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CommUnity News
Pastor Jeff's Message for October 2020

I spoke on Sunday about an article that I read back in March that asked whether our COVID experience will be more like a blizzard (we hunker down, dig out and then move on); a winter(we hunker down for a few months waiting for Spring to arrive) or an ice age (an extended winter, where the ice doesn't melt and forms glaciers that create a new landscape). As we are now more than six months in, we are discovering that we are long past the blizzard and winter stages and have entered a COVID ice age. It is reshaping how our lives are going to look on the other side of this (and we can't even see the other side yet).

So, in the light of this little ice age we find ourselves in, I offer some insights into what's changed in my thinking six months into this pandemic.

1. I've stopped imagining that things will be much different in two months, four months or even six months from now. When this all began I thought we would be back worshipping together at Easter, and then at the end of May, and then at the beginning of September. None of those things came to pass. What this means practically is that Christmas is now less than three months away. We might as well start grieving that Christmas is going to look very different for us all this year, and especially in our church life. However, we still have time to imagine together what we can creatively do online.

2. Some things are better online and are here to stay. Our youth classes over Zoom have had more consistent weekly attendance than anything we used to do in-person. Our Tuesday book study runs from 7-8 pm, which means I end the meeting and I'm already home. While I miss the chit-chat that comes easier with in-person meetings, when it's -25 outside in a few months being able to connect for an hour in the evening with others while not having to leave my house in the bitter cold is a big advantage.

3. Community is hard work. It was hard work before, and it's even harder now. So much of church life is just showing up for things, even when you don't feel like it very much.  Being in community together is more than reading emails or watching YouTube videos but actively responding in some way. We can't just assume connection anymore. A colleague recently posted a Youtube video of a presentation I wasn't able to attend live on Zoom. After watching the video, I made a point of sending an email to thank them and so that they knew that I was engaging with what they had posted. It's a small thing but an important one. It recognizes that behind our screens we are all human beings that need connection and we need to know that the work that we do has value to others.

In a very short period of time, the church has been forced to realize that we are twenty years into the 21st century. We are not going back to the "good old days." Some of what has already been started is here to stay. Even as we grieve and lament what was taken away from us so suddenly, we trust that God can still surprise us with a new thing. At the centre of our faith is that Jesus' death on the cross is not the end of the story, but that God brings new life out of even the darkest places.

So in that light I will keep asking you this question over and over again: How is God calling you to engage now in our church's life in a new way? 

You can't wait until COVID is over to answer. The new era is already here:  online ministry is here to stay and being together in community is just harder work than it was before. It's forcing us all to adapt to this ice age together.

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Unity Lutheran Church · 599 12 St NW · Medicine Hat, AB T1A 6R3 · Canada

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