COVID-19: Praying for our Indigenous Communities

Archbishops Linda Nicholls and Mark MacDonald have written a letter to Canadian Anglicans, expressing their concern and the need to pray for those living on Indigenous reserves.

~ from The Anglican Church of Canada website; posted by General Synod Communications on March 31, 2020

Dear friends in Christ,

Grace and peace to you in Jesus Christ! Everyone is being radically affected by the continuing spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Whether we are in self-isolation, quarantine or working in an essential job for the good of the whole community our lives have been changed in just a few short weeks.

For many of us the changes are temporary and inconvenient. For some, COVID-19 has resulted in illness that ranges from mild to severe to life-threatening, particularly for those with underlying medical conditions. It is also devastating in communities where medical care is limited or non-existent and where social distancing is difficult to community living conditions (eg. nursing homes, overcrowded housing, homeless shelters).

We are particularly concerned for those who live on Indigenous reserves. The lack of adequate medical facilities, overcrowded or inadequate housing in some communities and underlying health conditions or predispositions such as diabetes are common factors in many communities. This makes these communities highly vulnerable if COVID19 were to enter the reserve. Some have taken drastic measures to ensure their safety, including blockading the community roads to ensure their isolation from the virus.

These decisions have at times led to misunderstandings, racist comments and verbal abuse from those outside the reserves. When we are afraid of what we do not understand and live in the midst of uncertainty such behaviours can take hold.

We write to you, in the spirit of our ongoing reconciliation work, to ensure that such attitudes are not shared unchecked. Please pray for Indigenous communities across Canada as they seek the protection they need at this time from a virus that could cause much more death and destruction than in other communities.

Pray for Archbishop Mark and all the pastoral care teams at work in each community – with thanksgiving for their dedication and witness.

May we continue to hold up the light of Christ, loving all our neighbours as ourselves in this crisis.

Your in Christ,

The Most Reverend Linda C. Nicholls
Archbishop and Primate

The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald
National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop

Denominational Responses to COVID-19

Information, Advice, and Comfort

Credit: Image by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay

All three of our denominations have provided a variety of responses as we, our communities, and the world grapple with the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This post provides snippets of these responses and the links so you may access the responses in their entirety.

The Anglican Church of Canada

“Socially-, yet never spiritually-distanced” by General Synod Communications on March 16, 2020

In the midst of countless service and activity suspensions in Anglican churches across the country this weekend, Canadian Anglicans demonstrated their resilience, love for God and love for one another as they forged new pathways of prayer and community through online worship and gathering. While several parishes had previous expertise with livestreaming and digital publishing, many took on new technological challenges with humour and grace.

“Primate’s update regarding COVID-19” by Linda Nicholls on March 12, 2020

Archbishop Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
Credit: Michael Hudson/Anglican Church of Canada

As a faith community we are also a people of hope and compassion. The Canadian Council of Churches offers this reminder to all its churches:

We urge our member churches to reflect a compassionate, peace-seeking response to COVID-19 by:

    • Recognizing through prayer the human dimension of grief and suffering COVID-19 has brought to communities both near and far;
    • Being mindful of the needs of shut-ins and other vulnerable groups who may require additional help accessing medical services and basic amenities;
    • Actively repudiating the racism and xenophobia that has shaped certain reactions to COVID-19;
    • Using this as an opportunity to embody hospitality and kindness with creativity and hope;
    • Giving thanks for the many professionals who continue to risk their own health to treat the sick, be near to the dying, contain the virus, and protect their communities.

May God’s peace hold us in the midst of the fears that swirl around our communities and at time within our own hearts. May we find courage to compassionately care for one another and find strength in community. May we find comfort in the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38-39)

March 12 – Corona Virus Update For all Parishes” from Bishop Barbara Andrews, Territory of the People

Further to my communication last week on the COVID 19 or corona virus, I wish to update you today. Yesterday I joined Premiere Hogan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, and Dr Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer and over 100 faith leaders from around the province. For over one hour we heard good information, and shared in a conversation promoting best health practices for our faith communities. We were asked to give leadership in spreading good information, and hope within our communities.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

An update from ELCIC National and Synod Bishops on COVID-19 and communities of the ELCIC” dated March 13, 2020

Even as this pandemic presents a challenge to gathering, we hope and pray that our communities will stay strong and supportive of each other in the name of Christ. This is an excellent opportunity for the whole community to engage in ministering to each other.

During this time, we encourage the entire community to be in more regular contact by phone or personal visits (when appropriate). We encourage healthy members to take an active role in ensuring that our more senior members have adequate support to stay home. Pray for each other.

Through these challenges, we hope and pray that each of our communities will continue to be faithful and public witnesses to the grace and love of God through Christ. We continue to pray for our leaders and members, asking for God to give us courage, faith, and compassion. Blessings in your ministry during this time.

March 16 letter on COVID-19 and communities of the ELCIC

With the information we have today, we feel it is both prudent and responsible that our congregations suspend all public worship services and other gatherings effective immediately. Some of you have already made this decision. It is our hope that we will all be strongly encouraged to do likewise.

We understand how difficult some of these unprecedented decisions may feel. These important considerations reflect a deep concern for those most vulnerable – particularly elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Please continue to be vigilant in your prayerful support of those who are ill and those who are most fully engaged in the public health efforts that are underway across the country and around the world. May God grant us generous gifts of courage, faith, and compassion.

In their Lenten on-line devotions Reimagining Justice, Lutherans Connect have chosen to substitute their planned devotions with ones relating specifically to COVID-19.

Sabbath Days in a Time of Pandemic: Special devotions in response to COVID-19

    • Saturday, March 14th
      – includes a video of the corona virus cat rescuer of Wuhan
    • Sunday, March 15th
      – includes a video about singing and solidarity in Italy
    • Monday, March 16th
      – The story of the struggles Moses and the Israelites have with God about having sufficient food while in the wilderness is used as the basis for a reflection on responding in a time of pandemic.  A story of kindness is included.
    • Tuesday, March 17th
      – includes a reflection on hand washing and a dance video from Vietnam created to encourage correct hand washing
    • Wednesday, March 18th
      – The reflection is based on Matthew 8: 23-27 in which the disciples wake Jesus because the storm was swamping their boat and Jesus calms the sea.  The music is the “Iona Boat Song”.

The United Church of Canada

COVID-19:  United Church Statement” originally published March 5, 2020; last modified on March 13, 2020

As a church, we seek a compassionate response that acknowledges the personhood attached to each statistic. We know that the people affected include not only those infected by the COVID-19 virus but also their families, friends, co-workers, and community members. We mourn with people whose loved ones have died, who have lost their livelihood through the growing economic impact, who have lost community through self-isolation and limited travel, and, who have lost a sense of security through fear of contamination or racial discrimination.

We also offer our prayers of thanksgiving for the professionals who are providing leadership in the treatment and containment of the virus, and our prayers of concern for those who put at risk their personal health to serve and support others, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Moderator:  God Is with Us” published March 13, 2020

The Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott, 43rd Moderator of The United Church of Canada
Credit:
The United Church of Canada

Scripture talks a lot about fear—often in the form of “Don’t be afraid!” I know that can be hard to do, but I think there is an important call to us as people of God and followers of Jesus. In those moments when fear gets huge, we have the opportunity to love even more and, in that love, to help one another.

As we build in “social distance,” where people aren’t able to spend time in each other’s presence in the ways we’re used to, it becomes even more important to reach out in creative ways—by telephone and video-chat, for example. For those who are staying home from church because of health concerns, or as we face the possibility that communities of faith may need to suspend regular gathering for worship at some point, there is the possibility of joining a worshipping community through livestream on the computer, or downloading audio or text versions (if that’s possible in your area) until we are able to return to our more traditional practices. And if you are offering services online, let people in the wider community know via social media. At times like this, people turn to the church for comfort, and we can still offer strong and reassuring pastoral care online and through telephone and text.

God is with us in this, and we are with each other—even when we aren’t able to be together. We are not alone.

Christ’s peace is with you.

Update Regarding COVID-19 Worship Services across the Pacific Mountain Regional Council

We continue to witness the unfolding of the COVID-19 reality across our world, across our nation, and in our Pacific Mountain Regional Council. We continue also in prayer for those who are vulnerable and afflicted, and for those who are charged with making decisions and taking care of people across Canada.

The latest from the Pacific Mountain Regional Council:  “March 16 Update from Treena and Jay – recommend halting gathering for services

Beloved, continue to lean into the power of prayer and spiritual and mindfulness practices, as well as the physical distancing and cleanliness precautions required of us now, in caring for yourself and one another. Please also remember to keep up givings, and ways for people to give, when not gathering for worship. We invite you to please also place a phone call to our elderly ones who may be the most isolated of all. Hearing a friendly voice can be as healing as anything – for generations, these beautiful ones carried us; it’s up to us now to gently carry them.

2020 World Day of Prayer – Friday, March 6th

“Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk”

Artist: Nonhlanhla Mathe

Join people all over the world on Friday, March 6th for the 2020 worship service and celebration written by the World Day of Prayer Committee of Zimbabwe and adapted for use in Canada by The Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada.

In Clearwater, the service is being hosted by the Clearwater World Day of Prayer Organizing Committee at the Star Lake Ministry Centre at 1:30 pm.  A time of fellowship and refreshments will follow.

The WDP 2020 program is based on Jesus’ encounter with a person who, although positioned for healing, had not acted upon the opportunities given (John 5:2-9a). Jesus asked –“Do you want to be made well?” You are faced with this life-changing question. What are you going to do? Use this opportunity to reflect with your WDP group, community and ecumenical partners. Prayer and action are what links us together around the globe.

The country of Zimbabwe continues its search for peace during its political transition. The change in government, that occurred when the WDP materials were written, continues to bring Zimbabwe to the frontlines of the media. The economy crashed the dreams of many, Mugabe died at 95 years old, protests are met with violence, and a massive cyclone has flooded some communities.

However in all moments, WDP women, churches and ecumenical organizations have not lost hope.

“Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk,” said Jesus. Our sisters from Zimbabwe are taking Jesus’ encounter to be a call to act in love for peace and reconciliation. “The action verbs suggest that we should not be afraid to act on the word of God. God is offering us the steps for personal and social transformation.” This is the time for change!

May we hear the words of this compassionate God and the Prince of Peace to act upon the healing of ourselves and our communities to bring peace and reconciliation into the world.

~ from the International World Day of Prayer Website

Moderator Richard Bott’s Lenten Message

The ashes of Ash Wednesday are a reminder
of all the life you are called to live.

The Right Rev. Richard Bott shares his Lenten message, saying that Ash Wednesday isn’t only about lament and death—it’s also about celebrating life because the two are so deeply intertwined.  For the 40 days of Lent, you are invited to join in celebrating life each day.

Watch his message here.

Transcript of videotaped message:

Hello! The grace of Jesus Christ be with you. My name is Richard Bott. I’m the Moderator of The United Church of Canada.

The season of Lent begins with an important day: Ash Wednesday.

Traditionally, during worship that day, there is a ritual in which a cross is made on the forehead or the hand out of ash. In the church we call it “the imposition of ashes.” When the minister makes the mark of the cross in ash, they often say, “From dust you come, to dust you will return.” It’s a moment in which we remember that everything comes to an end.

The ash, the cross—these are memento mori, things that we carry to remind us of the reality of death. Not just death in general, but our own individual deaths.

Morbid, eh?

Strangely, it’s not. It’s almost like everything gets turned upside down. This moment isn’t only about lament and death; it’s about celebrating life because the two are so deeply intertwined.

In a world that seems to be driven by fear, in a world where hopelessness seems to be taking over, in a world of climate crisis, in a world where leaders seem to be building tensions between people rather than working for peace, those of us who are disciples of Jesus, we need to be people who live hope: hope in God, hope in our neighbours, hope for the world.

For the 40 days of Lent, I would like to ask you to join with me in celebrating life each day.

I would like to ask you to help me to turn the world upside down.

I would like to ask you to join with other disciples of Jesus in believing in the abundant life that he said he was bringing to all creation, and to be people who live hope in that life everywhere we go.

Feel the ash on your forehead or on your hand and remember not only your death, but remember, too, all of the life that you are called to live!

In life. In death. In life-beyond-death, God is with all creation.

Alleluia!

~ from The United Church of Canada website

Lutherans Connect’s 2020 Lenten Devotional

Reimagining Justice

A week from today is Ash Wednesday, when we mark the beginning of our journey with Jesus in the wilderness. Lutherans Connect invites you to make space for that journey, by joining us for reflection every day during Lent and Holy Week. As usual, we will bring together scripture readings, poetry, music, reflection and images from a wide range of ecumenical traditions in a daily online devotion.

Continuing themes begun in Advent and Epiphany, this Lent we are shining a light on climate justice by focusing on the work of artists who are seeking to raise awareness of climate and justice issues. From mixed-media artisans to major filmmakers, LC† Reimagining Justice will explore the variety of ways that artists from all over the world are tackling the issues of climate emergency, speaking to their own contexts in a way that can bring rich insights to our own. We are made in God’s image and art plays a role in helping us see ourselves. What can we learn from the work of others about our own relationship to the issues?

This year also marks the tenth Lenten project of Lutherans Connect. They began in 2011. Frequently during this Lenten project, we will compare where we are now with some of the Lenten journeys of the last ten years. We have been praying about climate change and justice for many years! How have some of the stories changed since we first visited them? How can we be renewed in our desire to deepen our discipleship as we prepare for the events of Holy Week?

Join us on Ash Wednesday, February 26th and every day until Easter Sunday, April 12th. And may you have a blessed and holy Lent!

~ from Lutherans Connect facebook page

You are able to access this on-line devotional from the Lutherans Connect facebook page or their blog.