A Bad Memory Has Certain Advantages

The COVID tsunami has cancelled the women’s and men’s world curling championships. But no matter. The TV is showing us last year’s games, which I know I watched but which I don’t remember. So, it’s like looking at a whole new game.Bad memories and old TV programs are among the “blessings” of being in jail. In solitary confinement.

Many societies today consider prolonged solitary confinement to be a form of torture. But that is what the corona panic is doing to many of us, and the extreme loneliness it inflicts may be more of a health threat than the virus.

Jim Taylor writes a fine column in the Courier each Saturday. His last column broke my heart. Jim and I have been close friends and colleagues for many years, as was his wife, Joan. But Joan died two weeks ago. Because of the pandemic, they’ve not been able to have a memorial service. His many friends can’t give him the warm, loving hugs that are so important when you are in grief. “I’ve never been so lonely in my life,” he writes.

That loneliness could be more of a threat than exposure to COVID 19. Psychiatrist James Lynch has made a lifetime study of the effects of loneliness. He contends that loneliness leads to more deaths among the elderly than any disease. The death certificate may cite heart failure or pneumonia; or the Corona virus, but the underlying cause is loneliness.

Bev and I moved into The Dorchester retirement complex ten months ago. Here we live with 150 seniors and all of us know how vulnerable we are in this pandemic. I can’t say enough about how well the excellent staff have been in protecting us from the bug. There probably isn’t a safer place for us to be.

We are fortunate. We have each other. But most of our fellow residents here are single. Mostly widows. Many – probably most of them – are desperately lonely. We are confined to the building and the grounds of The Dorchester, so we’re not totally isolated.

But staying six feet away from each other, as required by every authority from the Prime Minister on down, doesn’t exactly promote intimate, heart-to-heart conversations. It doesn’t allow for the touch of a hand, or the warmth of a hug.

A few of our fellow residents who may have been exposed to the virus are in voluntary isolation, which means they are stuck in their rooms. They see nobody. Their meals are delivered to their door. They are completely alone. Solitary confinement. And I am wondering whether their lonely isolation may be more of a problem than their exposure to COVID 19.

I don’t have any solution to the dilemma. But I do know how powerfully important it is that we reach out to each other by any means possible. We can Skype and Zoom and do all those things, and if those are beyond our technological abilities, the good old-fashioned phone is an instrument we can all use. Let’s do it. Often.

Half an hour on the phone with Jim helped us both. It was no substitute for the long lunch-time conversations we enjoyed, and which we hope to enjoy again. But it’s a whole lot better than the solitary confinement now being suffered by so many, in care homes and senior’s residences, in our own congregation and beyond.

I am so proud of First United, and the way it’s using all it’s resources, especially the lively imagination of its leaders, to reach out and touch those who are isolated by this pandemic.

Blessings all,

~Ralph Milton

Tuesday Morning At First

The help we can offer others through the trend of care-mongering can feel “like a hug” at a time when we can’t throw our arms around people. As I greeted people at the door on Tuesday and Thursday this week I asked: how are you? What’s your stress level like? Several admitted they felt very anxious. One man had tears in his eyes. I offered a prayer shawl, knitted by women in our congregation, when it felt appropriate and those who received them seemed genuinely touched and comforted. It reminded me of the words from the prayer Bob shared last week, written by the Corrymeela Community in Ireland:

Remind us, that to be a community, does not always mean
to be physically present beside those we know well.
It also can mean being spiritually present
with those who feel very alone.

If any of you shop at Lakeview Market or wants to support a very local family-owned business I have learned they are accepting orders by email at [email protected] and will call you for pick up. They have donated 1,000 plastic bags to bag up our groceries for Tuesdays & Thursdays so we love ‘em! ??

And through Harvest, a not-for-profit that helps restaurants donate food to charities, we got a one-time donation from the KFC/Taco Bell in Orchard Park Mall (shredded cheese, mayonnaise, taco shells). A donation has also come from Building Blocks, the daycare Rachel Anweiler works for—applesauce, goldfish crackers and soups we can distribute on Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s been like manna from heaven!!! ??

~Cheryl Perry

Make Us Part Of Your New Routine

Just weeks ago few of us could have imagined that eating dinner out in a restaurant or hugging a close friend would feel like a luxury from a past life. What changes we’ve seen in the last weeks!

Psychologists and mental health experts tell us that all this disruption can lead to feeling stressed and stretched. And the stress is not just from watching news reports. We can’t engage in the usual routines that help us cope, like working out at the gym, meeting up with a friend for coffee, going to work or school, or visiting the library! It’s the small routines in our daily lives — walking the dog, driving to work, picking up groceries — that help create a sense of normalcy. But the disruption and uncertainty of COVID19 is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives.

There are a number of healthy coping strategies we can use to manage our stress and anxiety. Self-care is important. Get enough sleep, eat well and engage in some kind of movement every day. Do the things that will help you stay calm and centered. Cook a healthy meal, call a friend, or start your day with a workout. Focus on the aspects of your daily routine that you can still follow — or create a new routine that suits your current situation. This can help you stay on track throughout the day.

And it’s times like these when we need one another most. I’ve heard a shift away from the term “social” distancing to physical distancing. Because we are social beings and we need contact with others! Even though we can’t physically be together, it’s important to stay connected. One way to do this, and a great new routine to adopt, is to join other members of the congregation for a “blether” –a virtual chat. Think of it as a coffee break in the middle of your morning or afternoon and join us either Tuesdays at 2:00pm or Fridays at 11:00.

~Cheryl Perry

For those who are wondering “Where is God in this pandemic?”

God is in the physicians and healthcare workers who are pouring out everything they’ve got to save as many of us as possible. God is in the truck drivers and grocery store staff and pharmacy personnel who are making sure we have the essentials that we need during this difficult time.

God is in the statisticians who are pointing out how grave and dire the circumstance of exponential spread really is. God is in that Target store manager who calmly and civilly prevented people from succumbing to their reptilian lower selves and buying more than their allotted purchases.

God is in the people who wipe down all of the door handles and light switches and grocery carts and all of the things to help reduce exposure to this virus. God is in corporations like Starbucks that are ensuring that all of their staff are paid during this difficult time.

God is in the experts who bravely correct the copious untruthitudes spewed by our denier in chief. God is in the growing number of citizens who get it and are choosing to hole up and isolate from society to help flatten the spread and protect the most vulnerable in our society. God is in the governors who are stepping up and providing the leadership that is needed that is lacking from further above.

God is in the musicians and artists who are providing videos and concerts online for people to enjoy. God is in the families experiencing some growth by having more time together. God is in those who are concerned about college students who are gay or trans and abused domestic partners who are in increasingly unsafe situations by coming back home.

God is in the churches, mosques, temples and synagogues that are offering their services online. God is in every one of us who is realizing that every precious moment every new now really does matter and who expresses that through making phone calls actual phone calls to the people they love reminding them that they matter.

And God is in this collective wake up call reminding us that there is a better way, that we have the ability to rise to occasions and meet demanding needs, that we can do what needs to be done to make this planet sustainable. Inviting us to a needed societal reset. Inviting us to the year of Jubilee.

~Rev. Roger Wolsey (an American minister)

(ed. submitted by a family member of Cheryl Perry’s)

Hearts

This heart was beside “The Greenery” (in north Glenmore). I’ve seen so many on my limited travels this week. So inspiring. Lots of signs saying thank you. People want to be a community but get so caught up in the daily details they forget.
–Tanya Burke
My new home office view in the mornings (with hearts in the window).
–Cheryl Perry
While Frances was playing before the Sunday service…..
This was Bart, he was saying a prayer for all the health care workers and the First United Church family.
–Bill & Lori Hetland

Online Worship March 29 , 2020 First United Church

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE, License #A-712740

Worship Today 10am

Please join a worship service led by Bob Wallace and Cheryl Perry with music leadership from Frances Chiasson and Jessica Crawford. Technical assistance by Carol Drury, Graham Zell, and Kim Ducs.

PLEASE REMEMBER when you are joining us:

Frances Chiasson will be providing Prelude Music. Please keep your microphones muted.

Remember you are still visible to others while your camera is on.

Be aware that we are recording this service for posting on the website, and that by keeping your camera on you are agreeing to these images being posted.

Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/728995598

Meeting ID: 728 995 598

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Hishuk Ish Tsawalk (Everything is One and All is Interconnected)

Photo courtesy of Ralph Milton.

Being the last Sunday of the month, in regular times the Alleluia Ringers would be playing in church, as we love to do. In this time of “virtual church,” perhaps you’d like to watch this video of a performance from October 2016.

I’ve chosen this video, because the piece is titled “Hishuk Ish Tsawalk” which comes from the Aboriginal language of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples who live on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It means “Everything is One and All is Interconnected.” This piece was commissioned by the BC Guild of English Handbell Ringers (of which the Alleluia Ringers are members) for the 2016 International Handbell Symposium in Vancouver, to represent BC. The composer is percussionist Bruce Henczel of Langley.

This piece felt particularly appropriate to me for these times, in both bad and good senses. Bad, because we are finding out how the interconnectiveness of the world is fueling the COVID-19 pandemic. And good, because despite that challenge, we are finding new ways to remain united, support each other, and get through this together.

~Nikki Attwell
Director, Alleluia Ringers

A Prayer during times of a Pandemic

May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between
preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for
our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancelled our trips
Remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money
in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no homes.
As fear grips our country,
Let us chose love.
During this time when we cannot physically
wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the living embrace
of God to our neighbours.
Amen.

~submitted by Rev. Sharon Wilson,
sent to her by Rev. Patrick Woodbeck at Windsor Park UC in Winnipeg

Hearts Around the Neighborhood

Hearts from the Chiasson family; Frances, Mike, Sophia and Noah.
When I look out the window of my office, while I’m working on First Word (!), I see these hearts of a nurse who lives across the street.
This heart was found on a walk by Peggy Bensler from a condo in the Lagoon. Sticky notes!