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Hello again friends,

When I sent you all the last message in September we heard from some that they appreciated the communication and hearing what was happening, so we thought it might be helpful if we did this periodically. Honestly, the point is simply to communicate some things you would normally be hearing about on Sunday mornings, but don’t now because our format is so different. For now, we will try to keep you up to date in this way. And, as always, feel free to call the church office or email if you have feedback or questions. Or even just to say, “Hello.” That would be lovely!

As we see things trending up now in BC with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, here in the church we are continuing to work hard to implement as much as we can. We are trying to include things that we hope will be able to continue, even if things were to become more restricted in the coming weeks. Our strategy is to try to keep our life together happening in a variety of ways and our hope is that these things will help us to stay connected with each other and with God. My prayer is that they will still bring life, even if it is not quite the same as we are used to. So with that, here’s what’s happening around the church right now.

Most of our ministry teams have resumed their regular meetings and are making plans for the coming months. The Resource Management team are doing a great job of carefully watching our finances. They are also helping us to ensure that all the in-person activities we do happen in ways that minimize the risk of any virus transmission. And of course as you have heard, they are running our November Fall Fundraiser which is now well underway.

The people in our Service Ministry have been focused on running the weekly Community Meals lunch, in a new take-out form. As you know we have some new leadership in that ministry and Claire and Gail seem to me to have stepped into their roles rather seamlessly. We are so very grateful for all that they bring, and for all of the volunteers who faithfully come each week to ensure that 70 people are being welcomed and given a freshly made nutritious lunch and a warm cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee, the Fellowship Ministry has also begun hosting some coffee gatherings. These are a great opportunity to come together with a few other people, have some good conversation, maybe get to know someone new and just share a little bit of life together.

There is also quite a bit of activity coming out of the Education Team. As you know Carol Pare and team have reopened the library on Tuesday mornings. If you haven’t had a chance to stop in, I encourage you to do so. We have a great library and Carol’s team are all wonderful at putting just the right thing in your hands! Tracy continues to provide weekly online lessons for our Kids Church children and their families. And our six-week Zoom study is underway. Together we are exploring the hope we have as Jesus’ followers and how we can be people of hope in our homes, our communities and our world. The Ed Team is also already looking towards the new year. We are looking for another study topic that might encourage and support us all. We will let you know what we come up with!

I have left the busiest team for last. The Worship Ministry is working really hard right now and are very excited about some projects we have underway. Of course, we continue to produce our weekly online worship services and are delighted at the number of people willing to take part. I really want to say a big thank you to everyone who comes in to record readings, prayers, songs and liturgical pieces. It’s wonderful to see familiar faces and to be blessed by you all sharing your gifts with us. It also saves you all from having to listen to too much of my voice over and over again ... and that’s a really good thing! We also owe a great big thank you to Peter Wratislav who has been working diligently behind the scenes since July, helping us to improve the sound on our recordings so that the services are as smooth as we can make them and easy for you to hear clearly. This is a vital part of the production process and we honestly could not have done it without Peter’s work and the care he brings to it. Thanks Pete!

Finally, as we move towards Advent and Christmas, we hope you will stay in close touch because we have some very special plans. In this year when Christmas might be particularly difficult, we are preparing some things that might help to draw you back to the manger and to the wonder of what God did on that holy night. It was a night when hope came into our world in a new way, and not just for that night, but to stay. This is a gift that seems more precious now than ever. Stay tuned for more details about Advent and Christmas in the weeks to come!

As you all know, since Phil’s retirement in June we have been functioning with just one minister. There are a few reasons for this. Because things have shifted so dramatically, we will need to revisit the job description we wrote for an Associate Minister before the pandemic, and honestly, that’s difficult to do right now. We also know that it would be very challenging for a new minister to get started and established when they can’t be with you all in person to get to know you. On top of those things, to this point, our finances have not been sufficient for us to take on a second minister’s salary. So, we have felt that it is wisest to hold off for now. Having said that, we have not been without help. As you can see many gifted congregation members have been stepping up and that’s been great, for us and for them, I hope! We have also been blessed to have Reverend Foster Freed helping out and I am particularly grateful for him, for his ministry and for his support of me as I try to figure out how to be a minister in a pandemic. They didn’t teach us that at seminary! Having Foster around to help also means that I am able to free up a bit of time some weeks to work on some of these extra ministry projects that need my time and attention.

Finally, thank you all, dear St. Stephen’s church family. The work we are doing takes time and I am so grateful for your patience with us as we strive to work it all out. Mostly though, thank you for your trust. We truly thank God for each of you and for your faithful presence in our congregational life.

May God bless you all,