“Praise be to God for God’s indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)
Greetings, all! The Peace of Christ be with you all.
Thanksgiving weekend is sure to be one of these times that really put the struggle and hope of this time into focus. Many of us are unable to gather with loved ones in person. The changing of support systems from the summer means that many are facing difficult financial considerations. Winter is coming sooner or later, bringing the logistical and physical struggles of the season are compounded by this current pandemic.
But we can still seek out the blessings in our lives and in our communities in the midst of strife. The reflection for this week offers many concerns and sources of thanksgiving in times of endurance. But one thing I want to highlight here is the blessing of communities who care for one another. In the meetings and discernment that has happened this week, in further pastoral conversations, in prepping for community dinners, and in the simple acts of kindness and connectedness we each offer to one another; these are some of the blessings that we hold near and dear to us this weekend. God’s presence and care offers us resiliency and connection; what a wonderful thing for which to offer our thanks!
Our Thanksgiving service for this Sunday includes online communion, so be sure to have elements ready for the service. While communion is ideally offered in person, the United Church has recognized over the past years that accessibility is an integral part of being in the Body of Christ, which includes our sacraments. The following week is the Regional Council meeting for our region, Western Ontario Waterways. This will culminate in a Region-wide shared worship on Sunday October 18th at 10 a.m. This will be on the Regional Council’s Youtube page. Links to this service will be on our Facebook page and our website.
In our desire to show care and concern for those in our community, the Spiritual Growth team has decided at this time to continue offering worship online, and not re-enter our sanctuaries. With the increasing numbers of positive cases, coming closer to our area, the team did not feel it was yet safe to gather in person in such large numbers, or that the restrictions on worship aspects and social interactions within and after services could be easily enforced. We do hope that you are finding meaning and connection in our online worship services, and finding ways to potentially gather in smaller groups to safely watch together.
We are currently exploring ways to safely provide small “viewings” of the service for those in our congregations who do not have access to the internet. We also have print copies of all worship materials, including large print copies, available outside of both church buildings. I hope that in this way, we are able to sustain a worship life of our congregations that is meaningful and can incorporate the greatest number within our congregations in a safe manner. Coming up to Advent, we are also looking at various faithful and creative ways to celebrate in smaller groups, outdoors, and online. We travel from a season of Thanksgiving to a season of hope and anticipation. Hold this dear as we journey on with God.
This is not to say that fellowship opportunities are not happening, nor that the congregations are not having a tangible presence in their communities. We have been pleased with the response to our first joint outdoor youth event last weekend at the Stevenson Tract. The kids that showed up despite the threatening clouds shared in the joys and wisdom that God provides in Creation. In the next couple of weeks, we will begin our weekly youth ministry that will involve take-home lessons at the start of the week, which can either be done at home as a family, or can be done online with myself and other families on Zoom calls later in the week. These plans will be finalized next week, and I look forward to sharing in fellowship and faith formation with our families. If you know of families that would want to participate in this, please let me know. More info will be coming soon, as well as continuing discernment on what forms of adult faith formation will occur.
Our skilled cooks and bakers in our communities of faith continue to provide nourishment to our neighbours and provide safe and meaningful fellowship as these meals are made. There have been successful pie-making mornings at Brussels, and Blyth had a very popular ham and potato dinner last week. And be sure to get your tickets for Blyth’s turkey dinner drive-thru on October 17th, with scheduled pick-up times. For tickets, call John Stewart at 519-523-4528. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Finally, in this season of Thanksgiving, we are also reminded of our call to support and care for siblings in need near and far. As many of you have heard by now, last week there was a fire that burned down the historic Wesley United Church, located on the territory of the Saugeen First Nation (north of Kincardine), and other fires that damaged two other communities of faith on the territory. As siblings in Christ, we mourn with the losses experienced by those in the Body of Christ, and feel compelled to assist where possible. The Western Ontario Waterways Regional Council is currently taking up donations on behalf of the congregation, as they discern what the next steps are in their faith journey. Individual donations from this congregation can be sent to the region directly or sent to the treasurers of our congregations who can pass it along to the region. Be sure to check out our website for further information.
There are many blessings and hopeful signs on this Thanksgiving weekend and beyond. While we lament, we share in joy and celebration. While we endure, we see opportunity. Take heart in this. May God’s presence and care be known to you and your families.
Yours in Christ,
Student Minister – Blyth and Brussels United Churches
Blyth Office Number: 519-523-4224
Brussels Office Number: 519-887-6259
Emergency Pastoral Number: call/text 705-344-3385
Feature Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash