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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.
Pandemic protocols put in place to protect are slowly, and precariously, lifting. In solid faith that at some point we will be able to start gathering in person, Immanuel staff has begun planning for what that might look like. I am going to try to outline what we are hoping to do.
Our assumption is that opening will happen in stages. We will not suddenly be allowed to meet with 200 people for a worship service. Let’s say the first number is 10. With 10 we can start live-streaming the service with a larger worship leadership group. Live-streaming is something we want to work toward because it takes what we have learned about online services and puts it in a format most useful even when many or most of us are gathered in the building. And we continue to hope for that reality.
10 is also a number of people that fit in your home or in your backyard. When we start moving out of isolation we really want to capitalize on two things: 1) many of us kinda like the comfort of home thing at least sometimes, and 2) many of us are pretty excited to get together with somebody, anybody even. So phase one will include 10 people leading a live-stream service from 2626 Mayfield and 10 people gathered at a home in your neighbourhood. You know how much it helps to have other people around to raise your awareness, hold you accountable for putting pants on, and maybe even singing and praying and reading along? We want to help you get used to that again. Yes, we are really that nice.
Phase 2. Let’s assume phase two is the gatherings of 50. At this stage, we will, of course, start auctioning off seats to the top 50 bidders. And yes, the seats at the back go to the highest bidders. Seats will be in family groups appropriately distanced, doors will be propped open, communion will be BYOB (bread), and the offering (and seat payment) will be online (maybe forever). Okay, kidding about the seat payments. A more likely method is to have everyone divided into groups of 50 with a schedule of when people come. Those not in attendance will be able to live-stream the service from home. We sense from what we are reading that there may be restrictions for seniors at the start, and things like nursery and Sunday School will be restricted as well. So, the service from home will be pretty important for a while.
Phase three will likely be about 100 people. This will function similarly to phase two just with more people. However, what we are hoping for is that the house-church part of this experiment will keep going. The plan is to try this because we will likely have to, but phase 4 will be considering how best can we keep the house-church experience going. Perhaps, once a month we can have House-Church Sunday where the pastors send out a video teaching that you watch with your mini-community from someone’s home. Or perhaps we will alternate house church and a communal gathering at 2626 Mayfield Road. Possibly there will be activities for you to do in your community that are acts of service to bless your neighbours. The exact plan is still in process, but just like many people will continue to work from home, we think there is some level at which we should maintain “worship” and “service” in your home or neighbourhood as well.
A visioning day was held on February 22. And last week a broader follow-up survey was done. Some of what came out consistently included participation beyond Sunday, an emphasis on growing younger, and a desire to connect in our community. That vision process was started with no expectation of what we are presently living through. However, God has an amazing way of taking what we are thinking and translating it and using it for his plans and purposes. Could it be that in such a time as this we are being prepared for the next phase of Immanuel’s ministry? We have shown resilience and adaptability these last couple of months; let’s consider how some of what we have learned can be used to help us move forward on our mission.
One concrete plan. As staff and executive council continue to think about the broader vision, we have already decided to do a series for the month of June called “The Art of Neighbouring”. This series is designed to get us all thinking about what it means to actually love our actual neighbours. Allow the teaching and the conversations that arise around it to guide you as you consider what the next new normal will be for us as the Immanuel community.
~Pastor Erick Schuringa
Hi Immanuel Family,
I want to give you an update on my educational journey. Meeting requirements to become a Pastor in the Christian Reformed Denomination is somewhat of a complicated process, so I will do my best to explain things simply. I should have learned how to explain things by now, right?
I am currently in the final week of my final semester at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. It has been quite the journey. In September 2016 Jill and I moved to Grand Rapids to start this chapter of my ministry preparation. Early on, I made experiential learning a priority. I participated in the first concurrent pastoral internship at the Seminary in a local church in GR. After completing that internship, and another required cross-cultural internship, I was still longing for more hands-on experience in ministry. A professor of mine who was equally passionate about experiential learning helped enable me in my obsession to learn while doing. This professor, Geoff, also happened to be friends with Erick. When Erick reached out to Geoff after your last ministry intern, Cara Dehaan, left, it was a match made in heaven. I’m not exaggerating either, Erick’s words on the phone to me were literally, “giddy up!” So, in January 2019 Jill and I moved here and I began my service at Immanuel. I’m sure I don’t have to recap anything more since my time here has been SO memorable for you all (I guess I missed the seminary class on humility).
Since I’ve been in Brampton, I have been taking classes online. Online class has been tough for me. I am a verbal processor and need peers and professors to discuss with. I empathize with all our students who have been subjected to online classes against their will right now. What has gotten me through this online learning is the very reason I decided to switch; our church. Preaching, youth alpha, pastoral care, Executive team meetings, and all the rest of my opportunities here at Immanuel have kept me grounded. If I needed to discuss things, I knew the entire Immanuel Staff was more than willing to listen and help me out. There have been moments when I seriously doubt my abilities, and at times even my whole calling. However, the consistent encouragement you as a church give me is what gets me through and makes me even stronger.
Part of my journey through seminary involved a 2-part final examination. This examination takes place alongside of the courses that I am taking online. The first part is an oral examination in front of a panel of 3 professors (unfortunately Geoff was not one of them). My oral exam took place a couple months ago in March. I was certainly anxious about it and was not myself at all in the weeks leading up. But the support of the Immanuel staff, your prayerful support as a church, my amazing wife, and the Grace of God got me through. I was so excited to share the news that I passed because you all celebrated with me! Every congratulatory email, text message, and Facebook comment brought a smile to my face and sometimes tears to my eyes. In this time of physical-distancing we are sharing our burdens, which is important, but I am thankful that we can share our joys with each other too. The 2nd part of my examination is a case study involving a particularly complicated real-life issue that a Pastor might face in ministry. Part 2 is less intense than part 1 of the exam, but was still thought provoking and time consuming. I had to write up a thorough and well-researched response to this case study and then defend that response verbally to my same panel of professors. The case study part of my exam took place at the end of April. I am excited to say that I passed!
Now, if all that information about graduating seminary wasn’t complicated enough for you, there is also a process that the Christian Reformed Denomination requires aspiring Pastors to complete. The process, in short, involves mentor meetings, classis meetings, and a Zoom interview with some denominational representatives. While I still have some minor loose ends to tie up here, I passed my interview and am all set to complete the Denominational process. The million-dollar question right now is, “What does completion look like?” Will there be a ceremony once things get back to normal and social restrictions are lifted? I certainly hope so. Walking across a stage and shaking the Seminary President’s hand is something I’ve looked forward to for a while. The CRC requires that before any Minister of the Word can receive a full time long term call to a church they must stand before Synod and receive a blessing. Just in case you are unfamiliar, Synod is a yearly gathering of CRC churches across North America. This has also been jeopardized by Covid19. However, I will be blessed by a select few representatives of the CRC over a Zoom call in June.
When I started my journey in Seminary and into ministry preparation, I was full of wondering and expectation. I didn’t know if Greek class would keep me up late with homework, if my professors would answer all my questions about God, the bible, Christian ethics, or if my time in Seminary would truly prepare me for life as a Pastor. Now that I am almost done, I am equally full of wondering and expectation. Will I be able to experience a graduation ceremony? Where will God call me now? Will ministry be fundamentally different now that Covid19 has rocked our society? Will I be ready?
Most of my questions are different now that I’m almost finished, except one, “will I be prepared, will I be ready?” While only time tells the answer to my other questions, I think this one can be replied to right now. I will never be ready, but I am certainly prepared. Your encouragement as my church family has told me this. Jesus has told me this too, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me … surely I am with you always, until the very end of the age.”
Thank you for all the support you have given me this past year and a half. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and serve God. Thank you for your patience as I learn. Thank you for your trust to let me be a pastor to you. I am excited to continue my ministry here for the time being and for the discernment process around what that might look like long term.
– Pastor Derek