One of my favourite stories to share in our Children's Ministry involves a desert tray. A desert tray is a sheet upon which I have a sizable amount of sand. It helps set the stage for the biblical narrative, much of which takes place in the desert. I swirl the sand beneath my hands, creating new shapes and crevices, swirls and slopes. As I do this mesmerizing work, I say aloud for all to hear, “in the desert the only thing we know for sure is that the desert is always changing.”
As we enter 2022, it feels as though we are living through desert times. The past two years in a world with Covid 19 have caused us all to hold plans loosely, pivot, and sometimes surrender. Ever changing health orders, wave upon wave of increasing cases, and new discoveries about how the virus behaves have us all too familiar with shifting sands as the landscape for our lives.
God remains always present, always good, always the same. We trust in a constant God.
With so much uncertainty and change required, I confess it has been a unique challenge for your church leaders to navigate well. Some days we have done better than others. We are continuously grateful for your prayers, and for your expressions of grace toward us. Now, just when we thought it was getting easier to predict, the recent developments surrounding Omicron's surge in our community are bringing with them new decisions for us as a faith community.
When I share with the kids that the desert is always changing, I am quick to follow up with this truth: in the changing sands of the desert, God remains always present, always good, always the same. We trust in a constant God.
In an ever changing place, we rely heavily upon our values
As a church that longs to glorify our constant God in an ever changing place, we rely heavily upon our values to guide us forward. Our values help us affirm that:
We have been told by our Provincial and Federal Health Officers that in the weeks ahead our community should prepare for a significant level of absenteeism due to illness. As church leaders we have talked through our policies, and made contingencies for volunteers, staff, and congregants who may need, or may want to remain home. Throughout the pandemic we have tried to provide options and allow each household to make the best choices for themselves.
We remain flexible in practice yet steadfast in our commitment
It is important to us that no one in our community feel obliged to serve or pressured to attend an in person service. It is also important to us that we maintain for those who desire it an option to meet in person as long as we are permitted to do so by our Provincial Health Officer. Balancing those two desires, we remain flexible in practice yet steadfast in our commitment to create spaces for the gathering of God's people in Jesus' name.
We believe a space for worship may be, for some, an in person experience in our sanctuary. It may perhaps look simpler and much more scaled back from time to time out of necessity, but it can still be a gathering to hear the Word, pray in Jesus' name, and encourage one another. We believe a space for worship may be, for some, an online gathering of God's people in Jesus' name. We see that this option remains a highly inclusive gathering that, while different than in person, is no less valuable or rich. God has shown up in the burning bush, the Temple, in a cloud of fire, and in the upper room. We trust that God will be present and with us however we gather.
Hebrews 10: 25 teaches that we should “not give up gathering. Instead, encourage each other.” That encouragment can be offered in person, in notes, in phone calls, in texts, on walks, in chat rooms, in emails, in door drops of goodies. Encourage one another and in doing so, may you also experience the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.
God is with us
The desert sands are shifting each hour, and honestly, this has been true in the grand story all long. Lets not grasp for the things that are temporary. Instead, with perhaps renewed understanding, let us be people who are completely transformed because we have let the God who was and is and is to come grab hold of us and see us through another day. God is with us.
God's presence has always been more than enough for desert dwellers.