Over the past few weeks, parishioners at historic St. John the Divine have been in a slow, intentional, process of returning to in-person worship. Taking cues from the business world, advice from mental health experts, and guidance from our own rich theology, Reverend Laurel Dahill designed a 3-part process of transitioning the parish back to in-person worship services on Sundays.
First, an Open House, September 11, gave the parishioners an opportunity to spend time in the building and reacquaint themselves with the interior at their own pace. Participants could distance as much as they felt necessary and stay as long as each felt comfortable. Signage throughout the buildings gave guests clarity on what to expect on Sunday mornings. “I want everyone to feel confident with our safety measures,” Rev. Dahill said. This event also permitted parish leaders to fine tune their planning. We were joined by a special guest, Bishop John, who came to visit and offer his best wishes for a successful return to in-person gatherings.
The first Sunday together in the chapel on September 12, was a service of remembrance, where we recognized and grieved all that has been lost over the last 19 months. Most mental health experts see the grieving of losses as an essential part of healing and moving on, both for individuals and communities. The liturgy was subdued and austere, leaving space to honour our sadness and grief.
The next Sunday, September 19 was a liturgy of celebration, where we acknowledged with gratitude all the many ways God cares for us. A Renewal of Baptism Vows reminded us of our identity as God’s children. At this service parishioners were welcomed back to continue in the fellowship of the apostles, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.
In the spirit of the Good News and the joy of our loving God, we decorated our masks for the occasion. Parishioners, guests and visitors found very creative ways of taking the mandatory mask directive and making it a joyful expression.
The parish community of St. John the Divine in Maple Ridge is excited to continue its journey forward as a community of faith that supports and encourages God’s people. These recent events helped remind our community of the importance of our shared commitment to one another and to our role in sharing the Good News of God.