First United and COVID-19

To do our part to help counter the spread of COVID-19, First United has adjusted our worship and outreach practices to promote physical distancing while maintaining social contact and community support as best we can.

The church building is closed to the public for the foreseeable future. We are awaiting the advice of the BC Government before reopening the building and resuming normal worship, outreach, and community services, which will fall under Phase 4 of BC’s Response to COVID-19.

We are maintaining social contact and community support by hosting online meetings every Tuesday and Friday, and online worship services every Sunday. Please subscribe to our First Word newsletter to receive the weekly links to these online gatherings.

Grace and peace to you all.

Online Worship April 5 , 2020

Please Join Us For Worship on Palm Sunday

Some of you may have heard that there are strange things happening on the internet these days called Zoom-bombing. Basically, this are bored and/or angry people having too little to do and just determined to “upset others.”

But it can be disturbing, or frightening, or disgusting to have someone break in to what you think is a private event and disrupt it. (Remember this can also happen if we are meeting in a building—someone comes in and acts inappropriately!). SO, to try and reduce the chance that this will happen we are making a few changes, as recommended by Zoom specialists.

To join the worship service, click this link: and put int he 6-digit password distributed in the First Word email newsletter on Saturday.

When you click on the link (or phone in) you will be put into a welcome/waiting room. This is the new feature for security. I will be able to see your “ID/Name” and will click a button on my computer that will let you “in” to the service – just like our greeters make you welcome to worship at church! Microphone

Microphone: Please have your microphone MUTED once you enter the “worship service” – this will keep the confusion to a minimum.

Video: Keep your video ON as you enter the “worship service” – this will allow us to wave at one another, and to see each other – a great joy.

Other Changes: We learned so much last week. Here are a few changes you will discover:

Prayer Requests: We are going to use the Chat feature to gather prayer requests. Just before the prayers of the people we will send out a typed message asking for names and concerns to be included in the prayers for today. Please type in your requests.
If you cannot type, wave your hand and we will unmute your microphone so you can speak your requests.

Coffee Hour: There were a lot of people frustrated with the chatter last Sunday cutting off what they wanted to say—it was a little like listening to all of us talk at once. We have learned that we can cut down on that, and give you a chance to have coffee/tea/juice and conversation with just a few people—like being at a table in coffee hour. To have this happen, my program will put you into a breakout group of no more that 5 or 6 people and you can each chat to one another. BUT – I do not have control over whom you get to talk with, so be prepared to meet one another, to share your name, etc. as if you were first-time friends – or be surprised to meet someone you have seen but never talked with.

I know this is a lot to take in – and we will all be a little confused – but for safety and more effective time together, let’s try it and make this work! And remember, God is also present in the electrons and even the internet – always, God is with us, we are not alone.

Grace and peace,

~Bob Wallace

Saving Jesus Redux

You don’t have to spend much time watching the news or trolling social media to encounter people who use Jesus to justify their words or actions. Sports figures, celebrities and politicians talk about Jesus like he’s a best buddy or mascot or secret power. The Jesus they know is always on “their side”. But how can this be? How can Jesus be pro- and anti- such trigger issues as abortion, gender rights, war and the like? Is Jesus a weapon of the Christian Right or a tool of the ‘spiritual but not religious’ Left?

“We’re having a culture war and Jesus happens to be one of the weapons tossed
about by both sides.” — Amy-Jill Levine

“Saving Jesus Redux” will be offered on Tuesdays from 1:00pm to 2:30pm starting January 7, and on Wednesdays from 7:00pm to 8:30pm starting January 8, and finishing on February 19. Even if you missed the first five episodes, come anyway!

Worship Sept. 21 , 2020 with Cheryl and Bob & the Team

Worship with All on Sept. 13 ,2020

Schooling and Covid in El Salvador

~Pat McPhee

As we watch, with concern, our rising numbers of COVID cases here in B.C., we can’t help but compare with the stats coming out of El Salvador.

The tiny, impoverished country of 6.5 million souls is roughly two-thirds the size of Vancouver Island. Last week, B.C. (with a population of about 5 million) had just over 5,500 cases of COVID versus El Salvador’s confirmed cases of 25,600.

Despite their government’s three-month total lock-down at the beginning of the pandemic, the health care system collapsed weeks ago and people no longer go to the hospitals or for testing, but rather stay at home and try to recover there. And so, their numbers are likely much higher than those reported.

We recently received e-mails from Wendy Hernandez, staff person at FUNDAHMER (the organization that facilitates First’s sister community relationship), and from Adonay Miranda & Ismael Artiga, university students who live in El Triunfo.

They report that some people have been sick but are recovering at home and, so far, the majority are practicing safeguards and managing to stay well.

Students at every level will be finishing their school year, which runs from February through December, in a virtual way. This is an excerpt about the difficulties inherent in virtual schooling from Tim Muth’s blog, at :

“In a country where internet is not universal and most people access online content only over cell phones, the switch to virtual learning has been a challenge. A recent article from FOCOS TV reported that only 1 in 10 Salvadoran households have an internet-connected computer but 9 out of 10 have a cellphone that they now use for access to schooling . . . Most public school interaction between students & teachers occurs through WhatsApp.”

If you are interested in reading the entire article and related resources, it is on the above link dated August 25.

School-aged children and youth in rural El Triunfo are at an even greater disadvantage due to the lack of resources for computers, printers, and cellphone data plans, and poor signals and internet coverage.

In spite of those obstacles, Adonay, who is in his fourth year at the University of Central America (UCA) studying Economics, completed the first semester with good marks and has started his second term in July. He was sad, however, that some of the professors at UCA had died of COVID leaving “a huge void”

A Path to Empathy and Understanding, Part2

~Sharon Wilson

?Two weeks ago Cheryl invited us to look with fresh eyes and an open heart at the dreams and visions of others. This is not as easy as it sounds. It means focussing on another with openness and without judgement. It challenges us to rise above our certainties and allow ourselves to explore our vulnerabilities. So often it is described as ‘walking in another’s shoes’.

This reminded me of a serendipitous experience I had with my sister a few years ago while visiting the Maritime Museum in Roskilde, Denmark. As we neared the far side of one of the halls there was an open door. Thinking that the exhibit continued there we marched in.

Before us was a glass topped table of about six square meters with a computer joystick on one side. I decided to try it out when suddenly a voice from deep in the dark corner announced that this was NOT public space.

In a moment three young men emerged from behind banks of monitors. It turned out that they were all Ph.D. students in marine archeology working on projects at the museum. I apologized profusely for entering their space and interfering with their project.

To my surprise, after a huddled conversation, they invited my sister and I to test their prototype. That large table was supposed to represent the sea floor with sand, rocks and treasure. The joystick was to allow an interactive experience of doing the work of a marine archeologist. As we took turns moving sand to find hidden spoons, boot buckles and the like, I marvelled at how much fun this was and how easy.

One student began to explain in great detail the difficulty of working deep on the ocean floor in a deep-sea diving suit. He described the stiffness of the heavy gloves that made fine motor movements nearly impossible.

Thinking about this, I pondered out loud, “This would be better if I was wearing deep sea diver’s gloves”. With that, one of the men rushed to his computer and a steady tap, tap, tap followed.

My sister got an idea: “It would be even better if you could wear a deep sea diver’s helmet while you’re searching”. Another wave of tapping erupted. Finally, we agreed that the process worked best for the participant if at least some of what we uncovered was shiny and precious.

What happened in that distant museum workshop was a vivid example of building empathy. Those three young men yearned for others to share their excitement for underwater exploration.

Within the limitations of the display they were creating, we found ways to heighten our awareness of their work: the challenges of looking through a thick mask and fumbling with heavy gloves, the euphoria of discovering a treasure! The five of us parted feeling we had accomplished something magical and totally unexpected.

As we watch news reports of anti-racism protests in the USA, freedom marches in Belarus and Hong Kong and a lone orthodox Jewish man in London protesting for the rights of Uighur Muslims in front of the Chinese embassy, the demand for us to be people of understanding and empathy intensifies.

Protest is not a fashion statement. It is not about going along with the crowd. Understanding and empathy means that we are prepared to go deep into the concerns of another. We listen to their stories and their passions, their hurts and successes, their goals and dreams. We need to reflect on the obstacles they face that do not exist for us for a whole host of reasons. We learn of life that is beyond our personal experience.

More than anything, empathy is the honest, sincere investment of our lives into that of another. We commit to stand side by side even in the danger.
That brief exchange in a Scandinavian museum was a reminder that we should never stop learning. I learned so much in that brief encounter about those three young men and their passionate pursuit of marine archeology. My sister and I got to ‘walk in their shoes’ and the result was an unforgettable, transformative experience. Such encounters are holy. Let your curiosity and openness give free rein to the Spirit.

August 30, 2020 Worship with Rev . Cheryl Perry and Team

Blessed Reunion

A couple of Sundays ago in the lectionary we heard the emotional story of Jacob’s reunion with his brother, Esau. They hadn’t seen each other in years; now they were grown men with families of their own. When they reunite, we are told in Genesis 33 that Esau threw his arms around Jacob and they both cried.

One of the most difficult things about living through this pandemic for many of you has been the sense of isolation—being unable to come to church, to see friends, or have visits from family who live in other parts of the country—or even in the same city!

Because of the concern over spreading the virus to loved ones, many sacrifices have been made including giving and receiving hugs! That is why it was such a joy to watch as Susan and Nicholas were reunited last week for the first time in many months.

Because Nicholas has cerebral palsy and is immune-compromised, in-person visits have not been possible, out of an abundance of care for his physical well-being. But the picture says it all—how important this reunion was for both of them and their emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being!

The story of Jacob’s reunion with his brother continues this way: When Esau looked around and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” And Jacob answers, “These, sir, are the children whom God has been good enough to give me.”

Esau seems astonished by this proof that so much time has gone by since the brothers were together last. For many of you, watching your grandchildren grow and change is a delight—but watching it on Facetime has been no substitute for real-time! We long for visits that include real hugs!

As we all wait for a time when our social interactions can be less-restricted, we can rejoice in seeing this reunion of Nicholas and Susan.

Any Dream Will Do (Reprise)

~Cheryl Perry

This is how Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat ends, as many musicals do—with a reprise of the opening song.

It begins with the words:

I closed my eyes
Drew back the curtain
To see for certain
What I thought I knew

One theory of modern psychology is that dreaming is the communication between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind, helping people create wholeness—that dreams are the bridge that allows movement back and forth between what we think we know and what we really know.

Joseph attached significance to his dreams and believed they might be telling him about himself and the world around him. Because he was curious about the meaning of his own dreams, Joseph also became someone who could help others interpret theirs.

This week we continue with the story of Joseph who is sought after by Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, when Pharaoh has a series of puzzling dreams.

Interwoven is the continuing saga of Joseph and his brothers. This Sunday we get the conclusion to the story that began in Chapter 37. It spans most of the remaining books of Genesis. If you’ve got a little time before Sunday, I encourage you to read it in whatever translation of the Bible you own.

If you are short of time, here is a wonderful summary in poetic verse that will catch you up on what’s been happening so far in the story of Joseph.

See you in worship on Sunday!

Gaining Insight Into Dreams

~Cheryl Perry

I was asked to share the titles of the books I mentioned in
Sunday’s reflection.

They are Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley (1997, Bantam Books) and
Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most, a memoir by Marcus J. Borg (2014, Harper Collins).

And I also thought I would share the following list of questions. One of the most effective ways of getting insight into dreams, particularly if the dream is difficult to interpret, is to work with a friend, or friends, who support us as we explore our own dreams.

We can often gain tremendous resources by taking the time to explore all facets of the dream. Those supporting the dreamer listen carefully while the dream is described and ask questions so they understand for themselves the imagery and feelings experienced. A good way to increase your ability to remember dreams is to value them.

One way to do that is to keep a dream journal. If you are interested in interpreting your dreams, or want to help another person explore theirs, these questions might help you as your think or journal about them.

  • How do you feel in the dream? What is the predominant feeling?
  • What is the main action/theme/activity of the dream? (It may help to give it a title, as if it were a painting or story or movie. Ask yourself: What single issue or insight brings the dream together? Where is the main energy?)
  • Who are you in this dream?
  • Who are the others in this dream? (Describe them and their relationship to you, qualities, contexts—as they may be ‘stand ins’ for others or for aspects of the dreamer’s own self.)
  • What are you doing and not doing in your dream? Are you active or passive in this dream, and why? Are you resisting or in tune with what the dream is doing?
  • What issues need resolving in this dream?
  • What new ways of understanding/new actions are presented in your dream?
  • Does the situation or issue in the dream feel familiar or relate to anything going on in your life right now?
  • What is similar in this dream to other dreams? Have you ever had a dream like this before?
  • Why do you need this dream now?