Yesterday, we had a guest in worship who, while not a resident of Fort McMurray, had been evacuated. Several members of her family, however, do live there. She came with her daughter and granddaughter who live here in Calgary to be with us yesterday morning. It shows us how close to home this disaster truly is. We know people who are directly affected by this. This morning, a letter was published from the Rev. Donalee Williams, minister at First United Church in Fort McMurray on the website for the Conference of Alberta and Northwest.
Here’s the full text of her letter:
Greetings to our sisters and brothers in Christ from the scattered congregation of Fort McMurray First United Church.
First of all, I must express my profound gratitude that we are safe! During and since the evacuation I have been getting in touch with my people and every time I wrote an email the subject line was “safe”. As I looked in the ‘sent’ box I saw safe … safe … safe … like a mantra. First and foremost we can cling to this. I also give special thanks to friends in Athabasca who are hosting and caring for me and my family.
I am also filled with gratitude for your prayers and offers of help. It is like being bathed in wave after wave of grace and goodwill.
It is hard to know right now what we will need – all I can say right now is ‘thank you’.
And I am filled with gratitude for God’s unwavering presence in all of this: in the panic and desperation of fleeing danger, in the fears and then confirmations of safety, in this in-between and stressful waiting time, which can be like a dance with two partners: gratitude and worry. And yet I know that God dances with us even when we make missteps, even when we may ‘lose it’ and become overwhelmed with the emotion and grief of what has been lost: when we know for sure what we have lost, and when we fear what may be left when the flames are gone and the smoke clears.
I pray that in this crisis we know ever more deeply how much we are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Rev. Donalee Williams,
Fort McMurray First United Church.
For much of Easter I have been talking about churches experiencing resurrection. At this point it is too early to know whether the buildings remain standing or not. First United Church is located in the downtown core, where some structures have been destroyed, including the home of Wildrose opposition leader Brian Jean. Of course, there are numerous churches and faith communities in Fort McMurray, all of whom have uncertain fates. The prayer and word we are looking and hoping for is “safe” in the short term, and pray and work towards resurrection in the long-term.
There are many ways that we can help. Donating through the Canadian Red Cross is first line, but as I had mentioned through our mid-week email, we at St. Matthew’s are also capable of receiving and distributing donations as well. As time progresses, we hope to hear from Donalee Williams as to specific needs once the process of return, rebuild and resurrection begins.
I will share more with you as more information becomes available.
Yours in Christ,
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mondays, 10:00am – Conference Room
- Wayne Valleau is continues to lead a Monday morning Shakespeare Study on the fantasy comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Wayne’s passion and enthusiasm for the Bard is infectious, and you are guaranteed to learn something new.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Seminar – Starting today! Monday, May 9th, 7:15pm – Main Sanctuary
- In cooperation with the Calgary Association of Lifelong Learners (CALL), I will be offering a short course/seminar on the Dead Sea Scrolls. It begins today on Monday May 9th, and it will run for 5-6 sessions on Mondays from 7:15 to about 9pm. If you’re interested in joining me in this course/seminar, please email me to let me know. There is an optional online component that I am also developing that will also be helpful for those who may need to miss a session. At present, I have more than 40 registrants from both the congregation and CALL. I will holding the seminar sessions in the Sanctuary, so there is lots of room for everyone! If you haven’t registered with me, please feel free to do so.
- Pentecost Sunday – May 15th, 2016
- The second-highest holy day of the Christian calendar marking God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, the beginning of the Apostles’ mission, and could even be described as the birthday of the church.
- Spirituals Sunday – June 19th, 2016
- The choir is just starting to prepare for our annual Spirituals Sunday set to take place on Sunday, June 19th. Watch this space for more information!
- Congregational Membership Classes
- If you or someone you know would like to formalize membership with St. Matthew’s, I am hoping to run a membership class in the next few months. If you are interested, please email me, call me at the church, or speak with me directly on Sunday mornings.
Church Office Hours
Wendy’s regular office hours are Mondays, 11am-3pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Friday from 9am-3pm.
My regular office hours are Sunday through Thursdays from 9:00 to 12:30. While I am likely to be in the office in the afternoons Monday through Thursday, I may also be out on pastorals visits or meetings.