Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Week 8 — feels like an eternity… yet in the big picture, the human story, it is a small amount of time… merely a blink of God’s eye… yet why does it feel so hard some days?! SIGH.

It has been said history is no stranger to pandemics and plagues! And while many of us learned about the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Black Plague of the Middle Ages, cholera outbreaks and such, recorded history notes Roman and Byzantine empires were also ravaged by pandemics over the centuries. From the Antonine to the Cyprian to the Justinian Plagues, millions of lives were lost, and countless others affected. So what we are facing may be new to us, yet sadly it is not new to human history!

Though scary for most and deeply devastating for families/communities who knew personally the depth of suffering these plagues cause, what is intriguing, is the effect these uncertain, unprecedented, and unforgiving times had on the Church! In spite of lives lost, distancing practiced, fear and anxiety escalating, Christianity EXPLODED!!! In fact, these pandemics were one of the main catalysts for the early Church’s growth. And history shows us Christians navigating disease, suffering, and death are part of our DNA… our shared story… God’s story… perhaps something you have not ever considered until, maybe now!

When Julian was the Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 he was VERY much against Christianity! In an attempt to curb the spread of this “disease”, Julian sought to revive traditional Roman and Greek religious practices by establishing pagan charities that mimicked the work of Christians. In a letter dated 362, Julian complained that the growth of Christianity was due to their “benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the holiness of their lives.” He also stated, “It is a disgrace that the Christians not only support their own poor, but ours as well!”

To which, Cyprian – Bishop of Carthage, responded with these words wrote, “There is nothing remarkable in cherishing merely our own people… but that one might do something more… overcoming evil with good and practicing a merciful kindness like that of God, should love his enemies as well. Thus good was done to all men, not only the household of faith.”

From its early beginnings, the Church — the followers of Jesus and his Way have been a light that shines brightly! Christians throughout the ages have loved and served sacrificially; in practical and visible ways demonstrating the love of Jesus by caring for the needs of their communities and also for the entire world. And through their generosity, their care, their leadership and their example the world was changed!

Years and pandemics later… what is God seeking to do in and through the Carlisle & Kilbride communities? What light is God shining through you? Through your actions? Your prayers? Your presence to and with others during these COVID days? And in light of the current global pandemic? How will our response to COVID-19 be remembered in history? Hmmmm… I wonder.

How will we be different once we start to return to activities and gatherings in the coming days/months? How will the global Church and our faith communities be different after our time of isolation? How will we look differently at traditions and practices “we have always done” in light of our new need to keep each other safe and healthy… still mindful of our need to social distance… restrict contact… curb the spread of the yet, untamed virus?

How will we passionately advocate for the people who risked and tirelessly serve us daily (demand better wages, safer workplaces, more equipment,, stricter regulations at LTC centres, better funding and care of our most vulnerable?… ) using our voices and power to mandate necessary changes? How will we, as Christ’s church continue to serve faithfully in this rapidly changing world in new, innovative, adaptable, and life-giving ways? How will we continue to support the work God is doing and embrace the ministry God imagines for us by generously offering ourselves, our financial resources, our talents, our time?

May the Spirit move (as she has since time immemorial) with power, joy, peace, and love to strengthen, empower, encourage, sustain and perhaps even “explode” the Church anew… through you… through me… through us as we serve, share, explore and embrace her resurrected call to thrive!

Be ready! Be safe! Be open!
The Spirit is on the move!

A VIDEO: What might Christ’s Church look like in the coming days/months/years?

Here’s the latest info regarding COVID-19 from The United Church of Canada?

From the National Church or

From our Horseshoe Falls Regional Council

Worship Offerings/Opportunities

Bulletins, full worship liturgies, puzzles are attached. As this week’s worship has 3 readings and 3 brief reflections the “message” attached includes the scriptures and songs so the flow and how one reading/reflection interacts with the next is evident. Also, please find a rock or stone (or several) to bring to your time of home worship! IF we were gathering face-to-face, baskets of rocks would be passed during worship for you to choose one that speaks to you… I hope you will choose a rock/stone to help animate our scriptures, reflections and to use as a touchstone during the service… and after worship is over!

If you know of someone who is shut-in or has no computer access to worship resources, please consider making a connection with them and sharing Sunday’s bulletin, message… perhaps even bring a stone/rock for them to use as they worship?!

Here is the weekly link to on-line worship experiences from across our great nation and church (364+)! I hope you open yourselves to seek out some different expressions of music, worship styles and settings and are curious to see how God is blessing in these different contexts and communities! Talk about signs of hope!

This week’s prayer as you journey… thanks to my colleague Rev. Paul Ivany

I miss people, God.
I miss being in community.
Seeing my co-workers. Talking to my neighbours. Connecting with people at church. Just being with others. I’m realizing, more than ever, the value of community.
After all this is over, I pray that I will never take for granted
a handshake, a hug, a smile, a person sitting next to me.
We need one another. We need community. Amen.

Rev. Paul Ivany

Wishing all the Mothers, Mums, Mommys, Moms, Mamas, Step-Moms,
Grandmas, Nanas, Grannies, Great-Grands… a blessed day on Sunday!
So glad the flower centres have re-opened in your honour! J

Be well!

Sue Cowan
Supply Minister
Carlisle-Kilbride United Churches