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During this time of physical distancing (aka. Sheltering in place), we at Immanuel are encouraging everyone to practice worshiping at home. God promises us that where 2 or more are gathered in His name, He will be present with them (Matthew 18:20). Each week we will be posting a worship guide on this page for you to download and follow along. Links can be found on our youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC25ylfDRt9nydLqmFx7sPeA.
God bless you in your worship! We look forward to worshiping with you in person once the quarantine ends.
Thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s communication about re-opening the building for worship. Your input is greatly appreciated, especially because there is very little informal conversation such as we usually have before and after a Sunday worship service.
We have made a decision for now. These days most decisions are “for now”. We did not expect the province to give us permission to meet in larger numbers so soon. To be honest, I am a little baffled about why we as churches are allowed to meet in groups larger than any other group in Ontario. I suspect many of you feel the same way because the most common answer we received to last week’s communication was “I am not feeling it is safe to come back together yet” or “if the service is that limited then I am not interested in coming yet.” Others are rather excited to come together and many options were offered on how to make it work best.
Having heard all of these, weighed our options, read many articles about what is permitted and what others are doing, we as staff have decided upon the following as our first steps:
Allow me to explain our reasoning. We want to get back to worshipping together. We want to begin the process of moving there. However, there are many steps to take and we want to take them in a helpful way. At present, the majority of people plan to watch the service online and so we want to make sure that is available on Sunday morning which we consider the traditional “prime time” for a worship service. In order for there to be a recorded service on Sunday, we need to record earlier. We do not yet have the live-stream capability, though we are working hard to get it if we can. You may be surprised to know that a few other churches are seeking the equipment and so there are backorders etc. For now, those who want to be part of live worship at our building you are welcome to come on Thursday evening.
Our goal is to try out live-streaming, work out the kinks and bugs if we can (the largest challenge is our internet is not a fiber-optic line and may not be strong enough), and then work toward simultaneous worship on Mayfield Rd or in your home. This is a feature we would like to maintain on an ongoing basis.
While we welcome people to “Thursday night live”, it is our responsibility (mandated by the province) to let you know the guidelines. A full slate is being worked on, but it will include pre-registration, answer standard Covid questions, parking in every other space, spaced seating, avoiding bathroom use, masks for singing, not hanging around in the building after to socialize, etc. So while you are welcome, it will be a distance kind of connection. It will be good to see people, but connecting might be a stretch.
So here is an “in the meantime” suggestion: as the province allows us each to expand our bubble, consider gathering with up to 10 people to watch worship together. Or, immediately after worship, gather in a backyard to connect, discuss, and pray. Or, if you are not ready for that kind of closer quarters, continue to connect online with a group.
As I said, this is how we will start “for now”. Thursday, July 2 will be the first live worship option and as things change and systems are figured out and more people are ready to come out we will adjust. Until then, please keep finding meaningful safe ways to worship, connect, and serve.
~Pastor Erick Schuringa
Let’s assume that most of us are “pretty good neighbours”. We keep our place neat, seldom make too much noise, shovel our walks and give friendly greetings to those living around us when we see them. This is good.
But just exactly who is my neighbour? The Art of Neighbouring, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon is the title of a book and subsequent spin-off sermon and small group series that we are starting this week. The implied definition of neighbour is given through a bingo card with nine squares. You are the centre. Who are the people living beside across and behind you? Modify if you are fortunate enough not to live on a full grid. We, for example, can’t see people behind us, and so will use four houses across from us and two on either side. But am I allowed to skip the house that for some reason I have never gotten to know and suspect I won’t be best friends with?
Well just exactly who is my neighbour? Luke 10 includes the story of the Good Samaritan. Oh, you know that one? Yeah, you are a neighbour when you help someone in need. Love your neighbour as yourself. The authors of this series ask the question “what if Jesus meant us to love our actual neighbours?” I don’t know about you, but I can only say that perhaps I like some of my neighbours. Love requires a relationship. Love leads to an opportunity to be served. Love and neighbour equals sacrifice.
Which brings me to the horror of the murder of George Floyd. A stark reminder that there are huge unspoken barriers to being a neighbour. Rampant systemic racism does not produce good neighbours. When you speak to a neighbour who is black how do you enter this conversation? Your gut screams “avoid it” just like we have often thought being colour blind is the solution to racism. That is the equivalent of saying history has not happened and race does not exist. Things are the way they are because of slavery, which was supported by theology and preaching, and a bias that has wormed it’s way deep into our souls. You may not practice overt racial discrimination, but make no mistake, if you live in North America this is not somebody else’s problem. We are a racist society. We may be people in that society trying not to be racist; but we are still a racist society. You get treated somewhat according to the colour of your skin. I am part of the reality of white privilege, which means I am given the benefit of the doubt before any questions are asked. I may prove them wrong, but I start most conversations on top of the hill. I can’t imagine what it is like to be presumed wrong just because of how I look. We need to own and name these realities if we hope to move forward out of them. Humble honesty about our brokenness is the Christian teaching of confession….and naming the truth begins to set you free from its power.
So when we start this difficult journey (it is the “Art” of neighbouring because it needs to flow from the creative depths of your soul, not the “duty” of neighbouring which requires going through the motions) let us be clear that it is going to be difficult. Difficult in the “worth the effort” category. Difficult in the “whoever wants to follow me must take up their cross” category. Difficult in the “change the world one relationship at a time” category.
So, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” If you want to really experience your truth, I recommend that you find someone or a group of people outside of your home with whom to do the exercises of this series. We are recommending online small groups for now. But please recognize that your answer to questions and your accountability for living out the basic command to love multiplies exponentially when you say it out loud and do it together. For the sake of your neighbours, partner up with people on this same journey. Feel free to ask staff to help make a connection, but please engage in this neighbouring journey. We can change the world one neighbour at a time; we were called to do so; this is a basic building block of following Jesus.
~Pastor Erick Schuringa