It’s Almost Palm Sunday!

Dear St. Stephen’s church family,

Here we are, another week in quarantine, as we work together to flatten the curve. It’s so strange to be taking such drastic measures to combat an invisible threat. But if you think about it, the spiritual life has some similarities to combating a virus! As St. Paul says, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities, the darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Often we find ourselves resolving to think, speak and act in certain ways in order to push back against the darkness which we cannot see, but we know is real. As with corona, as with our spiritual lives—the actions that we choose to take and not to take make a tangible and real difference in the world around us. In this last week of Lent, as we enter into Holy Week, let us be aware of the many opportunities we are given to choose to live in the way of truth, life and salvation—health and wholeness—and to protect the health of our neighbours and friends. We will soon walk with Jesus through his last days and into death. Even as we do this, we know that he will triumph and God is victorious. May we receive strength and hope to walk the path that we have been given.

A few things to note in the next days:

 1. Palm Sunday!

This will be a different Sunday for our parish. We are used to singing and waving palms, reading the passion narrative and marking the change of direction as Holy Week begins. I am going to pick up the palms tomorrow, which will be available if you would like to pick a couple up from the church. I’ll leave them outside in a bucket, starting Thursday (April 2nd) at noon. Please wash your hands before picking a few for your own use. If you would like palms delivered to your home, let me know!

I will be recording a reflection/sermon for Palm Sunday. Maybe you can get out your palms and wave them!! March up and down the hallway?! Some churches are suggesting that Christians place cut branches on our outside doors to mark the day. I am not sure how realistic that is, in our climate! But we could put your palms in the window or just place on your breakfast table. They remind us of the glory and kingship of Jesus! Hosanna! Stay tuned via facebook and our website.

 2. During Holy Week

we will feel the austerity and lack of in-real-life services and liturgy. This may be fitting for the occasion, but we will feel the loss in a different way this year. There are many and numerous resources out there to help you mark the solemnity and holiness of the week. Here are a few things we will be doing to help us keep a holy lent:

Sarah and Brody are going to share a video reflection with us on Holy Monday, focussing on the use of prayer beads in devotional practice. We had planned to have an evening workshop where we made these together, but alas, things have changed! I will post this on facebook.

I will be hosting a ZOOM Christian Seder for those who would like to take part, on Maundy Thursday, April 9th. To take part in this, please rsvp with your interest. I will send you an email invitation (it’s a closed group, not public). You can take part through a video phone call on Maundy Thursday at 6:00 pm. I will send the readings to you ahead of time and ask you to read one of them. You may wish to purchase and prepare the supplies to take part…these include Matzo, hard boiled eggs, parsley, honey, horseradish, lamb!?, wine or grape juice…I can prepare a take-out Seder parcel for you and you can pick it up on Wednesday, April 8th. It will include everything except lamb! You’ll have to order by Sunday, April 5th so I know how much to buy and how many packages to prepare.  This is a liturgical experiment, but I think that the Seder meal lends itself well to this kind of participation, and it may be very meaningful to connect together in this way. You don’t have to actually prepare any of the meal to participate, but it would be fun!

Other possibilities for times of prayer and marking the season will be posted as they are developed. More emails arriving soon! Check out the Diocesan website for more information:

 3. Easter Sunday! The Day of Resurrection! April 12th!

Our National church is encouraging everybody to ring bells on Sunday morning! What a great way to celebrate the joy of Easter. Start looking for your bells now…I know, you may have to open up those Christmas boxes…but it will be worth it! More on Easter to come.

 4. Thank you

…to everybody for your continued financial support of the work and ministry of the church. These are difficult times for many. We received our first ever online interac offering! This is a possible way to give, using our email. Otherwise, PAR (for more information about Pre Authorized Remittance email the office) and snail mail are the best ways to give. We are currently operating with a deficit, which is typical for this time of year, but something we commend to your prayers as we move forward in these uncertain times.

I so appreciate each one of you, our parish family, and hearing how you are coping with this new situation. Iona just called and shared how she is missing coming to church—she says she has come to church since she was a baby! This is really a new experience for us! Wes is unable to go swimming these days and so is doing 10 flights of stairs! Wowow! I’m impressed! I have appreciated getting pictures of people and messages! Please continue to keep in touch! It’s so important—for our health and wellness and sense of family. If you know of a need or have a need yourself, please keep us informed. We are stronger together! 

 The music ministry is meeting by Zoom, as is confirmation class, youth group, wardens and treasurer, and now English class. More opportunities to meet in this way will come up. I’m thinking of a Stations of the Resurrection study after Easter. Let me know if you’d be interested in being a part of this. It would involve being online with a group, an hour a week.

Parish Cycle of Prayer:

Our prayer chain continues to hold up people and situations in prayer, in faith and trust.

Let us all pray for healing for those who are afflicted, for containment of this virus, for those who are working with the sick, for leaders of organizations and countries. Let us not forget to pray for areas of the world where there is continuing underlying issues of poverty and war, other kinds of sickness, hunger or natural disaster. This situation has made us ever mindful of our own frailty, but this knowledge is never far from so many people in the world. May we grow in compassion and love for all of our brothers and sisters in our neighbourhood and in the world.

 Almighty God, whose blessed son Jesus Christ went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among his people: Continue, we beseech Thee, this his gracious work among us; cheer, heal and sanctify the sick, grant to the physicians, surgeons and nurses wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience; and send down thy blessing upon all who labour to prevent suffering and to forward thy purposes of love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (From the Book of Common Prayer)

Sent with joy and hope in Christ,

The Rev. Amy