Where Are The First United Church Staff?

In case you are wondering, as I’m sure many of you are, here is an update on how to access the First United Church Team. Even though our Church building has been closed, our staff is available and accessible in a new and different way – they have moved to remote and virtual services. What does this mean? No more dropping in to do your Church business or connect with Team members in person.

Our Ministers, Bob and Cheryl, are working from their homes but can be reached on their cell phones or through email (as noted at the top of First Word). The only activity still happening at the Church building is a modified food shelf on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for an hour. Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s Provincial Health Officer, has stated that it’s important during this pandemic to continue feeding the people who need to be fed. She stated that this can only be done if the social distancing and sanitization requirements are adhered to. In this case, it is our understanding that our food shelf is considered an essential service. If you want to continue to donate food to the food shelf, please contact Cheryl; she will make the necessary arrangements to receive your donations in a safe manner.

Tanya continues her administration duties from her home. She is also publishing the First Word on a daily basis. She will be checking for phone messages, receiving emails, and all mail is being redirected to her home. If you have Church business that needs to be attended to and/or not sure who to contact, leave a message for Tanya at the Church number or email her at [email protected]

Frances and Jessica are both working from their homes. They provide a unique set of skills and access to technology which provides support and new ideas for our Ministers to conduct virtual worship and services. They’re finding creative ways to keep you connected to our music ministry while you stay at home.

Rachel’s assisting Cheryl from her home. Plans are underway to support and connect with the children and youth of our congregation while they’re self-isolated. Hopefully not exhausting their parents with their boundless energy!

Mahmut and Fikrije continue a daily routine of checking on the building to ensure things are safe and functioning. They’re also keeping things clean and sanitized since the staff occasionally need to come in for urgent matters.

Alison is predominately working from her home, attending to Church books/accounting and making necessary payments. Occasionally she may have to go into the office. If you have a request for a payment, you will need to email the requisition form (Tanya has an electronic copy of this form if needed) and a picture of the receipt to Alison at ([email protected]) or Tanya, or mail it to the Church address. Please do NOT drop anything off at the Church.

During this difficult and challenging time we continue to explore creative ways to keep you connected as a Church family. Our goal is to keep our Team in place in order to provide the support and spiritual care you need. Our priority is that everyone will be working and worshipping in a safe and healthy environment. Remember – be safe and be kind. You are not alone. We are in this together!!

~Tami McMurphy
Ministry & Personnel Chair

See You Sunday!

We’d like to give “virtual worship” a whorl this Sunday and the ministry staff will be leading it via Zoom. It won’t be perfect but it will be adventurous and we will be together in the name of God so what can go wrong?

Please note that this service will be recorded and posted to First United Church’s YouTube channel. By sharing your video image with the congregation, you consent to it being recorded and made publicly available. If you wish to participate and contribute your voice without your video image, you may do so by turning off your webcam in the Zoom app.

Rev. Bob Wallace is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom service.

Kelowna First United Church Sunday Worship
Time: Mar 29, 2020 10:00 AM Vancouver

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 728 995 598

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

A Note From Frances

How much our world has change in just a couple of weeks! I started my spring break needing a rest from the busy-ness, but returned from our time away to a world where all my upcoming concerts, festivals, and conferences had been suspended or cancelled. I must admit that I haven’t felt bereft yet, but instead just feel like I’ve had a bit of a break from ‘the usual.’ I realize that this feeling probably won’t continue forever, and I am also so very aware that for so many people in our community and around our world, these weeks have been and will continue to be so, so much harder than what I am currently experiencing as small inconveniences.

In this time of doing things differently, I’m aware just how much the arts have been coming into view. From folks singing on their balconies in Italy, to many virtual choir videos, to online concerts, people are turning to the arts for entertainment and solace. I hope that we will remember this once the immediate crisis passes and especially when these organizations try to get going again. They will definitely need our help and support.

I was recently in touch with our Alleluia Singers members with a list of some internet links that I thought those with extra time on their hands might be interested in exploring over the coming days. I share them more widely here, in case others of you are also interested. There are, of course, many more available and as the days progress I will send others, but here are a few to get you started!

I look forward to leading you all in song again soon.

Take care,

~Frances Chiasson, Music Minister

PS If you have ‘must see’ suggestions, please send links to: [email protected]

Many performance arts groups are live streaming performances for you to watch from your home. Here is an article from ClassicFM in the UK, with a list of links to access concerts currently streaming.
ClassicFM article

A page listing where you can watch Broadway musicals and plays (they’re generally not free, but still cheaper than travelling to see them!!).
Broadways Musicals

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra joined forces to create a version of Elgar’s Nimrod from their living rooms:

Many choirs are trying to hold rehearsals online – with various levels of success! (Sorry – you can only view this one if you use Facebook).
Hallelujah Chorus

Here’s a group that obviously knows how to do it (and have the software making it possible!). Berklee College of Music students have put together this one:
What the World Needs Now

Scott Ross-Molyneaux in a Calgary based pedal harp player who came to Kelowna a few years ago to accompany our church choir in a Christmas Cantata. Here is one of his videos:

Cantus is a women’s choir from Norway and I heard them sing in Vancouver a few years ago. Here they are singing a composition called Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us peace):
Dona Nobis Pacem

Wild Church Book Club

We have talked about starting a book club for a while and have decided this would be a good time to do so. And to practice safe social/physical distancing we will offer this book group via Zoom.

We hope that the idea of Zoom is not too terrifying for you. It really is relatively easy to access and if you want us to walk you through it, we are happy to do so. Just drop us a line and we’ll call you on that old fashioned telephone (well, modern old fashioned cell phone) and walk you through it.

The book we will study is Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation by J. Philip Newell. It is an 8 chapter book filled with excellent fodder for conversations. Chapters include:

  • The Memory of the Song
  • A Forgotten Tune
  • The Rhythm of the Earth
  • Empty Notes
  • The Sound of Love
  • Paying the Piper
  • The Hymn of the Universe (can’t wait for this one)
  • Broken Cadences

If you are interested in the book, it is available from Chapters or Amazon.

Christ of the Celts, is also available on Youtube, where the author reads it in chapters. This is a free way to gain access to the book: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nSnE8Apa1T8vz_fG0J4tkfKAubsEyaZgA

Again, we are running a poll on our website to determine the days and times of our study groups. If you plan to join us it would really help if you would head over there to let us know which day/time you prefer.

We will offer a Wednesday evening group from 7:00 – 8:30 pm beginning April 15th. AND we will also offer an afternoon gathering on either Tuesday or Thursday afternoons at 2:00 pm beginning that week as well. If you wish to join the book group (which will be a combined group for Wild Church Kamloops and Wild Church Okanagan), please let us know. And help us choose the best time for our gatherings. You can do that HERE!

Survival in the wild takes adaptation! We’re doing our best!


The WILD Women
LeAnn, Lesly, Michele

Wild Church is a sacred nature-based experience to awaken deep love for self, earth and all living beings for the survival and healing of the planet.

Connect with us!
[email protected]
Telephone: 250-851-1984


This window’s hearts belong to the Burke/Seethaler family; Tanya, Rudi, Isabella, Ben and Charlotte.
I put the hearts facing in since no one from the road can even see our house, much less hearts in a window. Max was very curious what I was doing. 
~Nancy Hillmer
This is Ashka. She was laying across the keyboard of our bookeeper, Alison Rose, so frequently, preventing her from working, that she got her own keyboard!

News from El Triunfo

This came from our sister community on the 40th Anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s assassination (March 24, 1980). Because the annual international March in San Salvador was cancelled, the young people had a “virtual” celebration in his honour. ~Pat McPhee

From Adonay (one of First’s scholarship students)

Thank you very much for your message, it’s very important for us to know how you’re doing in this situation, and we are glad that your government, ours, and many more are helping with these measures that are so important for the health of all.

Here in El Salvador, two days ago the government imposed new emergency restrictions. Now there is a “Home quarantine”, which is to say, no one can leave their homes for 30 days, only one person per family is allowed to shop for groceries in supermarkets, two days a week. Those who leave their houses without justification may be taken to “quarantine,” meaning, far from their houses in shelters to wait out the remainder of the 30 days, near others possibly contagious with this disease.

For us, the new measures are very good to fight the virus, but also are affecting our studies, because now we cannot go to the parish to use the internet. The solution that we have found is to use internet through our phones, and thanks be to God this solution has helped us. Even though we now pay more to use the internet, we know that it is very necessary in this situation.

We’re glad that you liked our letters, and that you’ve displayed them in your church. We also appreciate the greetings you send to our families & friends.

For me I think that Romero is very important in these days of emergency, because with much wisdom Romero invites us to solidarity, peace, organization, to love with each other, to live and to share as sisters and brothers in this world full of social problems.

Thanks for your love and kindness, thanks for always thinking of us; we think of you frequently and your country that’s being affected by this virus.


Greetings to all.
Adonay Ernesto Miranda Rodezno

Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice News from The United Church of Canada

Indigenous Elders Write to the Church on COVID-19

The National Indigenous Elders Council, appointed at the National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering in August 2019, has offered the whole church its wisdom and assurance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Elders advise us all to take care of each other, to heed medical advice, and to continue to engage in prayer and ceremony even as we are unable to come together to do so. Read the full news piece.

Decolonizing Discipleship Webinar, March 31

Many of us have participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise where we imagine the experience of Indigenous Peoples in colonization, but how many of us have tried to understand our settler family’s experience, and how it continues to reverberate in society? Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice Animator Sara Stratton has been exploring this question and will be leading a “Lunch ‘n’ Learn” on Tuesday March 31, from 12:00 – 1:00 pm EDT. You can join with Zoom. For those interested but unable to join, we’ll have a recording of the webinar available.

Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Justice

The Winter 2020 issue of Mandate has a couple of terrific reflections on climate justice from Indigenous authors. Kii’iljuus (Barbara Wilson), former chair of the United Church’s Committee on Indigenous Justice and Residential Schools, offers her thoughts on Indigenous spirituality and climate change rooted in the experience of her home community, Haida Gwaii. Tony Snow, a member of the Stoney Nakoda nation and a student at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre who also serves on the church’s Climate Justice Advisory Group, reflects on the traditional knowledge that has led his people for generations and has the power to guide us into the future. Make sure you check out these terrific articles, as well as other great climate justice resources in this issue.

Moderator and Elders Speak Together on Indigenous Rights

The Moderator and National Indigenous Elders Council spoke together to the church about the ongoing Indigenous rights struggle on Wet’suwet’en territory and solidarity actions that took place across the country. Emphasizing the need for all decision-makers to be at the table, they offered prayerful support for all involved in finding the way forward. Dialogue has begun on the important issue of right and title in the territory, but there is still no resolution to the pipeline conflict. We continue to follow this matter as part of the church’s commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Minutes of the First United Church Official Board Meeting March 26, 2020

Present: Cheryl Perry, Beryl Itani, trustees, Tracy Leader, chair, Joa Lazarus, Pastoral Care, Rev Bob Wallace, Tami McMurphy, M&P, Carol Drury, Worship, Leslie Atwell, Education, Michel Marentette, Treasurer, Tanya Burke, Clerk of Sessions, Tanya Pritchard, Judy Valks
Regrets: Alyssa Campbell
A quorum was present

Call to Order: Tracy Leader called the meeting to order

Bob Wallace stepped away from the meeting temporarily.

M/S Tami McMurphy/Beryl Itani that First United extend Bob Wallace’s contract until June 30, 2021. Carried

Inspiration/Opening Prayer: Beryl Itani opened the meeting with a reading called ‘Find Calm in the Chaos’

Cheryl Perry offered a short prayer

Agenda: M/S Michel/Beryl that the agenda be adopted as presented. Carried
Minutes: M/S Tami McMurphy/ Leslie Atwell that the minutes of March 19, 2020 be approved as circulated. Carried No one noticed the minutes were dated the 18th, but I have corrected that.

M&P Staffing Protocol updates: Tami McMurphy reported on this.
M/S Joa Lazarus/Carol Drury that we have the mail forwarded to Tanya Pritchard during the time the church is closed, for up to 4 months. Carried

Beryl Itani will check on insurance requirements during the time the building is closed.

M/S Tami McMurphy/Leslie Atwell that we continue to pay staff as usual through the month of April, and revisit it at that time. Carried

Reports: Joa Lazarus reported that 80% of the congregation have been contacted by phone.

We will have a church service on Sunday on Zoom.

Next meeting April 2.

?The meeting was closed with a prayer from Thomas Merton.

This New World

My family and I were away last week because the kids got off of school and Dave and I needed a break from work and such. At least, that’s how it felt when we drove out of dodge to hit Vancouver Island. When we came back, I found a new world. “Spring break” had become a misnomer and our workplaces preferred we stay away.

I needed help understanding this new world so I hit up all my extended family members; I called my sister but she didn’t return my voicemail. My mother in law in Cape Breton informed me that I will likely likely catch Covid 19. My brother texted “our kids will just have to deal with not seeing their friends because it’s for their safety”. With family like this…?, I thought. Where is my comfort?

But then I attended an online Blether yesterday. It was great. We laughed, I cried; so, you know, a typical gathering among church family. It felt good to “talk our language” with 13 other First people, grappling with this new world. It reminded me of what we have and what will sustain us; each other.

Something a wise counselor told me 18 years ago that I try to live up to is “relationship first”. That means, don’t let negative emotions like anger (parenting!), resentment (siblings!), fear (pandemics!) get in the way of your relationships with the people you love. Relationship first. Think about how you care for those people and then put the negative emotion aside so you can see the relationship clearly for what it is, something worth patiently working on.

As I look ahead to a few online church gatherings I will have in the next few days, a staff meeting, a board meeting, Worship core ministry and a blether, I will keep “relationship first” top of mind because our relationships will get us through in this new world. Thanks be to God.

~Tanya Pritchard

A Word From Cheryl About Yesterday’s Outreach

We have scrambled to implement more changes to our process for doing outreach including having people come into the building one at a time where we offer a bag of groceries to those housed and a “to go” bag with sandwich and juice and ready-to-eat items (granola bars, pull top applesauce & protein, oranges) to those staying on the street or in shelters. Many thanks to Helen Verokosky for providing sandwiches today; Margaret Vellenoweth is providing these to hand out on Thursday.

There is great concern about the virus getting into our sheltered population which has led to the announced early closure of The Welcome Inn. It will close this Friday, March 27. Other temporary winter shelters will likely follow suit—putting at least 80 people back on the street. Debbie Hubbard and Shirley Piedt are taking part in an online “operators and partners” meeting tomorrow that includes Interior Health, BC Housing and the City of Kelowna to discuss how to support the homeless population during this health crisis.

Yesterday we handed out approximately 30 bags of groceries plus another dozen of the smaller bags to those who are homeless. As we continue to gather names, addresses and phone numbers (when available), we are seeing quite a number of new people, particularly those living unsheltered. It would seem, as some of the sources for meals such as Metro and the Gospel Mission have closed or reduced services. Although the reduction in services has been implemented to protect them, it may be creating more hardship for these very vulnerable people.

Thanks to Shirley Piedt we have begun redistributing our supply of Kentucky Fried Chicken to Heath House—a supportive housing project—so they can provide food so people will stay in and not move around the community so much looking for food/resources.

On the anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, I leave you with these words from a prayer composed by Bishop Ken Untener, drafted for a celebration of departed priests.

“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

Grace and strength,