Rev.  Jan Bihl
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Update for Friday, April 3rd, 2020  

Grace and Peace to you, Como Lake friends.  

COVID-19 information is coming in “fast and furious” from many sources. I have participated in several United Church webinars on the impact of COVD-19 on the church…and each time they give new information it is with the caveat, “this could change”! Just when we all would like definitive answers, there are few to be had. Many Government programs are being offered and yet it’s difficult to even get online to access the needed information. It’s confusing. Its’ frustrating.  It’s wearying.  

In all this, it is more important than ever for us to find and live in meaning, hope, and genuine connection with others who will hear us out, lift us up, and spur us on to live our best humanity. My hope is that these updates connect us and give information and tools to do just that.  

What is inspiring you?  

Personally, I am amazed at the good will I see in the many who are following the guidelines to flatten the curve. I’m moved by the essential-services front-line workers’ dedication and the support from their families. And I am so heartened with the caring initiative and response right here at Como Lake. Teams have been working to make a caring contact with every household in the congregation. Mail, phone, and email contacts are being updated. We have received numerous responses from both callers and receivers about how uplifting and encouraging this has been for them.    

Maybe take a moment sometime today to think about what is inspiring you. Then maybe whisper a “thank-you”, send a note, make a call, write a poem… How about sending an inspiring story or source of inspiration to the church email so we can pick one to share in an email update or news sheet?  

What is supporting you?  

 

We may need to refresh our coping tool kit. Here are some resources I have found both encouraging and practical on the topic of our collective and individual COVID-related grief.  

-  Following up on the article I sent last week about an interview with David Kessler, an expert on grief (https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief), here is the link to a 10-minute interview with David from this week on CBC’s The Current. (https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-63-the-current/clip/15768483-march-31-part-2-rent-strike-adam-gopnick-on-life-in-new-york-andrea-beecheys-instagram-show-david-kessler-on-grief beginning at 51:40) -         

On a similar topic, this TED Talk by Jane Whitlock – https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_whitlock_what_i_learned_about_life_from_death/transcript?language=en  

Thank-you!

- We are grateful for regular donations as well as unexpected ones that are coming in -         

- Kudos to all the callers and receivers of calls from the caring connection team!

- Thank-you all for helping us update our contacts and for all your offers of support and help!  

Church Office, Phone, Email, Website

- We are operating mostly remotely now by using phone, email, and online methods of connecting with individuals, groups, and holding meetings. The church phone (604-931-8555) and email ([email protected]) are monitored regularly. 

- The church website (www.comolakeunitedchurch.com) will continue to include important information, updates, prayers, scripture stories, etc. so please check in there regularly.  

Next Steps

- We continue the learning curve! Meeting via Zoom is the Zoom online format for meetings, study groups, and other gatherings...and we are getting better at it

- We are still exploring ways to offer online worship that can include everyone. The test run was definitely a learning experience and we are still working on it. Stay tuned.

- We really appreciate people continuing to keep us updated on their concerns, how we can continue to support each other, or what help is needed. As mentioned, the church phone and email continue to be monitored regularly and enquiries given to an appropriate person.  

Connecting in Prayer  

Here are a couple of different types of prayers for this week. I encourage you to read them, yes, more than once, but then to actually pray with them. Praying with them means that you stop when a word or phrase impacts you in some way, and talk with God about it, ponder it, see what comes to mind and heart…listen for what might be yours to do in response.  

Check in to the website as well, for Palm Sunday-related prayers.  

Prayer of Blessing (From Praying with the Earth, J. Philip Newell, Tuesday Morning)  

May the deep blessings of earth be with us. May the fathomless soundings of seas surge in our soul. May boundless stretches of the universe echo in our depths to open us to wonder to strengthen us for love to humble us with gratitude that we may find ourselves in one another that we may lose ourselves in gladness that we give ourselves to peace.    

A Prayer for the Journey (Voices United #648)  

God of the Way, you are the road we travel, and the sign we follow, you are bread for the journey, and the wine of arrival.   Guide us as we follow in your way, holding on to each other, reaching out to your beloved world.   And when we stray, seek us out and find us, set our feet on the path again, and lead us safely home. 

In the name of Jesus, our Companion, we pray. Amen.  

 

Update Friday, March 27, 2020  

The Peace of Christ to you, Como Lake friends.  

The COVID 19 crisis still continues, causing deep concern in our hearts and homes. Like Gerhard and I, you are probably missing in-person connection with family and friends outside your household, not to mention many other expressions of what “normal” used to be. You are in our thoughts and prayers daily.  

There is lots of information out there and I hope you are keeping abreast of factual information. A good place to start is BC’s COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information website:  https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support and HealthLink BC’s website: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/   

You may find the following article helpful and hopeful. Both Gerhard and I certainly did. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief    

WHAT ARE WE DOING FOR YOU?  

Most of you have received a phone call from one of us from your caring community here at Como Lake. It is so good to have had an opportunity to check in on how you are doing at this time and making sure we have your correct contact information so that we can all stay connected and informed.

We have received lots of opportunities to help each other, offer support, and answer questions. We trust you will contact us if your circumstances change. All enquiries will be redirected to an appropriate person and treated with confidentiality.

We are operating mostly remotely now by using phone, email, and online methods of connecting with individuals, groups, and holding meetings. The church phone (604-931-8555) and email ([email protected]) are monitored regularly. The church website (www.comolakeunitedchurch.com) will continue to include important information, updates, prayers, scripture stories, etc. so please check in there regularly.

Our ongoing Pastoral Care Team continues to connect with those they know are ill or having heath concerns. If you know of someone who has become ill or has had a change of health status, please advise Marilyn McCutcheon at 604-936-8432.

The prayer circle continues to pray for you and your prayer requests. If you wish, please send your prayer requests to the church email ([email protected]) and they will be forwarded appropriately.

I am sending these weekly emails to everyone on our church email list. Watch for the weekly updates.  

NEXT STEPS

We are now using the Zoom online format for meetings, study groups, and other gatherings.   

Be aware that we are exploring ways to offer online worship. I am proceeding with baby steps with a small Zoom test run. Stay tuned for more on this in next week’s update.

We have received, from our phone-out, concerns about donations. Yes, to keep functioning and living our purpose and mission, we need to continue to receive donations to local and larger work as well as to our benevolent fund. There are many ways to give in these changing times: credit card, mailing a cheque, signing up for PAR (automatic withdrawal from your bank account), and by PayPal through our website’s Donate tab. If you have questions, please leave a message on the church phone or email and a Finance Team member will be in contact with you.  

CONNECTING IN PRAYER  

Praying in Crisis*  

The simple practice of praying Help! can actually bring focus to our anxious thoughts. I invite you to join me in engaging the following article and prayer practice during this coming week.

Anxieties can gray the whole sky like cloud cover or descend on our whole horizon like fog. When we rename our anxieties, in a sense we distill them into requests. What covered the whole sky can now be contained in a couple of buckets. So when we’re [feeling anxious], we can begin by simply holding the word help before God, letting that one word bring focus to the chaos of our racing thoughts. Once we feel that our mind has dropped out of the frantic zone and into a spirit of connection with God, we can let the general word help go and in its place hold more specific words that name what we need, thereby condensing the cloud of vague anxiety into a bucket of substantial request. So we might hold the word guidance before God. Or patience. Or courage. Or resilience. Or boundaries, mercy, compassion, determination, healing, calm, freedom, wisdom, or peace. . . . [1] 

Along with our anxieties and hurts, we also bring our disappointments to God. If anxieties focus on what might happen, and hurts focus on what has happened, disappointments focus on what has not happened. Again, as the saying goes, revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing, so simply acknowledging or naming our disappointment to God is an important move. This is especially important because many of us, if we don’t bring our disappointment to God, will blame our disappointment on God, thus alienating ourselves from our best hope of comfort and strength. . . .  

Whether we’re dealing with anxieties, wounds, disappointments, or other needs or struggles, there is enormous power in simple, strong words—the words by which we name our pain and then translate it into a request to God. Help is the door into this vital practice of petition, through which we expand beyond our own capacities and resources to God’s…

Through this practice of expansion and petition, we discover something priceless: the sacred connection can grow stronger through, not in spite of, our anxieties, wounds, disappointments, struggles, and needs. The Compassionate One is our gracious friend, and we don’t have to earn anything, deserve anything, achieve anything, or merit anything to bring our needs to God. We can just come as we are. [2]

Friends and co-disciples of Jesus, please stay well in body, soul, and spirit; stay grounded in God’s love that will not let us go; and stay connected to one another.

Grace, Peace, and Love to all.

Rev. Jan

*This excerpt is from Fr. Richard Rohr’s daily meditation on March 25th, 2020, highlighting words from Brian McLaren’s book, Naked Spirituality HarperOne:2011 [1] pages 116-117 [2] pages 119-120. I encourage you to deepen the impact of this reading by reflecting on these questions that Richard Rohr offers:              

What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me?            

What sensations do I notice in my body?

What is mine to do?           

 

 

March 20, 2020

Greetings, Como Lake friends.  

Grace and Peace and Wellbeing to each one of you this day and every day.  

So much has happened in a relatively short time. Each day new updates arrive regarding COVID-19 and how it affects our lives. We know this time is not easy…And, as a church we also know that God is alive and present in our world and that we are called to be community even when it is not physically possible for us to be together.  

So…here are some updates to keep us connected.  

What about in-person Sunday Worship?   - In-person Sunday 4 pm worship is cancelled until further notice. In compliance with Government and United Church of Canada mandates and guidelines, and with the health and well-being of our community in mind, Como Lake Council has made the decision to suspend in-person Worship services until such a time as it is safe to resume. We will continue to communicate about this and to explore creative ways for us to connect in Worship. Meanwhile, many online resources/services are available during COVID-19 at https://www.united-church.ca/community-faith/being-community/worship-online-during-covid-19.  

What’s next?   We are working to continue essential things while also keeping everyone healthy and connected. Here are some details for now. Look for emails with more information in the days and weeks to come.  

- Your Council (Como Lake Vision and Planning Council – VPC) will continue to meet prayerfully to do our work of leadership – online through Zoom. We are grateful for this platform that allows us to see each when we gather remotely.  

-   We are arranging to check in with everybody by email or phone, beginning next week. If you know anyone with whom you would like us to be in contact, please leave a message at the church by phone (604-931-8555) or email ([email protected]).   -

-  At this time there will not be regular office hours. However, phone lines and email will be monitored regularly and we will do our best to respond in a timely manner. If you would like a personal call or if you have any questions, please leave a message on the church phone (604-931-8555) or the church email ([email protected]). We will redirect your inquiry to an appropriate person.  

-  Our church website (www.comolakeunitedchurch.com) will continue to include important information, updates, prayers, scripture stories, and whatever else may be needed, so please check in there regularly.  

How can we stay together in prayer?  

For this week, here is a start, praying with a psalm. I invite you to include this in your daily prayers, mindful that others in this community of faith are joining in as well.      

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1      

God: our Creator, Living Word, Holy Spirit, is at work in us and in the world for good, for healing, for transformation, for love.      

Breath Prayer: Take a moment to breathe in this assurance. This promise... Breathe deeply. Slowly. Then breathe out blessing and love to those close at hand and those at a distance... Repeat at least 3 times or more.    

God is here and at work in each moment. Let’s trust that.  

Friends, thank-you for all that you are doing to take care of yourself and your loved ones! I ask your faith-filled prayers and creative imagination through this time of change, challenge and opportunity.  

May we be attentive to the ways in which God is at work in our lives and in our world.  And may Christ’s Love and Peace fill our minds and hearts…and guide our actions.   Rev. Jan    

 

 

March 13, 2020

Dear friends at Como Lake United.
 
At this moment in time, we find ourselves in a very different kind of world with the coronavirus situation.
And God is still present.
By that I mean that God’s love is still at work. Grace still abounds. Peace is still possible. Jesus still walks with us. The Holy Spirit still leads and guides and gives wisdom. And we still love and care for one another and for the world. 

That does not diminish the severity of the current pandemic, but it does help focus our attention on our common faith.
 
So...we will still gather this Sunday, March 16th, for worship under the guidelines of the United Church/local health authorities, at phase 4/5.


What that means for us is the following:
 
- there will be no coffee/refreshments served before worship
- greet one another and show your love and care in a no-physical-contact way. You may want to think of your own personal gesture of greeting before you arrive.

- stand/seat yourself and your family members 2 meters from others 

- please stay home if you are not feeling well

 
Let’s not panic, but let’s do make discerning and wise decisions…and let’s stay connected with God and one another in ways that consider the well-being of everyone. And let’s include not only the physical, but also the spiritual and social connection needs that are part of our common humanity.

With that in mind, I am asking a special effort on your part to reach out and make contact with others, particularly those in our family of faith that you have not seen in a while. Whether it be via phone calls, notes, texts, emails, Face Time, or even forwarding this email with a personal note, I ask you to be intentional and creative about connecting with others.


I will endeavor to keep you updated about our Como Lake UC worship and gatherings in this rapidly-changing situation.


For more general United Church updates, please see the Pacific Mountain Region website https://www.bc.united-church.ca/ as well as the United Church of Canada websitehttps://www.united-church.ca/
 
Grace, Peace and Love to all.
Rev. Jan (and your Como Lake Council and Worship Enhancement Team)