November 23, 2020

Sadly, due to Durham Region moving to Covid “Red” status Rev. Larry will not be offering office hours until we move back to “Orange”.

Please do not come to the church building during this time.
Stay home as you’re able.
Distance as required.
And wash or disinfect your hands frequently.
These are the ways we love one another in this challenging time.

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November 12, 2020

Friends in Faith,

Shalom in the name of Jesus, our friend, companion, and guide. As of next Monday we will have been in this interminably long season of pandemic for 8 months. That was the day our Faith Council voted unanimously to suspend all our in-person gatherings, including Sunday worship. Back in those early days before we really understood the depth of the seriousness of this pandemic we actually thought we’d only be suspending gatherings for a few weeks. Well, as you know, those weeks have stretched into months, and the prognosis is more of the same.

The sad reality is that indications are that the health situation is actually worsening rather than improving. Cases of Covid-19 infection are at their highest in Ontario right now. Our Durham Region is reporting a smaller number than other regions, but it remains unsettlingly high. There is nothing we would like more than to get ‘back to normal’ – to return to being together in worship, in mission, and in community at our beloved Faith United. Unfortunately, the situation is beyond our control, and returning to in-person gatherings at this time is unwise and unsafe.

You’ve probably heard of other churches who are gathering. We have a team called the ‘Re-Opening Task Group’ who have been charged with navigating such things for Faith United. The Re-Opening group meets weekly, online. We have developed a protocol for how persons can safely access the church building on a limited and approved basis. I have been offering ‘office hours’ on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm to provide an opportunity for people to come and see me, or to pray in the sanctuary. We have recently added features to our online worship livestream and that has meant more people in the building, which means more contact tracing and more cleaning. Nyron, our custodian, is working Monday-Friday keeping the building maintained and cleaning and disinfecting according to new protocols.

The Re-Opening group has also approved an experiment for a small in-person bible study group to meet at the church. This group will help us refine our protocol and learn more about how to manage future gatherings. Our sincere hope is that we can find ways to safely gather. This is what everyone wants. Sadly, until a vaccine and treatment options are widely available we will not be recommending anything beyond very limited gathering.

The room capacity of our sanctuary under Covid restrictions is around 45-50 people. Considering our typical attendance used to be around 150, we would have to create complicated sign-ups to attend if we did in-person worship. The idea of turning someone away at the door is mortifying. Additionally, those gathered could not sing, or shake hands, or linger and visit over coffee and tea, and could not enjoy the sense of community that we miss so much. It would be more awkward than worshipful. And those who likely need community the most – those whose life situations are such that they are more isolated – are likely the most vulnerable among us, so they would probably not come to church anyway. I’ve adopted a saying: “some of us won’t gather until most of us can.” That is particularly hard with Christmas coming, but we feel it is the most loving approach to take.

Advent

The season of Advent begins on Sunday November 29th. Advent Candle Lighting is an annual tradition. We’ll be sending out an ‘in-home’ version of the candle lighting I’ll do on Sunday mornings, and encourage you to set up your own Advent candles at home. The colours are nice but it’s more important that we mark the days rather than worry about the specifics. It’s 3 blue candles, 1 pink, and 1 white in the centre, if you want to follow the liturgical pattern. We are also considering holding our annual ‘fresh water well drilling’ campaign. Watch for news in the coming weeks.

Christmas Eve

I’m working on an idea for a very short ‘parking lot gathering’ on Christmas Eve. This would be in addition to our Christmas Eve worship which will be on YouTube. Generally, the idea is to have cars park on one side and to have us form a ‘socially distanced’ circle where we’ll have a prayer, light a candle that we’ll each bring (hopefully the weather will cooperate), and sing ‘Silent Night’ together. It’s just an idea at this point, but I like it. (Of course, we’ll have to watch the Health Unit for rules!)

Christmas Video Greeting

We’d like every person or family in our congregation to video record a 10 second “Merry Christmas from the Smith Family” video (or some similar blessing or greeting). The idea is that we’ll stitch together all these short snippets and make a video for Christmas Eve worship! We’ll even come and video record you if you’re not sure about how to do this. Dress up in your favourite Christmassy stuff and share a 10 second greeting. Easy! Details and such to follow.

Pastoral Care – We have a terrific team of lay pastoral visitors who are in touch by phone with many of our congregants. If you know of someone who is feeling disconnected and would like to be on the phoning list please contact the team’s coordinator Donna Bignell at 905.728.7749.

Sunday Worship – Every Sunday morning we livestream our worship service from our sanctuary. It is available on YouTube live at 10:30 am, and then shortly after that it’s available on demand. Our channel on YouTube is called [faithunitedchurch]. If you know how to ‘share’ links we ask that you share our worship service each week!

The Porch – Our Monday morning scripture discussion group continues, online using ‘Zoom’. We gather at 10:30 am. Links to the meeting are included in our weekly email, and on our Facebook group – or you can send a note and ask for help!

Noticings – We continue to send out our weekly ‘Noticings’ email blog every Wednesday. It has a theological reflection from me, any news we need to share, and some links to help you stay engaged and connected with Faith. If you’re not already receiving this weekly note and would like to, send an email to Stacey in our office.

Coffee Hour – One of the things we miss most is our time to socialize and enjoy one another’s company, so we’ve created an online ‘Coffee Hour’ on Thursday mornings at 9:30 am via Zoom. There’s no agenda – it’s just a social gathering time.

Children and Youth – Our Children, Youth, and Young Family ministry leader, Stacey Tremblay, continues to provide significant resources for our younger members. There are also monthly Zoom gatherings to help kids and families stay connected.

Church Work in Durham (CWID) Committee – Our CWID team has been organizing a series of Tuesday food drives at the church. It’s a chance to contribute to good causes with the bonus of connecting with Faith friends while you do it.

What if I’m not online?

Technology has certainly made it a lot easier for us to stay connected in this season, but if you don’t have easy access to the internet we still have ways to be connected with you! Each week we send via regular letter mail a ‘digest’ of our communications. It includes printed versions of Noticings, and the entire Sunday worship service including the sermon and the prayers. You might also telephone someone who is online Sunday mornings and listen to our worship through the phone.

As the weather turns colder I am very concerned about how our congregants can stay connected. Isolation and loneliness will likely increase. I joke about buying warm boots and coats so you can still have driveway visits – except I’m not really joking! Our worship and missional activities are doing pretty well in this pandemic season. Our challenge is keeping connected with one another, maintaining our lovingly supportive community. Please continue to reach out to one another and find safe ways to connect. A short in-person visit (even in the cold) can do wonders for a person’s spiritual and mental health.

Like you, I yearn for a time when we can be together in person. I wish I could put a date on the calendar and look forward to it, but that simply cannot happen in the foreseeable future. In the meantime we must remember that we are not alone. This has been, and continues to be a very long season of displacement and concern. But we are also entering the season of Advent, and then Christmas, where we celebrate how God’s Presence can be birthed among us in surprising and unexpected ways. O God, help us notice!

Blessings as we enter this Advent season together!

Shalom,

Rev. Dr. Larry Doyle

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August 5, 2020

Rev. Larry’s Office Hours In The Church Building
Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. He will be available for conversations (pastoral or otherwise) with anyone.

The Sanctuary will also be available for those who might want to come and sit quietly and pray in our worship space. There is also a labyrinth available for prayerful walking (socks required). Access to the building will be strictly controlled – the door will be locked until Rev. Larry lets you
in, and the only spaces available will be the foyer, the foyer washroom, and the sanctuary. All other rooms in the building are closed for now.

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June 8, 2020

*Re: Re-opening*

Today the Ontario government made a fairly shocking (and in my view irresponsible) announcement suggesting that churches are able to return to worship at 30% capacity, even though everyone else in the province is limited to groups of no more than 10.

Faith United will *NOT* be returning to in-person activities at any point in the very near future!

We have a Task Group that will carefully be looking at all the information available, following the guidance of Health authorities, and will make recommendations to the Faith United Council who will make the decisions as when it might be safe to re-open and under what conditions.

I know we all want to return to ‘normal’. That is simply not possible yet. Please be patient, and let’s continue to love one another by staying safe!

Shalom, Rev. Larry

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March 17, 2020

I write this note with a heavy heart. Life is different now. These are very unsettling times. In this note I’ll share the decisions that your Faith United Council made last night. In spite of the weightiness of these decisions it was truly inspiring to see the care and compassion expressed by Council members, how deeply they love this church, and how willing they are to do the hard work of keeping things going in these curious times. 
In-Person Gatherings Suspended 
Things are changing rapidly, and at times the news is confusing, but there is no avoiding the reality that the Covid-19 virus spreads exponentially, and that vulnerable persons (such as many of our congregants) are at greater risk. The way to limit infection is to limit contact, and the responsible way to do that is to show courageous leadership by suspending all our in-person activities (worship, meetings, rentals, everything) and closing the church building to any usage except maintenance for as long as it takes to be safe. 
At our Monday March 16th Council meeting we voted unanimously to do exactly that. We have set a nominal date of April 4th to re-evaluate, but we acknowledge that the more likely date will be well into May, and probably June. That is a stark and upsetting reality.
Council is 100% behind these decisions and emphatically endorses a full and complete shift to being church in a new way for the next while.
“Surely God is in this place!” – but we aren’t, at least for a while.
But we are not stopping being the church! Read on!
Worship 
We already live-stream our worship and will continue to do so. To tune in, go to YouTube and search for “faithunitedchurch” – or click the YouTube link on our webpage.
Rev. Larry will lead worship on Sunday mornings at our usual 10:30am time, with music support, and with minimal tech support to allow for streaming. 
No congregation will be present – but we hope you’ll join us online. And you can even worship in your jammies if you wish!
For those not online we will be offering worship resources to feed their spirits.
Pastoral Care 
In these times of uncertainty, anxiousness, and isolation, it is imperative that we are very intentional about staying in touch and keeping connected. Council is committed to doing so!
Our Pastoral Visiting group will not visit in-person but will make phone calls.
We are determining which congregants are “online” and which are not, and will develop strategies to ensure both groups stay connected. (There are far more options for those online.)
Office and Staff 
Our church office is closed and Stacey and Rev. Larry will be working from home. Phone messages are being monitored!
Council voted unanimously to continue to pay all salaries and benefits for all staff members for the duration of the crisis. Where possible, staff are doing their work in alternative ways.
Finances 
If you are already on PAR (pre-authorized remittance), THANK YOU!
Unfortunately we cannot sign anyone new up for PAR at this time.
We encourage you to continue to make your financial offerings to the church. Bills and salaries still need to be paid. You will not be able to bring your offerings to the church because there is no one there to receive them, as the office is closed.
Another way to make your offering is by clicking the “Canada Helps” donation button on our website.
There is no doubt that this closure will have a significant financial impact on our church. Please do what you can to continue to support our ongoing mission and ministry together.
 
Physical Plant 
The church building will be closed to all church members and all user groups. 
There will be no exceptions. Please do not enter the building. 
There will, however, need to be ongoing maintenance of the physical plant. 
Meetings 
All in-person meetings are suspended, which means alternate locations are not a viable alternative. 
Council will be meeting via an online meeting platform called Zoom.  
 
Online Gatherings 
Things like “The Porch” can, and will, be done interactively online via Zoom starting March 23rd. Watch our website and social media feeds for information.
Other online gatherings and connections may emerge as we are sharing resources with other churches who are in our same circumstances. In times of crisis we help one another!
Communication 
We will continue to send out our weekly “Noticings” email on Wednesdays. Additional notes, like this one, may be instituted to keep people informed and connected.
And again, communicating with people not online is a high priority for us!
These are just some initial considerations. Many more issues will emerge. 
Let us continue to hold one another in prayer and care and we will find our way through these curious times together. We are not alone!
In these times it’s good to remember, and speak out loud, our touchstone affirmation:
Surely God is in this place! Help me notice!
We hope to connect with you for worship online on Sunday morning!
Until then, stay home, be well, and wash your hands!
Shalom,
Larry