Focus on Faith

Phil Collins

When you think of your faith leader, you may not realize what a challenging time it is for them. I have written about community grief and the stress of change, as we learn to deal with disappointment created by the pandemic.

Please take a moment to consider your faith leaders, your parish priest, and the numerous pastors in our beautiful region.

Kelowna has been called a small bible belt with its unusual number of churches and the belt is straining.

I have listened carefully to what ministers are describing these past weeks. I am hearing that we are receiving more calls from individuals feeling dark and suicidal.

Marriages are under extreme pressure, and the cracks which have been carefully plastered are now gaping cavities.

People are drinking more alcohol. Those who struggle with mental illness are needing more support and loneliness is a reality. As one pastor stated, “Zoom simply does not meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.”

Walks along the greenway become a place to help the struggling, our lush green spaces become sacred places to offer distanced advice.

There are disappointed children as many day camps in the faith community have been cancelled, not forgetting our overnight Bible camps placed in suspension. The weeks of splashing, singing and consuming endless hotdogs on hold. This is the season when our young people travel on overseas missions, building homes in developing countries, and supporting refugees.

Our services are online, so we are not feeling the connection of our treasured congregations. Our congregations are missing each other and the opportunity to serve, sing and celebrate in person.

While some congregants love this armchair worship, comfortable in the new way of the church; they may never return. Meanwhile, young people are desperate to reconnect and come back to church.

Pastors in churches are laid off, although many are still doing what comes so naturally — counselling, loving and tending the flock. This has never been about a salary but a profound vocation.

Of course, there are positives, our faith communities are owning their faith and looking out for their neighbours, We are valuing our community more than ever, letting go of unnecessary “stuff;” and allowing rest. We have read that the church has emerged through pandemics for the past 2,000 years — and it will again.

So in saying all this, I want to ask you to encourage your faith leader, drop them a text, watch the Eucharist online, sow kind words, let them know you are there, say a prayer, send a prayer.

Because the truth is, this is no sabbatical or holy holiday; in fact, all faith leaders I have spoken say the same — they cannot remember a time when they have been busier.

Phil Collins is Pastor at Willow Park Church Kelowna.