My Dearest Siblings in Christ,
We approach another pandemic Christmas together and it has been a year full of challenges and change. As a community of faith, we have come together and cared for our people and our planet beyond our expectations.
This has been an extraordinary year, as we all know. This was illustrated by the reality of us almost selling out our stock of trees in one week and selling out by mid-December. The reality of living in the midst of a pandemic and our being a significant thread in the fabric of traditions in our community, have led us to encounter many people who are seeking joy, hope, and a touchstone for the people in their homes this Christmas Season. As always happens, we have people coming to the tree lot, sharing and re-sharing their Christmas stories with us. Many of these people have been buying trees for multiple generations—some of those uninterrupted for forty-plus years. A mostly common refrain that we hear, is how this Christmas is going to have even greater meaning than usual for people. People will be staying home and in their homes this year, and our trees will help them to feel hope and joy at a time when they really need to overcome the sense of loss of not being with many others at this time of year. Thank you especially to Dave MacKay and our team of dedicated volunteers for their incredible efforts to provide this ministry to our community again this year!
To add to our impact on our community with our trees of hope and joy is the lighted tree on Maple Grove that has become a symbol again this year of promise to our neighbours, of the love and grace of Christ. We need to say a huge thank you to Dawn’s family, Jim and Pat Chin, for their donation in tribute to their mom and dad, James and Sybil Chin, which has made this possible. Carl at Sun-Lite Improvements decorated the tree for us at a discounted price to contribute to this outreach to our community.
Our worship has changed and evolved over the past months of this pandemic “season”. We are now firmly in the Advent Season and rapidly approaching Christmas Day and we have successfully transitioned from our recorded-only worship and reopened for in-person worship. Even though we will be limited in numbers for our Christmas services, we will be able to gather together and share our worship with an infinite number of people as we are now able to Livestream our services from the Sanctuary.
I want to thank our Wardens and staff for their dedication to making very difficult decisions in a very trying time, to meet the needs of as many people as possible while showing care and love in all that they do. I also want to thank our Compassion and Care Ministry Team for helping to keep you all connected to our church community via telephone and email. I know that it has meant a lot to you all. I want to thank all of our new volunteers, many whom are youth in our neighbourhood, who have made our worship possible, and to Nicola Zhang for organizing and caring for them. And a special thank you to Jeff Bamford who has given an incredible amount of time and expertise to make it possible for many people who are not able to attend worship in person, to connect from home at 10am and now during our new 11:30am service!
Three key themes in our New Testament, in the teachings of Jesus and in the life of the early church are:
To Grow in Faith
To Bring Hope
To Demonstrate Love
We come to church to encounter God and so, as we look toward our ministry work together through St Cuthbert’s for 2022, we can ask these questions: How much do people feel they’re having a real encounter with God? Are they being blessed? Is their faith being deepened when they come to our worship? We exist to grow in faith.
But I also believe that the Christian community ought to be a place of hope. We ought to be optimistic about the future. After all, we believe in God, who holds the future, who is in control of our destinies and who offers the gift of eternal life; an eternal life that has already begun. So, are we as Christians, people who are optimistic, who touch the lives of those around us, who bring the promise of hope and joy and love and peace with us? Do we grow in faith?
And finally, our faith should never be about words alone. Our faith should also be about action. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our world. In Jesus, we see the person who concentrates not on the religious, not on the wealthy, not on the proud. But on the poor, on those who mourn, on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. On the children, on the widows, on those on the edge of society, on the poorest and the outcast. Are we a church that demonstrates love? Are people helped by the work we do? Are people enabled to become more themselves because we love them as God made them to be?
So, these are the focuses for our future. We are called, you and I, to be people who grow in faith, who bring hope and who demonstrate love.
This is a time of year when we take stock of our lives and the lives of those around us. In the spirit of loving Christian generosity, many of us make special charitable donations to agencies and programs that are near and dear to us and that help others. We give the gift of love and support in a very tangible way.
During this past year, St Cuthbert’s and neighbourhood partners, have continued to offer a variety of worship experiences, both in person and on-line, on Sundays and during the week. Educational, prayer, and hospitality programs, as well as our new community gardens, have also helped to meet the needs of our Parish community and our neighbours. We have done these things despite the difficulties imposed on us by COVID. All of this work has required our dedicated collective efforts of time, skill and financial resources. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Will you now take a moment to consider a special Christmas gift towards the work of the St Cuthbert’s in the name of Christ? You may pick up an envelope in the church and drop it into the collection plate in the Narthex, mail your donation to the church office, or send a donation electronically, using an e-transfer to Lori. The electronic options are found on our website at: https://www.stcuthbertoakville.ca/ (One quick and easy way to contribute a special gift it to just click the “DONATE” button on the top right-hand corner.)
Thanks to you all, to some special gifts, for our 60 For 60 Campaign, our Weekly Winners Draw, and the assistance of our Federal Government and our Diocese, we are managing financially. Because of the pandemic, we have been hampered financially and this will make for a very challenging 2022. If you are able to make a special gift or increase your regular gift via Preauthorized Giving, especially before yearend, it would make a great difference in our ability to serve our community in the coming weeks and months. We continue to develop some new and innovative means of fundraising that can sustain us during this ongoing pandemic as well. We look forward to support in these efforts in the coming weeks and months.
To help celebrate the season, we are offering a variety of services to help you journey towards Christmas Day: musical services, opportunities for prayer, to deepen your faith formation, and time to just be still with God.
December 23 Longest Night Service
3:00 pm Pre-recorded
December 24 Zoom Christmas Eve Family Service
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
December 25 Christmas Day
To participate in our Zoom Christmas Eve Family Service, please contact Lori in the church office for a link. All pre-recorded and livestreamed services can be found on our YouTube channel. Click on the YouTube link in the top right hand corner of our website.
We will also be sharing with you, a special pre-recorded offering of your favourite hymns and songs. A huge thank you to Daniel Lee and the Quintessential Choir for their talents and diligence in bringing our music ministry to life in new and innovative ways—with Lori’s help! The Longest Night Service offering, to be released on Thursday December 23, will replace our usual service offering intended to help those who don’t experience the same joy as others this time of year, because of grief, loss, and isolation from others. This year, it may mean more to more people than it has too many in past years. Please share all of our offerings with people you know and those who you think will benefit from experiencing our shared fellowship of worship, regardless of where they live.
On behalf of your dedicated and caring St Cuthbert’s Corporation, I wish you all a sacred and holy—
and safe—Christmas and a peace-filled and prosperous New Year. Hopefully we will all be fully
vaccinated soon, and we will then be able to return to unlimited in person worship and social events
Finally, may you be filled with hope, immersed in peace, embraced by love, and lifted in joy
throughout this Advent and Christmas Season.
And may you experience every blessing of the Trinity,
Your Brother and Servant in Christ,