On March 2, Ash Wednesday, we began our Lenten journey as a church. Lent is a season of transition. While we associate it with the barrenness of sorrow over our sins and the austerity of spiritual striving, the word itself just means spring. Lent, therefore, is a season of quiet growth—of the transition from the deathliness of winter to the life of summer.
There is a story of an American poet – I can’t remember his name – who said that every once in a while he liked to drop everything he was doing, put on his plaid shirt, favorite jeans and hiking boots, and stomp out into the woods where he would find a stump to sit on. And he would sit there, maybe all day, not making “to do” lists or even composing poetry. Instead, he would reflect on where he had been in his life and where he was going. He just stopped to reflect.
In Lent the church goes out into the wilderness to sit still and reflect on where it has been and where it is going. It’s a bit like the secular season of New Years in that way – a time for looking back reflectively and looking forward with renewed energy – but without the law-driven, guilt-laden busywork of resolutions. Lent is not a time for activity and action, but quiet, stillness, and reflection. Unlike New Years with its extraverted, festive energy, this is an austere season of interiority, one of quiet and almost invisible growth. At New Years we light fireworks and sound horns; in Lent we listen for returning geese and look for crocuses and pussywillows.
Speaking of transitions, there are some significant ones underway at Hope right now.
The first is Jane’s departure as Office Administrator, which was announced on February 25. I want to express gratitude to Jane Henderson for her 15 years of service to Hope Lutheran as Office Administrator. In that time she has worked with four pastors, several different staff members, lots of church treasurers and chairpersons, and probably hundreds of volunteers. She has seen the church through transitions of leadership, controversies great and small, times of celebration, and times of loss and sorrow. The congregation is not the same today as when she started; and ministry has particularly changed in the past two years. Through all this she has maintained a steady presence and calm demeanor.
Jane has a special gift of helping and hospitality. Her heart is always open to the needs of others, and she is always sensitive to others’ feelings. In her role at the front desk she has had opportunity to share her gifts with the many, many people who call the church or drop in for an errand. A simple trip to drop off a donation or pick up a newsletter can become, with Jane, a chance to connect and feel embraced. Her greeting, “How are you?” is never perfunctory, but always heartfelt.
When Jane requested last fall to move to part-time we were sad to have less of her presence in the office, but happy to adjust our roles to enable her to have more time with home and family. Now that she has announced her intention to step away fully to be able to commit herself to new opportunities and directions, we again feel her loss keenly but also celebrate this transition in her life.
A second major transition is the departure of Bonnie as our Director of Music Ministries. She has more to say about this later in this newsletter. Right here let me express gratitude for her presence and ministry among us these past eight years on staff (but much longer as a member of this congregation). Bonnie’s musical talents have enhanced the worship life of Hope in many dimensions, whether accompanying for hymns, choosing music and directing the choir, organizing others to contribute their musical gifts, or just playing reflective music during communion or before and after worship. Her personability and care for others helps her with her work and given her a special place in the hearts of our members. We rejoice with her because of the new adventures that are opening up, but will miss her incredibly from our midst.
Gracious God, we thank you for the work and witness of your servants Jane and Bonnie, who have enriched this congregation and shared their gifts with us. Now bless and preserve them at this time of transition. Day by day, guide them and give them what is needed, friends to cheer their way, and a clear vision of that to which you are now calling them. By your Holy Spirit be present in their pilgrimages, that they may travel with the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Another transition we’re all facing right now is the lifting of (almost) all COVID restrictions in our province! After two whole years of living under various forms of lockdown and restriction for the sake of our own and our neighbours’ health, all of the sudden, it seems, they’re all gone. But we know that COVID isn’t “all gone,” even if the current wave is subsiding and the symptoms appear to be less severe. How do we feel walking into the grocery store now, knowing that some might be wearing masks and some not? Or going to a restaurant, knowing that vaccine passports are no longer in force? Or coming to church?
Some in our church will be celebrating and wanting to rip their mask off as fast as they can, feeling relief and exhilaration. Others will be worried that things are moving too fast, needing a bit more caution for a bit longer, feeling apprehensive. Many of us feel all these things at once!
At Hope we’re going to ask people to wear masks in the building just a little longer (details in Zena’s message below). We hope that those who feel worried about restrictions lifting too soon will be reassured that precautions are still being taken at the church, and those who are more than ready to let go of their masks will be patient as we continue to monitor trends. In this way we will bear with one another in love, thinking always of the other’s wellbeing, never doing anything to cause another to stumble (1 Cor 10:31-33).
During this season of transitions great and small, I hope you take time out to be still. Maybe begin or renew a spiritual discipline like prayer, giving to charity, or fasting. May this be a time of listening for the “still, small voice” of God that whispers promise. In the midst of transitions may we find unexpected opportunities. May this be a time of growth, new insights, and renewal in your life, and in the life of our congregation.
“May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)