By Ruth May
We were almost at the mid-point of the Lenten season when the coronavirus made its presence known in Canada and in our diocese. The first diocesan communication on this situation asked us to cease from sharing the common cup of wine and to stop shaking hands or hugging at the time of the Peace. Within a week we were told that we could no longer meet for worship services, the first time in my memory that this has ever happened.
Lent is that season of the church year when we are encouraged to think seriously about our shortcomings, to repent, to confess, and to turn back to God. Traditionally many folks ‘give up’ something during Lent, whether it be wine with dinner, swearing, spending money on frivolous items, or that old favourite, chocolate. The church is sombre, with few banners, no flowers, no Alleluias in the music . . . all given up for Lent.
This year it feels as though we have given up enough! Some of us gave up a much-anticipated vacation at the March break. Some must give up on returning to their education right at this time. Some have given up a sports team, or a night school class, or a book club, or tickets to a play or other enjoyable event. Here at Christ Church and all across our country, we have had to give up attending and participating in our worship services, and we have lost that treasured Sunday contact with our beloved church community. Moods are sombre and there are many questions. Some people are very anxious and some are depressed.
But the other side of Lent is the ‘taking on’ of something. The other side of Lent is our work to grow, to learn, to remake ourselves, to deepen our faith, to draw nearer to God. God is with us in good times and in bad. How can we hold to that belief in these troubled times?
We need to remember that the Church is not just our beautiful building, but its beloved people. We are the community of Christ Church! The letter to the Hebrews tells us to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 13:1-2) Let’s try to keep our fellow Christians in mind and do whatever we can to help and encourage them and to remind them that they are still a vital part of our community. We can send an email or make a phone call, check in with someone who has come into our mind. We can offer to pick up groceries or a prescription. We can send a note or a card. We can post a message of hope on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to admit that you are not feeling strong right now. Others will help and encourage you. As Paul said in the letter to the Galatians, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’” (Galatians 6:2-3)
And most importantly, we can pray. We can use the parish prayer list to pray, perhaps for a few each day, or perhaps for all during a quiet time. We can pray for ourselves and seek strength. We can pray for our neighbours and our family members. We can pray for Don, our priest and pastor, as he works to provide online worship opportunities and to stay connected with each of our members.
Much quoted theologian Henri Nouwen said, “Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us.” Let us keep that flame of hope alive and let us each do our part in keeping our Christ Church community strong.
Ruth May faithfully serves as the administrative assistant and treasurer for Christ Church, Bolton. Ruth has also been a longtime volunteer and recently was recognized by the Bishop of Toronto for her many years of service. Bishop Andrew appointed her to the Order of the Diocese of Toronto earlier this year.