Coffee Time Jazz music by Mike Chiasson May 17 , 2020

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

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

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.