When we used to gather in the vestry before worship, the altar party at St. Andrew’s would begin to pray by saying, “Go before us O Lord in the power of your Spirit…”. With the ceasing of in-person worship on March 18 2020, this prayer left the vestry and the God we once rather routinely implored to go before us did just that. This covid year, along with all its losses, has been a remarkable year for St. Andrew’s and I am so grateful for the faithfulness, trust, generosity, creativity and courage of our congregation.
We had just launched into a visioning process when covid hit. Our Vision Distilling Team worked so hard this year to bring the visioning work to completion. We produced reports, a video and hosted 13 covid-safe, small group vision tours in August to share the fruits of the discernment work with the congregation. In the midst of this, we were invited to engage in another discernment process to call a locally trained priest to the parish and we welcomed the Rev’d Pam Wilson. St. Andrew’s was also invited, at that time the only parish in BC, to participate in the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission’s Pillar & Cloud online liturgy think-tank and so another zoom group was born. It was an Easter like no other: our families told the story in sequence on Zoom with Lego creations, we rang the church bell live-streamed on Facebook, offered morning prayer, and shared in an Easter cheers. During the summer we demolished our old shed by hand with crowbars and cleared the ground for a new quiet garden space in our cemetery. This beautiful space has not only been a gift to us but to our neighbours seeking outside space to safely share a conversation. Covid restrictions also ceased all our regular outreach ministries but God went ahead of us and new relationships were formed with the Welcome Inn and the Gospel Mission for winter clothing and personal care item drives this fall. Unable to welcome the many neighbours who would come to St. Andrew’s at Christmas, we designed a “Path to Christmas” in our front garden with 5 meditation stations on the birth of Jesus and a Tree of Hope where people could share their hopes for our world. The bell rang out on Christmas day through the neighbourhood and Facebook live.
I am so proud of our congregation, especially of our elders in their 90s, who, come Zoom or high water, will not be separated from the worship of their church community. While we miss being together for the Eucharist acutely, Zoom has asked us to inhabit the liturgy in new ways. The Prayers of the People once written and lead by one voice are now a time of free, extemporaneous prayer. With the sermon sent out by email before hand, the sermon time has become communal discussion on scripture. We are engaging with liturgy and scripture, growing with liturgy and scripture, in ways we never have before and it is beautiful to see. Currently, St. Andrew’s gathers for Sunday morning prayer, Tuesday bible study, Tuesday tea & prayers (by teleconference for those without computers), Wednesday evening prayer, Thursday coffee & conversation and Messy Church every other Friday on Zoom. Our Sunday congregation has welcomed visiting Anglicans from the Yukon to the UK, gladly shared worship with members of St. Paul’s, Golden, and welcomed new comers to Kelowna who have become regular members of the parish. Our Messy Church congregation moved from meeting once to meeting twice a month, opened our zoom-doors to families from Grand Forks, Vernon and Kelowna parishes as they needed support, and adapted our learning patterns at least 3 times. Our families have been extraordinary and I am so moved by their faithfulness.
As we look to what will likely be almost another full year of church on Zoom, our rhythm of life together is solid and good and we are grateful…and it will likely need to adapt yet again! But we can do that. God goes ahead of us and so we will continue to pray with less routine and more thanksgiving:
“Go before us O Lord in the power of your Spirit: open our ears to your word to us in scripture and our hearts to your life for us in sacrament, that all we may say and do this day may be taken up in the one great offering of Jesus Christ our Saviour, for service in your Kingdom. Amen.”