob and Cheryl can be reached through the contact info at the bottom of First Word. Bob is off on Monday and Friday. Cheryl is off on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. They will return emails and phone calls on their scheduled work days. However, they are both available anytime for emergencies.

Since many of us are not always sure what day it is right now, we’ve encouraged them to set autoresponders on their emails so we have a clear reminder when they’re not available.

Tanya checks phone and email messages Monday to Friday so will respond to those messages during the week. Continue to communicate with her through the church phone voice mail or email.

~Tami McMurphy, chair of Ministry and Personnel

A New Church?

Rocks painted by Marina and Myrna

The beliefs of our church align with my own. Affirming, open, community outreach, caring for each other, helping to build faith in the young, offering a message of peace, hope, joy and love. I admire that we have talented staff and congregation members who share themselves and their skills with the broader congregation. I enjoy the traditions and rituals and particularly the moments where I am reminded weekly of how I can work toward being a better person. I’m not a bible reader so having someone else interpret and translate the messages from a couple thousand years ago into something relevant for today is helpful. It’s the pause in my week to remind myself to continue to think of others while I also care for myself – in short, to be a better human.

My two teenagers question the value of church. They both say they believe in some kind of higher power but they just don’t get the value of church. They don’t identify with the music. The majority of the congregation share little in common except that they were their age once. It doesn’t mean they don’t respect congregation members or don’t like the people. They just don’t know why they have to go to church, the value proposition as it were. And, I can no longer make them attend like I did when they were small.

In this Covid time, I can see their perspective. While zoom church is great and I really do appreciate all the work that’s gone into pivoting to online, our new method of church is feeling less than inspiring to me. And I wondered why.

I think it’s because, although I can see the folks on my computer screen, I’m having a hard time feeling the energy I get from being side-by-side with others; a warm hello from the friendly greeter, passing the peace with someone in the pews around me, welcoming newcomers with a hardy round of applause, appreciating the talents of choral singing, or just talking with people after church. A good visit with Ralph sitting in his pew in the hall always brightens my day. It’s confirmed for me what I’ve known for a long time. A church is not a steeple. A church is the people. New building or old, outside or in, it’s about people gathering and friends – not unlike my children’s early view.

I wonder what this pandemic means for the future of church at First United as we know it today? What if we can’t meet in groups larger than 10 in person? What if there were no building? What if instead our church became a museum with guided tours about the history of the religion in Kelowna? What if we rented space based on the givings and attendance at the museum? What if we had Ministers on contract who worked from home?

What if their weekly sermon was them alone delivering a message to our technology wherever in the world we were, at whatever time we wanted to watch it. Does it have to be live? What if in 10 years, I am the last generation who actually believes in attending the United Church?

I don’t have the answers. However, because I don’t believe our lives are pre-determined by God, Covid-19 might be the perfect opportunity for radical change. (I am even scared to type that sentence as the wife of the current board chair and knowing how many people feel about change, especially big ones.)

But just as we talk about each doing our part to make the world a better place, it seems like it’s up to us to really explore all the possibilities and not in the slow methodical way I’ve seen past change come in church. Instead, maybe it should be more radical and quick spreading just like the virus the world has put itself on pause for.

?If in about three weeks, the majority of the countries in the world can pause their economies and ask that people pause their lives, and the majority go along with the plan, then re forming First United and potentially the other united churches in this region seems quite doable and perhaps, it shouldn’t take us years to do it. Because, if it does, we may be re forming the church for no one.

~Myrna Stark-Leader

May 3 , 2020 Worship and Fellowship

Fear of Rest

This is a piece published in a magazine I subscribe to called The Sun.

During this time The Sun has lowered its paywall, that is, they are not charging anyone to read their content online. So I feel it’s ok to share it here. Click the link above to read a meditation on the Sabbath and the necessity of rest, titled “Fear of Rest” . Here is a teaser:

“In the stillness there are forces and voices and hands and nourishment that arise, that take our breath away, but we can never know this, know this, until we rest.”