The Big Picture

As you have probably read, Derek will be with us for a good part of the next couple of months and I will continue my limited role at ClearView for that time.  During that time, we will be working on a sermon series together.  We are even trying something new which is preparing a sermon on the same passage for the same week for times when we will both be preaching the same passage in different places.

The theme for the fall is Re-Church: devoted to teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. (Acts 2:42)  The sermons for this theme will be based on the church experience in the book of Acts.

The term “Re-Church” is a conversation starter.  It may be exciting or unsettling.  It is definitely strange because it is not familiar, not jargon, not really even a legit word.  But it is followed by Scripture…and not just any passage, but a foundational familiar text from the Pentecost narrative that describes the Pentecost church.  And the content of the verse begins with the soft invitation to devote yourself.  This is not a command, it is an opportunity to enter in and commit.  And the four commitments are the air, food, drink, and clothing of church.  Teaching includes preaching and podcasts, sermons, and small group study.  Fellowship is gathering informally on a lawn or for an hour on-line.  Breaking bread happens in a worship setting under the title communion and happens at a picnic table when a two or more commune in the presence of Jesus with food and drink and honest conversation.  And finally prayer, final on the list but integral to every aspect as we pray for guidance from the teaching, pray for each other in fellowship, pray for the presence of Christ to nourish us in the breaking of bread.

Re-Church is going back again to the simple formula of basic mission building blocks in Acts 2.  But we always read in context.  The chapter starts with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit…what does that mean for us?  And there is the end result of “many more were added to their number”… what is the Spirit leading us to measure at this time?  Robert Webber wrote a book entitled “Ancient Future” which connects going back to our roots and discerning the future.  Re-Church is about both going back to our foundation in Christ and forward to where the Spirit leads us in this time.

As we adjust to our new reality likely best symbolized by the masks we wear, we have had little choice but to rethink a few things about church.  In Re-Church time we want to intentionally tie our re-thinking to our biblical roots.  As we ask “how do we do church today?” we want to revisit the question “what is church at any time?”   We will begin in the book of Acts because the early church was launched from the reality that Jesus had ascended and the Holy Spirit had been poured out.  From there they had to learn to discern the Spirit’s leading and to deal with the challenges around them.  That is still true today.  We still have an ascended Lord Jesus on the throne and the Holy Spirit breathing life.  So though our worship is COVID shaped, and our discipleship is digital, and our mission to bless is through masks – we continue to be called to figure out what God is calling us to be and to do right here and right now.  And as always, that is best done in community, around the Word, sharing ourselves and our stuff and our food, and definitely bathed in prayer.

Opening, For Now

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:

  1. Wait until July to start.
  2. Start with taping the service on Thursday evenings with a “live studio audience.”
  3. Continue to offer this recorded service on YouTube.

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

The Art of Neighbouring

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

What we are hoping for

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

An Update from Pastor Derek

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

Strengths and Personality

“These differences are exciting for two reasons: 1) it explains why these strange others function the way they do, and 2) it lets us know that someone else finds energy and joy in doing tasks we find tiresome or difficult.  In short, we need each other.”

Immanuel Staff Team’s agenda changed a bit this week.  We decided to revisit Strengthsfinder, which is a test we have all taken that tells you, surprise surprise, your strengths. It is a good sign that we are once again stepping into this test because it means we are doing more than thinking about how to handle the pandemic.  In general, I would say that in the last week or so I have felt a shift from adjusting, to anticipating what might be as we move forward and out of pandemic mode.

We do Strengthsfinders as a team because though there are 34 themes, as they are called, you can’t have them all at the top of your list.  And since it is a ranking list, some have to be at the bottom too.  For example, three of my five top themes are in Ruth Ann’s bottom five, and vice versa, three of her top five are in my bottom five.  Which is a long way of saying we fit the cliché “opposites attract”.  As a staff team, we will chart our collective top fives and see that as a group we have a vast array of abilities.  These differences are exciting for two reasons: 1) it explains why these strange others function the way they do, and 2) it lets us know that someone else finds energy and joy in doing tasks we find tiresome or difficult.  In short, we need each other.

I am guessing that the idea of needing each other is not a hard sell right now.  If ever there was a time in life when we know we need each other it is now, because we can’t be with each other.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the grass is greener on the other side of the fence when you are not allowed to go through the gate and get a closer look.  (That is a little known fuller version of that last saying).

We need each other. Even introverts need other people.  In fact, introversion (and extroversion for that matter) are much misunderstood realities.  For one thing, as with most labels, applying them often makes us think we know what is in the box.  Just because it says “kitchen utensils” on the outside doesn’t guarantee that someone didn’t put books inside.  I test “extrovert” though I used to test “introvert”.  Basically I am not strong in either direction.  We are all on a continuum.  It is probably better to say more introverted or more extroverted.

I would also suggest that there are different kinds of introversion and extroversion.  There is extroverted thinking – people who don’t know what they want to say until they start talking it out.  I know someone who often starts talking on one side of an argument and without any input or interruption from others may land on the other side before stopping.  I also know extroverted feelers (same thing except with feelings) and extroverted experiencers.  An extroverted experiencer did not really enjoy something until someone else has heard about it.  

Introverts come in a variety pack as well.  Some are quietly processing on the inside and won’t share unless asked.  Others are very expressive of thought and feeling with people they know, but not interested in connecting with more and new people.  Still others keep their feelings to themselves but express their ideas readily.

I wonder if, in the end, all of us both gain energy from being in some circumstances with some people while at the same time all of us need time away from others to rejuvenate.  All of these personality preferences and strengths tests simply help us understand that we are unique and that our uniqueness needs to be complemented and completed by the variety of other unique people around us.  Again, likely not a hard sell at a time like this.


The Ol’ Dog

Old dogs are not known for learning new tricks.  And let’s face it, we all have some old dog in us.

My old dog Sofee

That said, an old dog stuffed into a cage for weeks on end will be pretty creative about finding a way to get out and, failing that, to survive.

And no, I am not talking about Sofee, who played a star role in the children’s time on Sunday as well as getting herself on the blooper reel by barking hard while I was recording the message. (Great edit there, Derek).

This old dog needs to begin by retracting the statement that I don’t think I can preach to a camera.  I am actually going to swing hard to the other end of the pendulum and say that I am not sure I can come back to live.  I may have to send in a video message even when we are able to be together.  Think about it.  I would have the same weekend as everybody else.  I could worship along with you and not be practicing mental distancing (being physically present but thinking about something else) on Sunday mornings.  And I could continue to wake up on Monday mornings ready for a new week.  Oh, this is not about me?  Alright, but if you want access to my dreams…there it is.   You would benefit too, of course, because no mental and emotional distancing makes for much better pastoral conversations on a Sunday morning.

But fear not, that is just whimsy.  It is clear that we want what we know.  Response to online worship has general pushed in the direction of “help it feel as normal as possible” and “this is not the time to teach us old dogs’ new tricks.”  As much as we are able to adapt because we have to, we are even better at slipping back to the old normal.

I am having no trouble keeping up my personal workout and stretching routine at home and alone now, but I suspect that post-isolation I will need competitive peer pressure and the cost of a gym membership to keep me going.

I don’t miss picking up coffee (and a donut, in honour of my dad of course) or getting fast food or restaurant food.  But I doubt I will stay home and eat my vegetables when the cage is opened.  Ruth Ann and I won’t likely continue our present habit of fruit salad before worship and an omelet after either.  And we won’t do crazy amounts of puzzles anymore, or go for a walk every single day, or have excessive numbers of Zoom meetings…but I will remember that if I need to go away for a weekend, I could always just mail it in by recording a sermon on Friday.


What are we Learning?

We are a few weeks into this enforced experiment in distance worship and scattered community.  I was horrified to notice that I have begun to settle into a routine.  I am getting used to this! That should not be.

This past weekend we celebrated Easter.  Thank you to everyone who participated in art, song, encouragement, leading and working at worship.  I chose the word “working” intentionally.  Worship is work.  Especially when you are in your home with nobody but your “homies”.  I suspect that there are a lot of different experiences out there ranging from “introvert relief: it is good to be able to worship without so many people watching me and trying to talk to me” to “distance frustration: I can’t worship without people sitting and singing around me.”  Maybe you have learned to step in and engage in a whole new way.  Maybe you have slumped back in frustration.  Maybe you are just waiting this thing out.  Whatever your personal experience, own it and face it because it is probably instructive for you to pay attention to what is going on for you in this unusual time.

From a mix of personal experience and a few conversations, this is what I have been learning.

“That said, there are worship food-groups.  I mean, just because fewer people read a prayer doesn’t mean we aren’t going to serve prayer anymore. ‘Guide you best’ sometimes means pushing the unpopular.”

  1. Worship is work.  I know, I already said that but only because it is a big learning.  I suspect most of us are very aware right now how peer pressure works in worship.  Our peers positively push us to participate properly.  Back in Pre-Covid19 worship, we used to start together, sing together, pray together, stand together, commune together, and end together.  Yesterday I managed to sing along a little.  If I worked at it I could do this, but I had to work at it.  On Good Friday we went to all the stations. It took discipline. This is hard work.  But may I be so bold as to suggest that this is good for us? You know, “no pain, no gain” and all that.  We are learning what it takes to worship when we are not surrounded by our favourite cloud of witnesses.  This is a useful tool.  There are times in life when we need to step into God’s presence without the habit of Sunday 10 am and without the support of the crowd.  We are learning to stand on our own two feet.  Hard, yes.  Hopefully short-term and infrequent too.  But good learning, nonetheless.
  2. We don’t all engage in the same ways.  We always knew this, but we experience it differently in distance worship.  We send out a lot of opportunities.  We know which four people read and do everything we send.  We assume the rest of you do some picking and choosing.  We send out a full order of worship, but we can see (hope you knew we were watching 🙂 ) how many people open each part.  In fact, we want more information about what you are using so we developed a brief survey asking you to let us know what parts you participated in.  It will be anonymous; it is a way for us to get a sense of what works so that we can keep learning how to guide you best. The link is at the end of this article. That said, there are worship food-groups.  I mean, just because fewer people read a prayer doesn’t mean we aren’t going to serve prayer anymore. “Guide you best” sometimes means pushing the unpopular.  You will sit there, young lady, until you finish praying…and then you can listen to more worship songs.  Sorry, if that brings back hard childhood (or parenting) memories.
  3. You, the Immanuel Community, are wonderfully and consistently open, supportive, thankful and encouraging.  And you are resilient as well; you are hanging in there.  Thank you for all the ways you have engaged, attempted to engage, engaged elsewhere or disengaged graciously, whichever fits in your case.  We are figuring this out together and there is a strong sense that we are working in community even as we can’t be in communion together.

So that is an introduction and three points.  Let me end with a personal illustration.

I said earlier that I attempted to sing along on Easter.  Sometime last week I was saying that I don’t really need music.  I seldom listen to music when I drive, never when I am working, and I have discouraged people (very kindly) from sending me songs and expecting me to feel what they feel.  No offense to anyone, but music is not my first love language.  But then last week I was sitting at the island in our kitchen and Ruth Ann was playing one of the songs she was preparing for the Easter Service and it moved me to tears.  Couldn’t tell you which song.  It was the music reaching my soul and moving me.  Something may not be our favourite or even our natural go-to, but sometimes those are precisely the things God uses to sneak up on us and embrace us with his love.

Distance worship may not be our favourite and let’s hope it does not become our go-to way of being church, but pay attention to how God may use this time to sneak up and teach you something about his love for you.

~Pastor Erick Schuringa

Please click this survey link to help us cook more nutritious worship meals for you. 


At Home worship

During this time, we at Immanuel want to support those who are worshiping at home in the interests of their safety and the safety of others. God promises us that where 2 or more are gathered in His name, He will be present with them (Matthew 18:20). So if you are in person at our church building, at home with your family, or gathering virtually online, know that the Holy Spirit is present in your worship. To watch the service online “live” or afterward as a recording, go to our youtube channel

God bless you in your worship! We look forward to worshiping with you all in person once the quarantine ends.

Leading into Uncharted Territory

About a year and a half ago, Immanuel hosted Todd Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains.  Little did we know then that what we were doing would prepare us for today.  We provided the building, but we should give due credit that it was Lesli VanMilligen of Faith Formation Ministries and Classis Toronto that set up the meeting.   

What I want to share with you is a description of how we have been leading.  I will list some principles and show how they have come into play.  Hopefully, this gives you a glimpse behind the scenes – in case you were wondering, 

  1. Be decisive.  Leading in a time like this requires some quick decisions.  We were not able to call a meeting and gather before deciding to cease building-based ministry.  Now, at least physically, we are not allowed to meet at all.  You will be glad to know that over a decade ago when we rewrote our bylaws there was a clause added allowing for attending a meeting by electronic means.  Phew. 
  2. Know what you don’t know.  It seems almost contradictory to #1.  These first two work together.  Be decisive but make short term decisions.  The building is closed until further notice.  We are worshipping the way we are until we adapt it again.  Our community is able to carry on well right now.  We never know the future, but right now we actually know experientially how little we know about even our immediate future.  We make a quick clear decision for today because we need to act now, but we don’t pretend there won’t be a new decision tomorrow. 
  3. Ask for help.  Those under 25 are called “digital natives”.  They grew up in a world with the internet.  Pastor Derek is running the camera and sound for our Sunday presentations, not me.  The high school students in my small groups are guiding me on how to post material for our conversations on Instagram…okay, they are telling me everything about Instagram.  Leading does not require knowing everything yourself.  Leading often includes a healthy dose of following – following those who know the land in which you travel. 
  4. Rework your assumptions.  Would it be fair to say that most of us long considered the church to be that place we go to on Sunday morning?  You may have heard me, once or twice, push back on that idea.  Even though I have said it, I also needed the force of the ban on gathering to actually begin to live into what it really means to be the church wherever you are.  Again, we are just beginning this exploration, and much is yet to be learned, but there are many voices noting that when we return to public gatherings, we will not be the same.  And, especially now, we know that we don’t know exactly what that will look like. 
  5. Keep your focus.  With all that is changing and moving and shifting under our feet, we still maintain that our task is to help people connect with Jesus in a way that transforms the way they live.  We connect online and by phone so that we can experience the body of Christ.  We send out study guides and worship videos so that we can sense that together we continue the conversation of what it means to see Jesus and follow him at this time.    
  6. Err on the side of over-communicating. Let’s admit it, just because we read something doesn’t guarantee that we know it.  To help people into a changed reality requires a bit of repetition.  So if we are sending you too many things, at least know that we are doing it on purpose.  We want to make sure people feel connected, informed and that we are trying hard to be church together.  We are trying to keep a basic pattern and flow to each week, but since this pattern is still new that doesn’t help yet.  Please be patient.  Please stay informed.  Please learn what you need to read in order to participate in a way that helps you grow. 

We are in Holy Week, walking towards Good Friday and Easter.  As you read the Gospel narrative this week pay attention to how many times the disciples are lost and confused, if not outright clueless.  This year we are perfectly poised to join them.  We don’t know what is coming.  But we do know how the story ends.  It ends in resurrection, in new life, in the opportunity for a fresh beginning.  Let us follow Jesus boldly this week into what is dark and unknown, sharing the confidence that he will raise us with him up and out and into the light on the other side. 

~Pastor Erick Schuringa