A Pastoral Letter As We Prepare to Resume Offering Sunday Gatherings In-Person at Upper Sackville United Church and Sackville United Church

Greeting and Peace,

Might you, in the receipt of this letter, know that you are held in the care of community and the hope of God for God’s people.  I extend this greeting as all of us strive to return to the normal routines of fall in a time when again (September 11th) everything is anything but normal.  And again, we find ourselves in a time of heightened stress and anxiety as we return to places of work, learning and community that are filled with new procedures and practices: mandatory face coverings, hand sanitizing, physical distancing and seating plans.

Many of us are disoriented, worried for our own health and the health of those we love.  Others of us are overwhelmed with the burden of trying to navigate this ‘new normal’ and somehow do the work that is entrusted to us.  And all of us, in one way or another, share a longing for something that was – something that we’ve lost in this world-wide pandemic.  And yes, all of us can also identify moments in the midst of the current challenge that we are thankful for: time with family and smaller groups of friends and extended family, walks on a beach within the bubble, a take-out meal on a Friday night, a slower pace and more mindful presence to our daily living.

And so, focusing on the gifts of life and love, I invite you to gather again in community in gratitude to proclaim intentions for mercy, justice and peace as followers of the Way of Jesus.

On Sunday September 13th at 10AM Jennie and I will offer A Sunday Gathering Online via Facebook Live.  It is our plan during this gathering to outline the practices and procedures that will be in place for those who wish to resume gathering in-person beginning September 20th at Upper Sackville United Church (9am).  Additional information will be forthcoming in respect the same at Sackville United Church prior to its resumption on October 4th (11am). 

The congregational Executives of both congregations are working diligently to ensure the health and safety of our communities by putting in place protocols and procedures that meet public health guidelines.

Our gatherings on Sunday September 13th and September 20th will reflect the ‘new normal’ for our services: approximately thirty minutes in length, no congregational singing and physically distanced entry, seating and departure to meet public health guidelines. 

As above, Upper Sackville United Church will offer the opportunity for in-person gathering at 9am, beginning September 20th.  The 11am gathering at Sackville United Church will be live-streamed on Facebook Live and available to all.  This will continue until October 4th when Sackville United Church resumes offering an in-person gathering at 11am.  This 11am gathering will continue to be live-streamed on Facebook Live.  Yes, Facebook Live is the constant!  Many, near and far away, have come to appreciate the ministry offered through our Sunday Gathering Online via Facebook Live.

And so, while we make the many preparations necessary for a safe return to the possibility of in-person Sunday Gatherings, those with access to technology are encouraged to continue to take part online.  Please consider forming a Church Family Bubble and invite a neighbour or a nearby senior without access to technology to join you.  If you’d like some help in forming or joining a Church Family Bubble, please call the Church office and we’ll be glad to help!  Together we can continue to proclaim that there is ‘Room at the Table for Everyone’. 

We are also attempting to make room at other virtual tables as we move into the fall. 

Beginning Tuesday September 15th at 10am I will be hosting a Preacher’s Help Group (aka lectionary study group) on Zoom.  We will use a constant Meeting ID (487 114 0142) and Password (usuc&suc) so as to allow ease and consistency of access.  I’ll also share the link in my weekly Monday Musings and on the Church Website and Facebook Page.  No prior biblical knowledge is required.  This is an opportunity to informally talk about the text I may preach on for the coming Sunday and for you to reflect with me on what God might have to say to us through the text.

Beginning Wednesday September 16th at 11am Jennie and I will be offering WWW.PSALMS.COM on Facebook Live.  This will be a brief wondering (maybe wandering) moment exploring a Psalm of the Hebrew Scriptures and the psalmist’s wrestling with the orientation, disorientation and reorientation to gratitude of the community.

Gathering more informally, beginning September 13th and every Sunday thereafter at 11:45am, the Pastoral Charge will host Community and Conversation on Zoom.  Again, we will use a constant Meeting ID (487 114 0142) and Password (usuc&suc) so as to allow ease and consistency of access.  In addition, the link to Community and Conversation will be provided in the weekly email.  In addition, using the same Meeting ID and Password I will host occasional informal gatherings from my desk and will promote these in emails and posts on Facebook.

In closing, even as the opportunity to gather in person resumes, not all of us are ready to go there – and that’s ok.  Let us continue to be a community that lives out the command of Jesus to live with gratitude and love our neighbours – let us be present to each other rather than just present with each other!  May we listen deeply to each another and respond with grace and love, seeking connection as we hold each other and the universe in care.

Let there be no mistake, God is present in our community and in worship wherever and however we gather together, in familiar places, or not, in-person or online, in the presence and in the absence of our traditions…  God is with us.  We are not alone.

And so, we’ll see you on Sunday September 13th, 10AM on Facebook Live! And we hope to see some of you on Tuesdays beginning September 15th at 10AM on Zoom for the Preacher’s Help Group and on Wednesdays beginning September 16th, 11AM on Facebook Live for WWW.PSALMS.COM…

And we trust that you’ll join us again on Sunday Sunday September 20th, 9AM at Upper Sackville United or at 11AM on Facebook Live… and again on September 27th, 9AM at Upper Sackville United or 11AM on Facebook Live…

And we’ll continue to be there for each other on October 4th, 9AM at Upper Sackville United and 11AM at Sackville United Church and on Facebook Live as we break bread and share the cup as we mark World Wide Communion Sunday… like grain and bread, gathered and formed into one loaf, broken to be shared as a blessings, we are a people of God.

(the Rev.) Lloyd A. Bruce

Minister, Sackville Pastoral Charge

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