Another new year filled with hope and promise - and unfortunately, still the virus. Hopefully our church family are well, especially those who have had the virus in their midst. I personally know about ten people who have had the virus - and fortunately recovered. I pray that people will stay home and avoid catching and spreading the virus to others.
On Sunday, Patricia Power mentioned that the Sunday church service is the anchor for her week. How many of us lose track of the days, but with church on Sunday as an anchor, how much easier it is to keep track. It is a way to ground ourselves, too, in our Christian faith. To think that for over 2000 years, people around the world have heeded God's word in the fourth commandment ""Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20 verse 8). Then there is Hebrews 10 verse 25, I Timothy 3 verse 15b, and Psalm 107 verse 32, among others that encourage us to gather together to worship. While we cannot touch each other, with Zoom services we can at least gather online and attend services. I encourage you to use this new year to get back to the basics of our faith.
Many people regretted that the holidays were not the same as in previous years - regrets for what might have been. While most of us have wonderful memories of Christmases past and family visits, I wonder if they include all the work of decorating, preparing meals, cleaning - or like the year Paul and I drove 7-½ hours through a blizzard to be with his mother for Christmas - a drive that normally would take less than four hours or the year my Dad died Christmas morning. So many memories. Well this year, we made new memories to add to memories of other Christmases.
So now we have another year full of promise and hopes. What will it bring? I hope for our congregation a return to services in church in increasing numbers, fundraising - we will need to pay the bills after all, and more ecumenical and community involvement and more volunteers to serve. Will we be able to count on you?
Goodness - is it already so close to Christmas Day!!! I do hope I will see many familiar faces at our Christmas Eve Zoom service (December 24th, 7 p.m.) Just think, this year you will not need to rush dinner, put on coats and boots, and find a place to park. You and those who live with you can gather at the computer and join the service! Feel free to share the link with friends and family.
Just think of the generations of Christians who have celebrated the birth of God's son since the first Christmas Day - through wars and communist eras and strife, sometimes with many others; sometimes all alone.
As we are all God's children, then does that mean we are brothers and sisters of Christ or many times removed cousins! I like to think of us as one big family, a family like many others with good times and bad ones, agreements and disagreements, and sharing and caring, whether close together or far apart. I'm reminded of that on Sunday's when Marjorie Moir joins our Zoom services from her home in Florida. We are family with the same father.
How life has changed for us since last Christmas! Who would have thought then that we would be able to attend church at home. I know that people will miss sharing the turkey and trimmings, pies and other baking with family and friends the way they used to. Those with grandchildren not living in the same home or living in non-red zones are no doubt grieving not being able to get together to see them open their gifts. However, with the magic of the internet and services like Zoom and Facetime and other software, you can share the day with family near and far around the globe and show each other your trees and gifts.
This has been a year of learning to do old things new ways. What will 2021 bring? Will you want to continue to go to church from the comfort of your home or will you want to gather together in person with your church family?
As we listen to the familiar Christmas (and maybe some new ones) carols and hymns, may the Christmas (as in the birth of Christ) spirit seep into our hearts and souls.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2021 from me and on behalf of your Church Council,
Those 35 who were at the Zoom church service on November 22nd will realize that I have not lost my marbles! Sunday, November 22nd, was Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday in the church year. This coming Sunday will be the first Sunday in the church new year, the Sunday we know as Advent Sunday. Even though I started going to church as a baby in Mom's arms, I still learn new things, or at least am reminded of things I have forgotten or just not thought about.
While we are not in the building, lots of things are going on behind the scene - Sunday School activities (if your children are not involved, please contact Trudy, Mia or Vivian) are happening; there will be decorations at the front of the church; Anne, Trudy and Neil are working on changes for the sign on the front lawn; Council continues meeting; we still support the Food Bank (there is more about this later in the Weekly Message).
With all the things going on, we are also looking to the future and ways in which we can be more effective in terms of technology. There are grants for many things and hopefully there are those in the congregation who will volunteer to help us apply for some of them by sharing expertise in writing grant information, brainstorming ideas, or checking out information.
Though we cannot be together to share hugs and sing together and share sweets at Coffee Fellowship, in years to come, 2020 and Covid-19 will be but a memory. How many survived the power outages during the Ice Storm with lasting damages to their spirits? I expect that in years to come, it will be the same for Covid-19.
So, have a Happy New Year!
Everyone likes good news. When it comes a long time before the event, it can seem like forever before the event arrives. I think it will be like that for the vaccine for Covid-19. So far we've made it through last winter, spring, and summer. With winter pretty much here, there is yet another season to get through. Who knows how long before you and I and our friends have been vaccinated? Will we ever return to what we thought of as "normal"?
Do you remember as a child waiting for Christmas? Mom would let us go through the Sears and Eaton catalogues (hmmm, I guess they no longer exist - a sign of my age, I guess!) to choose a "family" gift for we three kids, my older brother and younger sister and I. One year, we chose a record player. Most of our other gifts seemed to be pjs and winter clothes and a toy. We were happy with what we received. It seemed that our friends had about the same in terms of gifts. That was the old "normal" - Christmas being more about family, church life, and friends than about how many gifts we received. Hmmm, perhaps a new normal where the volume and cost of gifts was less important and new ways of connecting with family, church and friends was more important would be an improvement.
On Sunday, there were 33 of us at the Zoom service. It's nice going to church via Zoom. Instead of seeing the backs of the heads of the people in the pews in front of us and not even that of the ones behind us, we can see each other's faces. The Coffee Fellowship afterwards gives us lots of time to chat and share - this past Sunday, it seemed that stuffed animals were the theme as several people brought out theirs to show off. Real ones join, too, usually cats and dogs. Why not join us this coming Sunday and bring a stuffed animal or pet!
In the meantime, I invite you to read the rest of this Weekly Message. Stephanie Wakelin pulls together the information sent to her and does a great job at keeping us informed about not only our church, but so much more.
Do you have any questions or ideas to share, please let Stephanie or I know.
For so many of us, Christmas has meant getting together around a table of food and feasting together, but for oh so many others, that is not their reality.
As a congregation, we have in past years had collected food and Food Bank donations at church; however, with our church closed due to Covid-19 (and unlikely to open before Christmas) we must find other ways to help those who might otherwise go hungry. I hope that you will join us in supporting your local Food Bank with financial assistance.
Many people have their outdoor Christmas decorations out and lit already - reminding us of the magical star in the East that led the Wise Men to the baby Jesus - the person we celebrate on Christmas.
I do hope that you are able to find a new way to celebrate Christmas this year. If you would like to join our Christmas Eve Zoom service, please send us an Email with your name and we will let you know the details for joining the service.
Interim Chair, Aylmer United Church Council
Our annual Thanksgiving activity has been to drive to the Champlain Lookout. My brother comes from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and we spend time taking drives and talking and talking. It's about the only time, now that our parents have passed away, that we are together for any amount of time.
This year, like for many other people, will be different. We text and talk and Email, but it's not quite the same as having hugs, sharing time and making memories together. Keeping in touch is important to us.
Our church family is in the same family. While we hoped to have the building open in September, we were not able to meet the restrictions for re-opening. Now, as I write this, Covid-19 cases in the area are increasing again. It looks highly unlikely that we will be able to get together even for Thanksgiving.
Will we be able to hold a Christmas Eve service in the sanctuary this year? We don't know, but are aiming for it. Keep well - if everyone wore masks and kept six feet apart and stayed home when not feeling well, we might just beat this virus sooner than later.
Continue to pray, please, for the end of Covid-19.
Today Joy was the very first Kindness AUC recipient from Aylmer United Church. She received a banana loaf with cream cheese icing and our postcard. See attached photos!
Our wonderful Joy is such a caring, loving person. She has been an active part of our Church Council, UCW and various other key committees for many years. Her jams and now muffins are a welcome tasty treat at church and in the community.
For me personally Joy has been a great help and inspiration at all the church fundraisers I have organized in recent years. My favourite memory is always her in butterfly wings leading a procession of Pumpkin Walkers! ❤
We are so proud of you Joy, love you and thank you for all you do!
If you wish to recognize someone at Aylmer United Church for their kindness please send an email to this email address. I will add their name to the list. Once a week it will be posted in the Weekly Message.
One recipient per week (occasionally 2) will receive their choice of a banana loaf with cream cheese icing or a loaf of whole wheat bread.
Christianity began with a gathering of people, joining together to listen to the Word of God and to learn the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Now, it seems that many people consider themselves Christians - but not ones who congregate in the fellowship of Christ. They say they are “spiritual” and feel no need to share in a community of faith as their forefathers and foremothers no doubt did. I wonder where they go should they need a child baptized, to marry in a church building, or to have a funeral service in a church - well, “to a church, of course” they and you might well say!
I wonder though, as fewer and fewer people who say they are Christians attend and support their congregations of faith, will there be a church building and a fellowship for them to turn to? So many church buildings have already been turned into condos, homes, or are being used for other non-church purposes
Aylmer United Church is just one of many churches facing a bleak future as a congregation of faith, having old buildings and fewer and fewer people supporting the work of the church. There is a real possibility that churches as we know them may cease to exist in our lifetime!
What can you and I do about it? I want to hear your opinion. Please send me a message.
It has been a while since we entered the doors of our church building as a congregation. What will it be like when we finally return? Will you come to church? We may still have sanitizing, masks, social distancing, no singing, extra cleaning, and so forth. Will you step up and volunteer to be part of the team to make it all possible?
A congregation is like a family, lots of different people all busy with their lives, but with all pulling together, it works. However, if Mom ends up doing it all and the others just figuring that that’s what Mom’s do, things begin to fall apart.
Just think of all the things needing doing in our church family on a Sunday morning - the bulletins prepared and ready to hand out; someone (or more than one) on hand to welcome people coming in; people to take up and count the offering; sometimes Communion dishes to prepare before and to wash and put away after; coffee to make for coffee fellowship and sweets to share. So many things - I’m sure I missed quite a few.
And then there are all the things that need doing when it’s not Sunday - managing the rentals; organizing events; participating in the various ministries that do the on-going work of the church; and on and on. Sometimes it’s exhausting just thinking about it.
So, where do you fit in the life of your church community? This enforced break due to Covid-19 has kept us apart. What will our congregation be like when we finally are able to get together? Can we count on you to be there?
My previous brief reflection as to what the present pandemic can teach us ( what I might say to a congregation should I still be in active ministry,) was presented under three main categories: 1. Life and Ourselves... 2 Faith... and 3. God.
Some have indicated a ‘fleshing out’ of the ideas would be helpful, and as I try to do this it will become evident to the reader that my theological perception of humanity, the universe, and Deity is rooted in the evolutionary point of view.
Life and Ourselves
Danger, fear, and uncertainty as previously noted, are not something new to human experience but are always existentially with us and are merely being highlighted again, this time in a dramatic way by the threat of the ongoing viral pandemic.
This ‘Covid Enemy’ may be likened to the visible top of an iceberg- an impressive indicator of a hidden and always wider lurking reality which underlies our fragile existence in the form of uncertainty and threat. Every enterprise, it forcibly reminds us, is ‘up for the melting,’ revealed in the moth that flies into the flame, the tree that dies, the crop that fails and, of most concern to ourselves at the moment, the ways in which we are affected by and strive to cope with this new surprisingly malignant and tricky intruder.
The shock and difficulties we have in coming to terms with this present historical moment also reinforces another fact worth noting regarding human nature itself, namely, the extent to which we humans persistently deceive ourselves into believing in the solidity and permanency of the world and its ability to offer us permanent security when it in itself is not a ‘thing’ but a process, an ongoing energetic movement of which we are but an integral and miniscule part.
On the other hand, lest we sink into the slough of despair, there remains two factors to be celebrated::
The virus reveals the innovative courage of many people once they are faced with a truly difficult challenge- the positive realists, let’s call them.
Already humbled by the fact that the ‘Covidity’ of life itself does not allow them to demand our environment be a ‘Mr.Rogers Neighbourhood,’ they push ahead so that engaging the enemy with sacrifice and common sense and mutual cooperation (three steps ahead, two steps back ) they move ahead to a point we hope, where ‘resolution’ is achieved.
Another remarkable and positive result has come through the back door so to speak with the uncomfortable requirement for Social Isolation. Social isolation has forced us to recognize that although deprived of the regular active patterns of life, and the social warmth, entertainment and support they offer, we still can ‘stay calm and carry on’. Surprise!
Even more importantly for some, Corona Virus Isolation has brought individuals to a point where quiet self-reflection in the present moment has revealed how psychologically victimized we often allow ourselves to be, captured by that often unrecognized inner enemy- the restless demanding mind.
In the midst of regrets about the past and anxieties for the future we are brought through the new availability of time to allow ourselves to investigate what Jesus meant when he spoke about ‘’the peace that passes understanding’’ and ‘’the abundant life.’’ We recognize the dangers of our ‘Inner Covidity’ while also glimpsing new possibilities.
For people of faith, that is those who subscribe to the thought that our Big Bang universe is not simply something which ‘bangs on’ without design or perhaps even meaning, and who persist in trusting the Who/What/That Which Is/ we call God (Lets use the term ‘Intelligent Source’ for now) there is no outstanding ‘theological’ problem with Covid.
The pandemic is not elevated to some apogee of the manifestation of what we call evil. We do not honour it with that status because we know eventually it will itself die of its own virulence (should we humans allow the world to continue). Its dark side can only bring contrasting aspects of light to appear in human conscious awareness.
As suggested, we have dealt with this problem of trust before, in our wrestling with and acceptance of the uncertainties and disasters life generally presents.Despite the world’s paradoxical nature, its yin and yang, our sense of trust in a Greater Reality has not forsaken us. Nor have we lost our appreciation of the wonders of creative manifestation or the general goodness of life. We have not been overwhelmed.This, let us emphasize, is also true of many who have no formal connection with organized religion but who live with an intuitive appreciation of deeper realities. For such individuals trust in Life Itself, even if not clothed in ‘God terminology’ still remains.
Those who reject out of hand the possibility of God’s existence may well find in Covid 19 another handy opportunity to point out the gullibility of believers, not realizing that faith is often linked to doubt and that in Christianity down the centuries the attempt to reconcile the concept of a God presented as love with the chaos of a suffering world has often been addressed under the term of ‘theodicy’- and never, of course, with complete success- but we have tried and continue to do so.
Theology and philosophy can never ‘prove’ the existence of God, the God who Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection personally ‘unmasks’ in human terms.
God is revealed in Jesus because Jesus personalizes the Unimagined in a manner geared to our human perception, and speaks according to his times in terms appropriate to a dualistically oriented and mostly uneducated society. How can parables, ( the chief mode of his teachings ) be relevant without the dramatization of acting and reacting individuals who prance, as Shakespeare indicates, on the stage of life? How can the ‘character’ of Deity be maligned when the Mystical Word becomes flesh which, -Amazing Grace’ !!! we recognise in our bones as our very own when prompted by thinkers and seers to be recognised as our very DNA?
This Covid experience may well be the modern ‘tilting point’ for some, especially for those in church communities, when it comes to a recognition, re-evaluation, and acceptance of their growing evolving conceptualization of Deity. Covid reinforces our interest in and sensitivity to the Unknown out of which we emerge and into which, in acceptance and surrender, we go.
Christian preaching has long emulated St.Paul’s speech in Athens in which he notes the Greeks had an altar to an ‘unknown God’ and states that the true God is not kept as an idol in temples but is That, Who, revealed in Jesus the Christ, inhabits all things, gives life to all and is ‘’’the one in whom we live and move and have our being’.This is the God Who is Spirit, not the God as some anti Christians might suggest who needs to be justified, or as some conservative Christians would have it, to be prayed to for relief, seeking an answer provided by the Great and often apparently inadequate Interventionist.
Covid invites us to embrace the God within...this largely unknown God, the God untrammeled by the feckless mnd, the God who is not so much to be preached as lived-Unmasked for the sake of the loving of the world.
The unmasking of God’s Self goes on, and on and on ...and with it, the unmasking of you and me brothers and sisters (and all inbetween).
Tolstoy, toward the ending of his novel ‘War And Peace’ gives us words to ponder-especially at this time.
‘’ Life is everything. Life is God. And while there is life there is joy in the consciousness of the Godhead. To love life is to love God. More difficult and more blessed than all else is to love one’s life in its sufferings, in undeserved sufferings.’’
‘To which we all say…( I trust )