May 26, 2021

Dear friends of the Parish of St. Christopher and St. Aidan in Lake Cowichan ...
There have been seemingly conflicting stories shared yesterday growing out of the announcements made by Dr. Bonnie Henry and other government leaders on Tuesday.   I have received a number of comments by different individuals wondering what is now to be expected.
 
The definitive answer is given in the attached letter from Bishop Anna.  Briefly, she affirms that we are not able to re-gather in the sanctuaries of our church buildings yet.   In the letter, which was addressed to clergy of the Diocese, she mentions a gathering with leaders of the Diocese (next week).  In addition, all clergy are to participate in a Zoom meeting on June 22 to consult concerning re-opening protocols.
 
However, the most significant instruction is that we will not be changing our current patterns "....until at least July 1...."    Even then, my impression is that the cautious concern which is part of our church tradition may limit our hopes for actually gathering in person as quickly as we might hope.
 
To express things from a more positive angle, it seems clear that we should be able to hope and plan for a re-start to our congregational involvements that would look and feel like "back to normal", beginning in the fall.   If the evidence of reduced transmission and radically increasing inoculations continues over the next 3 months, Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested the date of September 7 could be our big "re-start".
 
In advance of that renewal of face-to-face in-person Sunday worship, (whenever it happens) and the hope for all other congregational gatherings to be approved as well, I believe we should begin to talk about how we will re-develop our congregational life.   Because of the challenges we have lived through this past 18 months, I believe it will not be adequate only to "go back" to "the way we were."   Rather, I believe it makes sense that we see ourselves actively beginning a new era in our life together.
Specifically, I wonder what we might do to further support others in our community for whom the isolation and loneliness of these past months is an experience they want to counter with increased involvement in actual community relationships.   Put simply, I wonder if increasing numbers of people might be interested to consider some involvement in our congregational fellowship as a kind of antidote and healing after the pandemic experience.   Is it possible that "we all want more connection than even what we took for granted before the pandemic"? 
What do you think?   We know that many in Lake Cowichan have especially valued the "Cellar Treasures" thrift store, our offering of community lunches, as well as the yearly "fall fair" in late October or November, in addition to the welcome opportunity of attending church on Sundays, and the special worship times like Advent, Christmas, and Easter.    But if we continue simply to ask ourselves "how can we support and be a resource for the wider community around us?", or "what is needed in our community to make it more personally supportive for everyone?" we will be renewing our own vision and mission as a parish as we move forward.  
To say that we miss seeing one another, and being together in the context of worship, is to identify the missing ingredient in basic Christian life, as "members with one another in the body of Christ ~ the church."    It is very hard to function as an individual Christian separate from the experience of being in active fellowship with each other.  The truth is, as someone once said, "Just being together in our church is a blessing".    Worship together is not just "what we do"; in many ways it is central to "who we are.
As with so many experiences in our life following Jesus, we lift our eyes to the horizon.  We gain energy from the hope of what we anticipate, as we trust God for the future as for the past.   Together, we try not to give in to self-pity for the struggles which we have lived through and know only too well, but to "lift up our hearts" to be encouraged by the Holy Spirit, one day, one breath, one step at a time.  
Speaking very personally, I am looking forward to the coming months, and the opportunity to "begin again" in our life together.    It will be a delight and a joy simply to gather in peace and hope with you all.
      If I can be of help, or you'd like to be in touch, please email me, or give me a call at 250-510-0428.
      May God bless each of us, and the whole world, with healing, hope, and wholeness.
      Eric