With what was hopefully a restful summer fading in the rear view mirror, it’s again time to pass along some information related to our life as a church.
Savouring Summer Growth
Our scattered community has experienced growth over the last months. The Giesbrechts welcomed a baby boy, Cale Stanage got married, and 9 people have indicated a desire to belong to Highland! Meanwhile, we’ve heard some nifty stories of people in Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota, Kansas, California, and various places in BC joining us in Scattered Prayers.
There has also been much learning on the part of Highland staff in July and August. The VBS and Gathered Prayers meetings on Zoom, the Practice of the Month and Household Feast and Sabbath liturgies provided online, as well as the Green Grass Gathering and St. Peter’s Fireside in-person get-togethers have helped us develop a sense of what works as we plan for the coming autumn and winter months.
For all of these “gains,” we’re grateful.
Based on our experience of the last 6 months, and what we see emerging in the coming weeks, the Highland staff, Elders and Board of Management see a number of challenges and opportunities for our community.
With COVID-19 cases rising in BC, public health directives to faith communities remain the same: it will be well into 2021 before we can meet together as we did before. Current data also indicates that this season has proven to be an “off ramp” for many Christians, so that the majority of churches have seen a significant drop in participation and giving.
Because we won’t be holding our traditional worship gatherings for the foreseeable future, the Board of Management, with input from the Elders, has made the difficult decision to lay off the part-time worship coordinator role at Highland with no set return date. We’re grateful to Katherine Wight for filling that role so ably—she has blessed Highland with her gifts of music, creativity, and administration. We hope you’ll join us in praying for Katherine and her family during this season of transition, and in thanking her for her ministry to us as worship coordinator.
As the fall unfolds, J, Jennifer and Matthew continue to operate with the understanding that adjustments in their hours may also be required at some point. We are grateful that Highland’s income from rentals and offerings has been close to meeting our expenses (which paid staff have been careful to limit and reduce), so that—unlike many congregations—we’ve managed to avoid further cuts to staff hours and salaries. Thanks to Highlanders, for their ongoing generosity!
While the current season has brought with it pleasant surprises, it’s also brought it’s share of trials. Some of us have lost loved ones. There are adults, youth and children in our community struggling to recover or maintain mental, physical, and relational health. There are others who are bruised from past church experiences or the simple wear and tear of life.
Our congregation now consists of approximately 230 people who are spread out between Langley and Harrison Lake on both sides of the Fraser River and the 49th parallel. That’s more ground than one pastoral elder is able to cover on his/her own. In addition, up to 30% of us have joined the community in the last 3 years. That newness, combined with our even-more-physically-distanced circumstances, means that it’s easier for people to “slip through the cracks.”
With that in mind, the following steps are being pursued:
A portion of our community has signalled a strong desire to meet for worship in person. With an eye towards caring for and equipping one another, our paid staff will be taking the lead in facilitating the following:
The physical distancing requirements of our pandemic-shaped circumstances offers the opportunity for Highlanders to live our stated value that we are all ministers—people who join God in the redemption of all things by stewarding what we have for the sake of others. With that in mind, our paid staff will be looking to equip and support Highlanders in our shared life. You are invited to engage in one or more of the following ways should you have the capacity:
As always, we look forward to discovering more Truth, and experiencing more Life, as we follow the Way in your company—even in physically-distanced circumstances—in the days to come.
-- The Elders
Abe Buhler, Audrey Hoehn, Lorraine Isaak,
Stephanie Jantzen, J Janzen, Jim Van Meer