It is unbelievable that we have gone through seven weeks of shutdown now in Ontario as a result of COVID-19. The long days and changes in social practice continue to be strange, but we seem to be getting by and can be thankful for the work of our governments to ensure the availability of basic needs. I salute all those who are on the front lines during this time, our healthcare workers and support staff, as well as those in the food industry and grocery store workers. They are making this difficult time work for the nation.
The Ontario State of Emergency declaration is in place until May 19th at least. In the next week or so, we should learn more of how the Province thinks we will emerge from the shutdown. The virus, however, will not be gone and we shall all have to take precautions for the foreseeable future. I, personally, suspect that we are going to be in a partial “shutdown” for many months to come. While at some point, churches may be allowed to open for smaller gatherings, we at Eastminster will have to think through many things, including what the age-demographic of our congregation might entail.
I am so thankful that we have been able to maintain some sense of community through our iWorship Service, “This Service Has 32 Minutes.” It seems that we shall have to get used to this form of “gathering” for the time being and we will try to step up what we are doing with the technology available. We recognise, however, that not all our members can access the internet or our Services. Sometimes, I am surprised when I realise that someone in their 90s is very familiar with the internet, and equally surprised when another person in their 60s or 70s has avoided it in their lives. As things move forward, I unfortunately see no other way that we can draw together as a community, so I would encourage everyone to help those who cannot access the internet to be able to view the Service. This may mean, inviting someone over on a Sunday morning to watch the Service with you (when government restrictions allow small gatherings) or, it may mean teaching someone how to access the service through a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Please do what you can to help others, and if you are on Facebook, “share” the service with your circle of friends. Who knows whom it may help or speak to, and it may draw individuals to check Eastminster out later when we move out of pandemic mode.
During this time, your staff and lay leaders have continued the work of the Church. With the blessing of the United Church of Canada leadership, Council met last month via Zoom video-conferencing to suspend the normal rules, allow electronic meetings, and vowed to represent the congregation of Eastminster in good faith until the virus threat subsides. The Management Team and Council continue to keep an eye on church finances and while we are down about 30% in our offerings, we are thankful for the continued support of so many in the congregation. We are thankful too for the Federal government’s action to support small business and non-profit organisations. Our Administrator, Nicola, has applied for the 75% salary support for employees and we are hopeful that we will get that in the near future. This has enabled us to stay staffed and ready for opening whenever that will occur. David Cornish, for instance, has been busy stripping floors, steam-cleaning all carpets, and putting fresh coats of paint on many offices and rooms in the church building. The building will be pristine when we return.
While Pastor Frank and I are active on the phones, we are so thankful for the work of our pastoral-care team, our elders, one of our study groups, and some of our young people for their help in contacting others and ensuring that they know, Eastminster still cares. We are in this together and together we will emerge stronger in community and love.
God’s richest blessings to all,
Dr. David McMaster