Is it too late to send you blessings of Peace and Joy for this new year, 2021?
It might be for some, but I believe that every single day is the beginning of a new year.
I have been wanting to write to you since October 21, 2020, but as we all know, after health, time is a precious commodity that we all desire to have more of.
It is a year now that COVID-19 threw a curveball to the world and changed the way of life. The United Church folks thought that new way of doing church, as of January 1, 2019 was a difficult adjustment to embrace, then COVID had other plans.
As we entered 2021, people kept on expressing, “So long 2020,” maybe thinking that the change of the year makes troubles disappear. Personally, I do not think that the last digit change does anything, but arriving at a new year reminds us that this too shall pass – Nothing stays the same, except the Love of God.
2020 pushed us to be something some of us were dreading to be – Church without walls. Technology is one of the scariest words for me. Seminary does not train us for such endeavours. But God’s Wisdom is at work and it is near for us if we are willing to let go of the status quo and offer the best possible virtual worship celebrations and connect with people. Yes, I say the best possible, because at the end of the day we are not in any competition with anyone – there will be no Oscars distributed at the end of the day – what matters is who is comforted and challenged by the Love of God, through us.
No one has a crystal ball or a text from COVID to know when will this end, but we know that God’s Love never ends even in a pandemic, and this gives us the strength to persevere. I heard someone say, “Live cautiously, as if you have the virus, so that you do not spread it.” This sounds harsh and heavy, but I am reminded of my childhood in the Lebanese civil war, where we stayed away from streets and bridges that had snipers; sheltered in our apartments when shelling intensified; schools closed; and all the neighbours of the apartment building brought different ingredients to our apartment, as it was regarded the “safest apartment” and made nourishing dinners by candlelight and fed the entire building.
Beloved, COVID is the silent war that we are fighting, individually, communally and globally. 2020 has truly been a year to help us see clearer, the vulnerable, the voiceless and the victims in our world. We may think we cannot do much, but we know as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we can make this world a better place by doing justice and resisting evil, even during a pandemic – as we work together United in Love.
On October 20, 2020, I had the opportunity to virtually meet with all the presidents and presidents-elect of this United Church of ours. We shared with the gathered, which included, Nora Sanders (her last meeting with us before her retirement). The message was the same across the board – “We are trying our best.”
So, friends, all this to say, do not be dismayed, because the One who was hovering over the formless and empty earth, where darkness was over the surface of the deep (Genesis 1:2), is still hovering and moving, not only over us but also in us. Promising to make something beautiful out of the ashes that we submit to this Eternal, Unchanging Love – Something Beautiful is on the horizon.
Together, as we journey through 2021, more virtually than ever before, know that the region’s staff and executive team are doing the best that we can to take care of the work of the church at hand, but most of all we praying for you. Let us remember to meet the needs of others around us, near or far, because God calls us to live our lives in such a way that everyone’s lives depend on ours.
In closing, I offer you this concluding prayer that I had the privilege to share at the October meeting mentioned above. May it bless you as you read and share it with others.
Let Us Pray:
We come to you united for a new vision, a new beginning, a new opening.
May the bare trees around us help us remember to let go of what restrains us from living your liberating love. Calling us to allow our belief to be Life for ourselves and others…
We give you thanks for all who have answered your call to serve you as Presidents and Presidents-elect of each Regional Council, and we have answered your call with trust in you, that with the Call, you also equip us with your Grace and Wisdom.
Thank You for this time that we had together, to share where we are, and explore our possibilities through your Mercy, working together, United, and still uniting.
We especially Pray for Nora, as she begins her sabbath of retirement, may she be able to surrender all responsibilities in your love and just like the autumn leaves, may she be blessed with every letting go and be reminded that her years as General Secretary has created something beautiful in your name and paved the way for the future…
Bless Michael, as he takes office and may our vision for the Church be Your Vision becoming evident to us and through us.
Creator God, Thank You for all that you have blessed us with and for the work that is ahead of us. We pray in the name of the Triune God, who calls us to Dream Further than the stars, Deeper than the sea and higher than the mountains… The Creator, The Son and the Holy Wisdom, Sophia always with us Now and Forever. Amen.
Because of Grace,
Rev. Takouhi Demirdjian-Petro
Ordained Minister – Grace United Church, Gananoque, ON
President of E.O.O.R.C.