We read last week (Lent 1) of Jesus going into the Wilderness. I am sure that we all can imagine being lost in the wilderness. A time of not knowing where we are going, which path to follow, what to do when we get out, how are we are getting out, and what to do next; in fact, why are we even there? Jesus was in the Wilderness with wild beasts and angels to look after him ( as we are told in Mark’s Gospel). Are we as lucky? I believe we are!
Two years ago we were told that our beloved church building (Fruitvale) was to be sold. In a way we knew this would happen, just did not want to believe the reality, our partners in the building had ceased worshipping, due to dwindling numbers and exhaustion from keeping their congregation together. So we who were left had our time in the wilderness.
What option did we have? Disperse into other congregations? No! The general consensus was to keep the Church family together, how to do this was the next question? (Some members did leave as they liked to worship in a Church building.) Many options were considered, finding a small space to rent; finding a permanent home somewhere. We looked back in time to the early church, and thought if the early Christians could worship in homes then so could we. So St. John’s Church Fruitvale became a House Church.
Then covid-19 came…
As we all know churches were closed and new regulations came into being. We were all sent back to the Wilderness, until the future could be worked out. We were fortunate that because we are a small congregation we were able to worship outside, patios, covered decks, gardens became our new places of worship. The important thing was that we were together as a living community.
We do not miss maintaining a large building; we miss all the other organizations that used the building in the weekdays and evenings.
New forms of worship have evolved over the past year, modern technology has helped with the transformation; video services pre-recorded, live streaming via Zoom and other media, being able to connect within our Country and overseas. (The downside of this is that many people, especially the elderly, do not have this technology). In many ways this technology has brought the Anglican Church of Canada closer together, we can watch and hear national/international services in our own time; i.e. the Carol and Lessons service at Christmas.
Technology has helped the small congregation of Fruitvale to grow by having congregants from other parts of Canada to join us for our services and also our mid-week gatherings; to know that we are part of the larger Anglican Communion and not still in the wilderness of unknowing.
We did come out of our wilderness time and have found new ways of worship through prayer, leadership, willingness to change, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit; but due to COVID we have found ourselves in yet another wilderness. Our realization is that The CHURCH is the people NOT the buildings that matter. After all “Jesus said where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am among them”. (Matt.18:20)