If we were to liken the beginning of the pandemic to the appearance of the Christmas star, then I feel as if I’m one of the proverbial wise-guys who has spent the past 90 weeks stumbling along the way, not always sure where we’re headed, frequently wondering if the route we’ve taken is the best one.
One thing’s for certain: things won’t look the same when all is said and done—especially at Highland.
At the moment, I’m not feeling especially excited about the potential new opportunities—partly because I’m grieving the losses and disappointments that come with change, and partly because I feel as if I’m scrambling to simply stay on top of things. (I don’t think I’m alone in that experience.)
For instance, while there are a handful of newcomers who have found a connection at Highland in the last 20 months, about 35 people from 17 households who belonged to our community have indicated that they are stepping away because they have moved, or will be joining a different church, and so on.
The pandemic has also put upon us challenges and constraints, as well as a sense of caution for many, so that the bandwidth for Highland’s teams has been reduced. Service groups such as the Care Team, Hospitality Team, Sunday Bistro, Power Point, and Sunday Morning Lockup have 0-1 members, while the Worship Leaders, Learning for Life teachers, and Youth Volunteers are gradually being repopulated. All of this is to say that navigating the increased complexities of life with reduced capacity has meant that all sorts of priorities, plans, duties and tasks at Highland have been slowed down, simplified, set aside, or shuffled without knowing for sure whether we’re on the right track!
Anticipated Itineraries & Divine Detours?
Speaking of which, some have asked, “When will we go back to a 10 a.m. start time for worship?” The short answer: we’re not sure. The longer answer is this: the shift to 9:30 was made last year when it was clear that in-person gatherings would be facilitated by a bare-bones crew that was essentially made up of staff. While the Sunday morning teams are slowly growing, the crew remains relatively small.
We’ve stuck with 9:30 to this point for three reasons: First, given the uncertainties around changing provincial health regulations, leaving it at 9:30 allows us to minimize the changes we’re already having to navigate in this season. Second, Sunday morning meetings have been done before 11, which allows for a full day’s activities for people (particularly those who are involved in hosting gatherings). Third—and perhaps most importantly—the 9:30 start time creates a consistent space for community conversations (e.g. congregational meetings) and learning opportunities (e.g. The Way) to take place. In particular, Highlanders have asked the Elders to facilitate formalized conversations about human sexuality and how our church might care well for LGBTQ+ people, and we are wondering if a “post-worship space” would enable that to happen in 2022.
In any case, while the 9:30 start time could become a permanent change, it remains a temporary adjustment for the time being. And on that note, there are a few detours we’re needing to make this December. Since the thought of enforcing vaccination passports would be at cross-purposes with the event, Highland will host a non-Soirée. Instead of bringing gifts of food, songs, poetry, and performed pageants, we encourage you to offer gifts to the Christ Child by doing one or some of the following:
Also, in December you can expect a few wrinkles to our worship gatherings. First, in an effort to provide a sense of connection with Highlanders who are unable to worship in person, we will be testing out the option of livestreaming our worship times on Zoom. Second, in light of revised provincial health regulations, masks are now required in our worship gatherings. Finally, because we want to welcome all people to our worship times, the Christmas Eve gathering will require that people pre-register. Should more than 100 people sign up, we will plan to host two gatherings instead of one.
As I mentioned earlier, all of this leaves me feeling a bit star-crossed (even lune-y!?!). In the midst of it all, I’ve recently found myself praying a simple prayer at various points in the day: “Here I AM; I am here; It is good.” While it hasn’t done away with my frayed edges, it’s kept me grounded.
I hope the same might prove true for you. As we muddle our way along and do our best insofar as we are able to care for our neighbours and ourselves, I’m hoping that we’ll have more than a few epiphanies of Jesus.