HOW ARE WE ALL DOING?
“How have you being doing during COVID-19?” That is the question I have asked over a hundred Bethel families and individuals that I have checked in on over the last months. This is what I have found.
People’s experience of the pandemic falls all along a continuum. On the happiest end of the spectrum are several people who described themselves as thriving. For example, two families, say that their life has been more paced, and that they have made deeper connections among themselves than ever before. In both cases they credit this, in part, to having chosen to homeschool their children.
In general, introverts are faring much better than extroverts. I heard from a few extreme introverts that they prefer the pandemic lifestyle to what life was like before!
A bit further along the continuum are those people who says that life has continued on pretty much as it had been before the pandemic. Their work has remained unchanged. Their family life is much the same as it had been. They are doing quite well.
Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We are doing fine, but deeply miss our activities and prior connections. More than a few find their emotions swinging more quickly than they did before the pandemic. They feel strong some days, and a bit stressed or depressed on others. Their emotions can change even within the course of a single day (or hour!).
On the other side of the continuum are those who are struggling with mental health. COVID has not been kind to them. I hear occasional stories of people feeling that everyone in the church has forgotten them. Their sense of disconnection from church has translated into feelings of rejection.
Even though many singles assure me they are doing just fine, I do find myself concerned for them. Isolation is not good for most people, and singles are more likely than others to experience that during the pandemic.
Where do you fall on this spectrum? I’d love to hear about your experience. In the meantime, let’s stay connected to God and to one another. If you haven’t reached out to someone in your circle of relationships in a while, or if someone you know of is isolated, why don’t you call, send a card, or drop off a gift of encouragement?
What was a parting challenge at the end of Pastor Tom’s sermon Sunday became a movement in miniature among a number of us at Bethel. The challenge was simple: read a chapter of John’s Gospel a day for 21 days, which is exactly how long John is. Take time beforehand to pray, and reflect after. In essence, give yourself the time and space for a simple task (approximately 8 minutes) that will dramatically impact the rest of your day.
The reasoning for this is two-fold. By embracing a habit of reading the Bible daily (since it takes about 21 days to form a habit), we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit to shape us in his image through his Word. We also embrace these acts in the context of community. Not only do we become more like Christ through reading but we also grow closer to one another.
The Word of God has been a central theme for Pastor Tom and me during our recent messages. It has taken this focus because Scripture both directs us to our ultimate direction (God himself) and provides us the means to get there. If our ultimate goal is to seek the presence God, where else should we be going if not to the source where he has chosen to reveal himself.
To be sure, this takes work. With young kids at home, I struggle some times to find the space to read, pray and reflect. However, the available blessings and benefits of pursuing this time with God far outweighs the challenges and limitations. I’ve heard from many on this 21 day journey who can already see the difference this kind of intentionality and practice can make in one’s attitude and outlook.
I pray that whether you join on this particular challenge in John or continue in a reading plan of your own that we commit to reading together—in all seasons.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
- Pastor Cris
TOM AND CRIS
What do the following people have in common: Captain Kirk & Mr. Spock, Marty McFly & Doc Brown, Harry Potter & Ron Weasley? The answer, as you probably guessed, is that they are all famous pairs. Each of these sets of people had a unique relationship that has etched its way into our collective memory.
“Cris and Tom” may not be as famous as these classic pairs (at least not yet!) but we are enjoying our growing relationship. I thought you might like to know about this particular pair even if our fame extends only to the Bethel Community.
Each week Cris and I have a scheduled morning “walk”. Before the recent COVID restrictions were imposed, we literally walked together for one hour on Tuesday mornings. We would stroll the paths along the river valley and coordinate the week’s activities, greeting the occasional Bethelite who walked by. Now, our weekly get-together is a recurring Zoom meeting titled: “Tom and Cris –Morning Walk.”
“Walk” is also a metaphor of our relationship. While I am the “Lead” Pastor, and Cris is the “Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship,” we walk together in the work. We coordinate our efforts with feelings of mutual respect, and things flow seamlessly without a sense of hierarchy. I have experience from years in ministry that I bring to the relationship, but Cris has wisdom, experience, and perspectives of his own. I am always learning.
Much of what happens around the church arises out of our weekly “walk” together. You may already be recognizing Cris’ unique stamp on much of what is happening at Bethel—from mid-week video updates and an improved media presence to developments in our worship services. He is investing in our young adults and actively supporting our small group leaders.
We are happy to be walking together, and privileged to be walking with you!
A QUIETLY BURNING FIRE
The COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated most visible signs of life at Bethel. In-person worship now consists of the 10-15 people who are in the sanctuary to make remote worship possible for everyone else. Many offices are empty because staff are working from home, and there is little foot traffic in the church building. But beneath Bethel’s surface, a fire is quietly burning. It is the fire of prayer.
Both of our midweek prayer groups have seen a marked increase in attendance during the pandemic. During some nights in December, our Monday evening (Zoom) prayer group hosted over 20 people. The Wednesday morning group now gathers about that number of people regularly. (Consider that, for many years, there were only 6-8 people praying on Wednesday mornings, and the Monday group didn’t even exist until two years ago.)
Our Healing Prayer ministry’s impact has become Canada-wide because they have been called upon numerous times to pray, by Zoom, for people in other provinces. Our intercessors continue to faithfully pray (off site) during worship services, and plans are already underway for this year’s 24-7 prayer week.
Part of our Dream for Bethel is to be a vibrant church of prayer. By the grace of God, and against all expectations, God is using this COVID crisis to nurture this dream into reality.
While prayer is valuable in and of itself, it is also a sign that something more is happening. God is growing and deepening us as a church—drawing us closer to him. A growing passion for prayer can be like a ground fire that burns beneath the forest surface for years and then suddenly erupts with furious force. This is because prayer can be a prelude to a powerful move of God’s Spirit.
Why don’t you join this growing symphony of prayer? Let COVID-19 be a blessing in disguise that takes you deeper into the arms of your heavenly father.
Bethel’s Music Ministry Has a New Leader I would like to introduce you to our new Director of Worship Ministries: Caleb Vetter. Caleb led worship on December 20. He will lead us again this Sunday and on many Sundays in the future. Though we would love to have Caleb at Bethel for a long, long time, we anticipate that he will be with us for a year to 18 months. (He has plans which you will read about below.) We believe Caleb is God’s gift to us for now. Rather than telling you all about this exciting young man, I will let him speak for himself. He has written you a letter.
I am pleased to be joining the staff team at Bethel Community Church. Your love for God, for each other, and for your community is so apparent to me in all that I have seen and heard. From my earliest memories, church music has been important in my life and worship. My father was the preacher; my mother was the church organist. I was soon enlisted to assist in the rhythms of worship in that small-town church in South Dakota. These early experiences blossomed into a passion for the mission of God expressed in the local church. I attended Briercrest College in Saskatchewan where I completed a B.A. in Music. But more importantly, while at Briercrest I found my fearless wife Amy. Over the next decade, we welcomed Hudson (9), Gabe (7), and Rhett (4) and transformed into a bustling house full of boys! Our busy crew resides in the Mills Haven neighborhood in Sherwood Park. Currently, I am in the first year of a two year Bachelor of Elementary Education degree at The King’s University. After graduating, I intend to teach kindergarten within the Elk Island Public Schools. Amy is pursuing a Masters in Leadership and Management from Briercrest Seminary and hopes to continue her career as a minister after completion. The faithfulness of your music leaders, musicians and technical team demonstrates your commitment to the vigorous expression of worship in the gathering of the saints. I am so glad to join this team in this season to bring all I have in service of the church.
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