Online Worship During COVID-19

Archived Online Worship Services – September-October 2020
Trinity United Church, Bowmanville


Anniversary Sunday – Click Here – October 25, 2020

20th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – October 18, 2020

Thanksgiving Sunday – Click Here – October 11, 2020

18th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – October 4, 2020

17th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – September 27, 2020

16th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – September 20, 2020

15th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – September 13, 2020

14th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – September 6, 2020


Archived Online Worship Services – March-August 2020
Trinity United Church, Bowmanville and St. Paul’s United Church


13th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – August 30, 2020

12th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – August 23, 2020

11th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – August 16, 2020

10th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – August 9, 2020

9th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – August 2, 2020

8th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – July 26, 2020

7th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – July 19, 2020

6th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – July 12, 2020

5th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – July 5, 2020

4th Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – June 28, 2020

3rd Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – June 21, 2020

2nd Sunday after Pentecost – Click Here – June 14, 2020

Trinity/Pride/Union Sunday – Click Here – June 7, 2020

Pentecost Sunday – Click Here – May 31, 2020

6th Sunday of Easter – Click Here – May 17, 2020

5th Sunday of Easter – Click Here – May 10, 2020

4th Sunday of Easter – Click Here – May 3, 2020

3rd Sunday of Easter – Click Here – April 26, 2020

2nd Sunday of Easter – Click Here – April 19, 2020

Easter Sunday – Click Here – April 12, 2020

Good Friday – Click Here – April 10, 2020

Maundy Thursday – Click Here – April 9, 2020

Palm/Passion Sunday – Click Here – April 5, 2020

5th Sunday in Lent – Click Here – March 29, 2020

4th Sunday in Lent – Click Here – March 22, 2020


Messages from Rev. Jen Broomhead during COVID-19


Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 28, 2020

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

In my reflection for this Sunday’s service, I talk about Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples as he sends them out to heal and preach. It’s part of a larger section in the Gospel of Matthew that is commonly referred to as the “Missionary Discourse.”

I must confess that part of the reason I chose this passage for my reflection instead of sticking with the book of Genesis, as I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, is that because the story in Genesis is one I prefer to avoid if at all possible. It’s the story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.

Genesis 22 begins, “After these things, God tested Abraham.” Abraham feels God calling him to take his son (and now his only son, because Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, have been sent away) and present him as a burnt offering to God. Abraham takes Isaac up the mountain to perform the sacrifice, but at the last minute an angel stops Abraham, Isaac is spared, and a ram that is caught in a thicket is sacrificed instead.

The story is told with little emotion, but we may experience powerful emotions when we hear it. It frightened me when I was a child, and it horrifies now that I am a parent.

Some interpreters describe this as a story of Abraham’s unquestioning obedience. Some do not question that God would test Abraham in this way, others are mortified that God would test Abraham in this way.

Some suggest that Abraham should have discerned that this was not something God would ever ask.

Many interpreters see Abraham’s willingness to obey as a sign of his faith that God would somehow intervene, that his obedience to God’s outrageous request shows that Abraham not only adores the gift, this long-promised child, but also trusts the giver of the gift.

Yes, the story has a “happy” ending, though perhaps not for the ram. But there is tension inherent in it, and it’s not a tension that is easily resolved.

I don’t believe God sends us trials to test us, to prove that we have faith. I do believe that God is with us through the tests we face, and that our faith can be strengthened though difficult times.

However, I do think God asks us to do hard things, because walking in God’s way is not always easy.

And that’s what Jesus is telling his disciples as he sends them out to proclaim to the people that the kingdom of God is at hand. The teachings of Jesus are challenging: he’s always talking about forgiveness, loving our enemies, responding to hatred with love and compassion, turning the other cheek, not worrying so much about the future, losing one’s life to save it, taking up our crosses…Jesus’ message is good news, but it also calls us to a challenging, often counter-cultural way of life.

The good news, the call to live according to kingdom values rather than worldly values, to choose love over fear, to stand up for the powerless and marginalized, this message will not always be well-received. Jesus knows that, and he tells his disciples that they will encounter hardship and find themselves being challenged and tested along the way. But they will not be alone in when they do.

I do not believe God sends us trials to test us, to prove ourselves faithful. But I do understand that it feels that way sometimes.

It’s hard when some of the practices we use to carry us through challenging times – like spending time with loved ones and going to church – are not available to us. We are being required to adapt and reinvent and “pivot” all the time. We want to be safe and keep others safe, and we want to go to the grocery store or a neighbour’s house without anxiety.

But whatever these days throw at us, whatever tests we are facing, God is here. God is with us in these times of grief and loneliness and uncertainty. The presence of God is made known to us in many guises. Where have you encountered God recently? How did it make you feel? What kind of response did it inspire?

I do believe that God is with us through the tests we face, and helps us through the trying times, and never stops loving us, not even for a moment. And because of that belief, because of those little and large reminders of God’s love and presence, I can say with confidence, even when I’m feeling tested, that God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Wednesday (June 10) night, our Executive Council decided that Trinity United Church – Bowmanville will not consider opening before September 2020.

Though we will not be gathering in the building, we will continue to provide virtual worship services, pastoral care and the other activities we have been doing since the COVID-19 Pandemic was declared.

Our guiding principle is the safety of all who enter the building. We will provide more information soon about the next steps we will take.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Trinity Sunday – June 7, 2020

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

I’ve been searching for words this week, and no matter how hard I search, or where, or for how long, I can’t seem to find any.

I can’t find the words to bring some comfort to hearts that are weary and broken and outraged, words that could make some sense of the chaos or shine a light on systemic injustice, words that might inspire action. I can’t find the words right now, which is telling me that it’s time to listen.

Right now, I need to really, truly, and deeply listen to the stories, experiences, pain, and grief of my sister and brothers of colour. I need to sit with it and the discomfort and defensiveness and pain that this listening will bring.

Whether we want to admit it or not, racism exists in this country, too, in overt and subtle and systemic ways, and it needs to be confronted. And so right now, as a person of enormous privilege, I must actively engage in the work of becoming anti-racist. It’s going to be hard work, I’m going to mess up, and I’m going to apologize and try again.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to confront injustice. So even as I listen and do the work, I’m going to keep searching for the words, because though I may not have them right now, I cannot remain silent.

So that’s where I’m at this week. In the coming days I’ll provide some links to resources from the national church and other trusted sources. There are voices that must be amplified, and much wisdom to be heard. Let us listen. Let us learn. And, always, let us love.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Pentecost Sunday – May 31, 2020

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week I shared a post on Facebook which read: “Just to be clear the Church has not been closed so it does not need to be re-opened. We have simply stopped worshipping in our buildings for a time to protect the health and well-being of our people and our communities. The Church does not require a building in order to be the Church. What is required is love, compassion, and the presence of God.”

I shared that quote because I believe it speaks an important truth. I also believe that the comment made on my post speaks an important truth: “I still miss the community at the church.”

As followers of Jesus, we don’t need a building to be the Church. But we do need each other. And we need love, compassion, and the presence of God.

I miss you. I miss being together. I’m especially missing you this Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Christian church. Pentecost Sunday is one of my favourite celebrations, because it’s about experiencing the Spirit of God, and celebrating how the Spirit is doing new and amazing and wonderful things. It’s about us recognizing God in our midst and being open to the new and amazing and wonderful things God is doing right here and now, in spite of all the other stuff that’s going on around us. It’s an energetic, enlivening reminder that God is always up to something.

It’s hard not to be celebrating that with you this year. But we’re still a community. We’re still the Church. And we’re doing we can to stay connected emotionally and spiritually though we are physically apart.

I read an article this week by Rev. Cameron Trimble, in which she answered “Frequently Asked Questions” about online church. The first was, Is online church real church? Her answer was, without a doubt, yes.

“Virtual is not the opposite of real. It’s the opposite of physical. They are both real! …The stories we share and the connections we have, even when mitigated through a video call, a live chat, or social media posts, they are real connections. This doesn’t mean that church online will replace church in person. But it can allow for greater access and engagement, especially during a time when we are unable to gather in person.”

I see you being the church, even now – especially now! Making masks, making calls, running errands, delivering supplies, sending messages, keeping in touch, keeping your distance, all of that and then some. Thank you. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much sometimes, but it means a great deal.

One of the biggest challenges for me is that we don’t know when we’ll be together again. Never mind how it will happen or what it will look like – that’s a whole other set of stressors! But for me, since we don’t have a deadline to look forward to or work toward, we’re just playing the waiting game when we’d much rather be playing “Hungry, Hungry Hippos.”

This is tough. And so are we. In the words of another post I shared on Facebook this week from Paul S. Boyton, “As we step into the unknown, we discover we can be fragile and strong and terrified and brave all at the same time.”

I am so grateful that we don’t have to travel into the unknown alone. I am grateful for our shared fragility and strength and fear and courage as we support one another on this road. And I am blessed every single day as I witness your love and compassion in action, as we continue to be the Church and embody the presence of God.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Sixth Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

The Gospel passage for the sixth Sunday of Easter is from John 14:15-21. Jesus is speaking to the disciples as they are gathered in the Upper Room for the Passover meal. In these verses, Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…[God] will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…You know [the Spirit], because [it] abides with you, and [it] will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

This passage is part of a larger speech known as the “Farewell Discourse,” in which Jesus is telling his disciples about his impending departure. Trying to calm their confusion and concern, Jesus shares with them his final instructions and gives them the encouragement they need to continue to do God’s work after he is gone.

Jesus promises the disciples that they will not be alone, not really. He explains the indwelling of God by introducing the concept of the Holy Spirit, assuring them that though he will leave them physically, he will always be with them in and through the spirit.

Everything Jesus says is bracketed by the command to love. The Body of Christ is created, empowered, and nourished through God’s gift of Spirit, who supports, encourages, and empowers us as we seek to love.

In these times of isolation and distance, when we long to be together as a community, we need the gift of the Holy Spirit. We need to be reminded that we are not alone, that God has not abandoned or orphaned us. The Spirit makes itself known in so many ways, through different images and experiences – encouraging and empowering us, challenging us, comforting and connecting us.

We humans are wired for connection. We crave belonging. Social scientists frequently point out that a key aspect of us, as mammals, is a desperate need to feel connected with others.

I thank you for all you are doing to keep connected with the Trinity community, and I encourage you to reach out if you are needing that connection. We are in this together, we are not alone.

Please know that I miss you, and am looking forward to the day when we can safely be together again. And please remember, always, that you are loved.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear Friends,

There is a tradition at Trinity that on Mother’s Day, everyone is invited to bring a flower to church in honour of their mother, or grandmother, or other important woman in their life. The flowers are affixed to a cross constructed out of wood and chicken wire, and the result is a beautiful, eclectic, glorious floral arrangement. After worship the cross is carefully secured to the front steps of the church to be shared with the entire community.

This year, for the first time in many years, we will not be decorating the Mother’s Day Cross – at least, not in person.

Thank you to the Trinity United Church Community for sending me their flower photos, which I used to create these virtual Mother’s Day Crosses.

We are not together, but we are not alone.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Fifth Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Are you now, or have you ever been, a rock hound? That is, do you have a rock collection?

My cousin had a fabulous rock collection growing up. She’s not an active collector anymore, but when we were up north for a visit in October, she had pieces from her collection on display for us to look at. She had semi-precious stones, minerals, gems, petrified wood, all kinds of diverse specimens – all beautiful in their own way and treasured just as they were.

The author of 1 Peter says we are living stones, built into a spiritual house with Christ as the cornerstone. As the church, as followers of Jesus, we build our lives on the foundation of life in Christ, in relationship with God and each other. We lean on and support each other as we build a spiritual house where all are welcome, all are accepted and loved as they are, and where we are nourished and nurtured as we grow in faith.

There are so many metaphors used in Scripture and through the ages to describe God. Just last week we were talking about God as a shepherd. But it was only this week that it occurred to me that God is also a rock collector.

As the church, as God’s beloved, we are diverse, beautiful, precious living stones. Like the stones of a building, God brings us together. Like the multi-hued pebbles gathered onto a beach, we come from different places. Like river stones, smooth from life’s surges or chipped in the world’s torrents, we have each been shaped by different experiences. Like precious stones, chosen, crafted, and treasured, we are crafted, treasured, and loved by God.

Whatever the coming week has in store, remember that you are not alone – God remains faithfully present. Remember that you are precious in God’s sight, and that God’s love is ever true.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen

 


Fourth Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, the Fourth of Easter, is also celebrated in the liturgical calendar as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Psalm for this Sunday is always Psalm 23. My reflection for the Worship Service on Sunday comes from the book of Acts, but since I don’t want to spoil anything, I’m going to share a few thoughts about the Psalm here.

Psalm 23 is a song of hope and strength in times of darkness and doubt, grief and fear. It reminds us that wherever we are, our Good Shepherd is with us, guiding us even during the most difficult of times. It is a Psalm of great comfort, and is often read at funeral services and other occasions when we need to be assured of God’s presence.

My understanding of and appreciation for Psalm 23 has been greatly influenced in recent years by Rabbi Harold Kushner and his book, The Lord’s My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm. I often share his words at funerals, because I hope their wisdom will provide comfort to the grieving, and because they provide comfort to me.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Kushner says he was often asked, “Where was God? How could God have let such a thing happen?” The answer he found himself giving was, “God’s promise was never that life would be fair. God’s promise was, when it’s your turn to confront the unfairness of life, no matter how hard it is, you’ll be able to handle it, because [God will] be on your side. [God] will give you the strength you need to find your way through.”

This answer, he says, is essentially a paraphrase of Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Psalm 23 “comforts us with its familiar words and images,” Kushner writes, “but its message…teaches us to look at the world we live in…as a world in which we can live courageously…The world may be frightening place, but it becomes less frightening when we know that God is here with us.”

The world seems a frightening place right now. There is so much we don’t know, so much we can’t control, so much that will never be the same. That is painful and difficult and causes us much grief. We may find ourselves asking, “Where are you, God? How long?” In these times when we find ourselves “in the valley of the shadow,” we look to those things that bring us comfort – a friend, a loved one, a favourite food, a favourite song, a favourite Psalm…

“[Psalm 23] never asks us to pretend that [loss] does not change things,” Kushner says. “But it introduces us to a God who is with us in our pain, and who leads us through the dark valley back into the light. It summons us to live bravely, to go forward with our lives in the confidence that we are not alone.”

We are not alone. God is with us, and we are in this together. Thank you for the many ways you embody God’s presence and live God’s love, in dark valleys and in green pastures, and all the places in between.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Third Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

The gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Easter is Luke 24:13-35. In this post-resurrection story, two travellers are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about all that’s happened, when they are joined on the road by a mysterious stranger. The conversation continues, and the stranger interprets “the things about [the Messiah] in all the scriptures” (v. 27) The stranger is invited to share a meal with the travellers, and as the bread is blessed and broken, the stranger’s identity is revealed: he is Jesus, the Risen Christ.

Referring to this passage, renowned Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan wrote: “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”

Maybe Emmaus didn’t happen exactly the way Luke tells it. There is no mention of this story in the other gospels. There is no scholarly consensus about where Emmaus was, or even if such a village ever existed. But maybe that’s not really the point. Even if it didn’t happen exactly like this, it’s still a true story.

Crossan’s statement invites us to grapple with the truth that the factual (historical) significance of the resurrection stories is secondary to a more profound truth: the risen Christ is with us. Now. Here. And Luke’s story responds to the heart’s desire of later Christians (including us today!) to see and experience the resurrected Christ, just as the first believers did.

We’re like those travellers. We’re trying to make sense of all that is going on in the world, in our country, in our communities. We may be feeling anxiety and grief about what was, what is, what will be…

Jesus meets the travellers where they are on the road, and in their need. He gives them space to speak and space to be themselves. Recognition comes in its own way and in its own time. The Emmaus story isn’t only a story about something that happened long ago to other people. Emmaus always happens. Jesus’ words and actions continue to call out to who we are and what we need. Sometimes we might be so preoccupied with or angered by our own concerns or grief that we don’t realize that the Risen Christ is alongside us as we travel, revealing who he is, who God is, in the encounter. We do not always recognize God’s companionship on our own.

How have you encountered the Risen Christ this Easter season? Who have been your companions on the way?

I am so grateful for you, the Trinity community, for walking the Emmaus Road with me every day.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen

 


Second Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

If I had to choose a theme song for this past month, I’d probably go with a song from my university days, “Some Days Are Better Than Others,” by U2:

“Some days are dry, some days are leaky,
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky,
Some days take less, but most days take more,
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor.” 

I could also go back to my childhood and quote John Denver instead:

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones…” 

You get the idea. Taking it day-by-day is all we can do – and that’s okay. Some days are better than others. Some days the technology is working, some days you want to throw your computer out the window. Some days the to-do list gets done, some days it’s disheartening to even look at the to-do list. Some days we’re huddled behind closed doors, fearful and uncertain, waiting for a word of peace from the Resurrected Christ. 

Peace be with you.” These were Jesus’ first words to the disciples when he appeared to them on “the evening of that day, the first day of the week (John 20:19).” They are the words we need to hear when anxiety, fear, and frustration overwhelm us. 

Every year we celebrate the Easter story with joy and fanfare. But on that first Easter, there was more fear than joy. The disciples’ reaction was more quiet astonishment and doubt than fanfare. And though we couldn’t be together in celebration, the story remains the same. Jesus has risen, love and hope have triumphed over hatred and despair, and the Risen Christ speaks these same words to us: “Peace be with you.”

Though we are apart, behind our own closed doors, we are in this together. Peace be with you.

Blessings, 
Rev. Jen


Easter Sunday

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Holy Saturday is the day in Holy Week when all we can do is wait.

Today the disbelief of all that has happened is wearing off, and the reality of what it means is sinking in. Jesus is in the tomb. The community is scattered and afraid. Nothing will be the same again. Hope is lost.

The grief and longing in this waiting is palpable this year. The pain of separation, the loneliness for loved ones, the yearning for things to just “get back to normal,” the fear…All of it. It’s difficult, and we need to acknowledge that it’s difficult. We need to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we’re feeling without judgement, and to show the same compassion to ourselves that we would to others.

We can honour our pain and still acknowledge in faith that God is at work, even now.

Things are difficult. But we now that the story of Holy Week doesn’t end with the agony of Good Friday, or even the sorrow of Holy Saturday. We know that the dream is not dead, that hope is not lost, that love conquers fear, and that despair does not get the last word. We know that Easter is coming.

Easter is coming!

This good news is our hope, our joy, our story. Even though today all we can do is wait, we can wait together. And so we wait, because we know, deep in our hearts, that Easter is coming. Thanks be to God!

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Holy Week

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends, 

Holy Week is always an exhausting week – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Within the span of a few days, we celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, share in an unusual meal, witness Jesus’ anguish as he prays in the garden, watch in horror as he is arrested, tried, and sentenced, and weep with the women at the foot of the cross. We know that this is not the whole story, thanks be to God, but we also know we must walk this path in order to reach the resurrection. 

This year, Holy Week also feels completely surreal. This year, the word “Hosanna” feels especially poignant: Save us. 

This Holy Week, like all the others, will be emotional and exhausting. This year, like very year, we will, as Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, “bring our own new selves to [the story] – experiences, emotions, expectations.” 

“Entering the Passion,” she says, “should give us courage – courage to lament, to embrace righteous anger, to see the course to the end. And entering the Passion should give us comfort as well – the comfort of knowing that death is not the end of the story, and the comfort of knowing that the good news continues not just when people proclaim it, but when they enact it.” 

I am grateful to be taking this Holy Week journey with you, and blessed that we are called to proclaim and enact the good news together. 

Blessings, 
Rev. Jen


Palm / Passion Sunday

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

On Wednesday evening, several kids from Trinity (and their caregivers) met online for a check-in and a bedtime story. It was so good to see their faces and watch them interact with friends they’d not seen since early March. 

Earlier in the week, Trinity Church School Coordinator Nicola Van Dam and I were discussing what story she should read for our first get-together. We wanted something from the Bible; something relatively short, but not too short; and something engaging for all ages.

Our first choice was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, given that it’s nearly Palm Sunday, but those stories are being told during the worship service. Some of the other contenders were either too short, too long, or too exciting for bedtime. We were in our respective homes, scouring our respective children’s Bibles, when a voice from Nicola’s house piped up, “What about Noah’s Ark?”

The voice had a good point. We were able to draw several parallels between Noah’s story and our story today, the most resonant being that many folks are cooped up inside for a long period of time. So that’s what Nicola read to us, and it was lovely.

Scriptures

Matthew 21:1–11 – Jesus enters Jerusalem.
Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29 – The stone the builders rejected.
Isaiah 50:4–9a – The suffering servant struck and insulted.
Psalm 31:9–16 – My times are in your hands.
Philippians 2:5–11 – Let the same mind be in you as was in Jesus.
Matthew 26:14–27:66 – Judas agrees to betray Jesus.
Matthew 27:11–54 – Pilate questions Jesus.

Today, I’m thinking not only about those folks who are cooped up inside their arks, but also about those who step out into the storm every day. Essential service workers are doing their jobs to keep their communities safe, fed, clean, and cared for. It is humbling to reflect on some of the things we often take for granted. Thank you. 

Though we can’t know how long we’ll be in this particular ark, we are nearing the end of the 40-day period of Lent. Holy Week begins on Sunday as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and commemorate the events of the days before his death on the cross. 

There is one thing I am certain of as this season of Lent draws to a close: Easter is coming. Thanks be to God. 

Blessings, 
Rev. Jen


Fifth Sunday of Lent

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Typically when preparing worship services, I use the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s a three-year cycle of readings that follows the seasons of the church year. And even though we’re not having regular Sunday services, Rev. Michelle Brotherton of St. Paul’s United Church and I decided we’d stick with the lectionary readings for the season of Lent.

Keep in mind that these readings are part of a fixed cycle. The Psalm, Hebrew Scripture, and Gospel readings that we’ve shared these past two weeks were chosen from the options for Lent 4 and Lent 5.

So I find it pretty incredible that the Psalm for Lent 4 (March 22) was Psalm 23, the beloved and familiar song that brings comfort to so many. And then this week, we hear about Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones and Jesus’ raising of Lazarus, two stories of hope in the midst of loss and grief.

Scriptures

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (“Dry Bones”) | Psalm 130 | Romans 8:6-11 | John 11:1-45 (“Lazarus”)

For this this week’s service my focus was on Ezekiel’s vision. Now, I don’t want to spoil this worship service for you, so I’m not going to give too much away! “Dry bones” is an image used in Scripture to describe spiritual desolation. Ezekiel’s vision was first spoken to a dispirited people who were scattered and separated, longing to return to their homeland. “Can these bones live?” God asks Ezekiel. “O God, only you know,” is his reply. “Tell the bones that I will restore them to life,” God says. And so Ezekiel speaks these words of hope to the bones and they live again – but not before they are enlivened by the Spirit of God.

God’s promise is that there will be life beyond exile. The community will experience the life-giving breath of God and be restored.

As always, please be in touch in whatever way you prefer, and please keep checking in with each other. We’re in this together, and we belong to each other. For this, I have deep gratitude – I feel it in my bones.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Our guiding principle is the safety of all who enter the building. We will provide more information soon about the next steps we will take.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Trinity Sunday – June 7, 2020

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

I’ve been searching for words this week, and no matter how hard I search, or where, or for how long, I can’t seem to find any.

I can’t find the words to bring some comfort to hearts that are weary and broken and outraged, words that could make some sense of the chaos or shine a light on systemic injustice, words that might inspire action. I can’t find the words right now, which is telling me that it’s time to listen.

Right now, I need to really, truly, and deeply listen to the stories, experiences, pain, and grief of my sister and brothers of colour. I need to sit with it and the discomfort and defensiveness and pain that this listening will bring.

Whether we want to admit it or not, racism exists in this country, too, in overt and subtle and systemic ways, and it needs to be confronted. And so right now, as a person of enormous privilege, I must actively engage in the work of becoming anti-racist. It’s going to be hard work, I’m going to mess up, and I’m going to apologize and try again.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to confront injustice. So even as I listen and do the work, I’m going to keep searching for the words, because though I may not have them right now, I cannot remain silent.

So that’s where I’m at this week. In the coming days I’ll provide some links to resources from the national church and other trusted sources. There are voices that must be amplified, and much wisdom to be heard. Let us listen. Let us learn. And, always, let us love.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Pentecost Sunday – May 31, 2020

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week I shared a post on Facebook which read: “Just to be clear the Church has not been closed so it does not need to be re-opened. We have simply stopped worshipping in our buildings for a time to protect the health and well-being of our people and our communities. The Church does not require a building in order to be the Church. What is required is love, compassion, and the presence of God.”

I shared that quote because I believe it speaks an important truth. I also believe that the comment made on my post speaks an important truth: “I still miss the community at the church.”

As followers of Jesus, we don’t need a building to be the Church. But we do need each other. And we need love, compassion, and the presence of God.

I miss you. I miss being together. I’m especially missing you this Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost, the “birthday” of the Christian church. Pentecost Sunday is one of my favourite celebrations, because it’s about experiencing the Spirit of God, and celebrating how the Spirit is doing new and amazing and wonderful things. It’s about us recognizing God in our midst and being open to the new and amazing and wonderful things God is doing right here and now, in spite of all the other stuff that’s going on around us. It’s an energetic, enlivening reminder that God is always up to something.

It’s hard not to be celebrating that with you this year. But we’re still a community. We’re still the Church. And we’re doing we can to stay connected emotionally and spiritually though we are physically apart.

I read an article this week by Rev. Cameron Trimble, in which she answered “Frequently Asked Questions” about online church. The first was, Is online church real church? Her answer was, without a doubt, yes.

“Virtual is not the opposite of real. It’s the opposite of physical. They are both real! …The stories we share and the connections we have, even when mitigated through a video call, a live chat, or social media posts, they are real connections. This doesn’t mean that church online will replace church in person. But it can allow for greater access and engagement, especially during a time when we are unable to gather in person.”

I see you being the church, even now – especially now! Making masks, making calls, running errands, delivering supplies, sending messages, keeping in touch, keeping your distance, all of that and then some. Thank you. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much sometimes, but it means a great deal.

One of the biggest challenges for me is that we don’t know when we’ll be together again. Never mind how it will happen or what it will look like – that’s a whole other set of stressors! But for me, since we don’t have a deadline to look forward to or work toward, we’re just playing the waiting game when we’d much rather be playing “Hungry, Hungry Hippos.”

This is tough. And so are we. In the words of another post I shared on Facebook this week from Paul S. Boyton, “As we step into the unknown, we discover we can be fragile and strong and terrified and brave all at the same time.”

I am so grateful that we don’t have to travel into the unknown alone. I am grateful for our shared fragility and strength and fear and courage as we support one another on this road. And I am blessed every single day as I witness your love and compassion in action, as we continue to be the Church and embody the presence of God.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Sixth Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

The Gospel passage for the sixth Sunday of Easter is from John 14:15-21. Jesus is speaking to the disciples as they are gathered in the Upper Room for the Passover meal. In these verses, Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…[God] will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…You know [the Spirit], because [it] abides with you, and [it] will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

This passage is part of a larger speech known as the “Farewell Discourse,” in which Jesus is telling his disciples about his impending departure. Trying to calm their confusion and concern, Jesus shares with them his final instructions and gives them the encouragement they need to continue to do God’s work after he is gone.

Jesus promises the disciples that they will not be alone, not really. He explains the indwelling of God by introducing the concept of the Holy Spirit, assuring them that though he will leave them physically, he will always be with them in and through the spirit.

Everything Jesus says is bracketed by the command to love. The Body of Christ is created, empowered, and nourished through God’s gift of Spirit, who supports, encourages, and empowers us as we seek to love.

In these times of isolation and distance, when we long to be together as a community, we need the gift of the Holy Spirit. We need to be reminded that we are not alone, that God has not abandoned or orphaned us. The Spirit makes itself known in so many ways, through different images and experiences – encouraging and empowering us, challenging us, comforting and connecting us.

We humans are wired for connection. We crave belonging. Social scientists frequently point out that a key aspect of us, as mammals, is a desperate need to feel connected with others.

I thank you for all you are doing to keep connected with the Trinity community, and I encourage you to reach out if you are needing that connection. We are in this together, we are not alone.

Please know that I miss you, and am looking forward to the day when we can safely be together again. And please remember, always, that you are loved.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear Friends,

There is a tradition at Trinity that on Mother’s Day, everyone is invited to bring a flower to church in honour of their mother, or grandmother, or other important woman in their life. The flowers are affixed to a cross constructed out of wood and chicken wire, and the result is a beautiful, eclectic, glorious floral arrangement. After worship the cross is carefully secured to the front steps of the church to be shared with the entire community.

This year, for the first time in many years, we will not be decorating the Mother’s Day Cross – at least, not in person.

Thank you to the Trinity United Church Community for sending me their flower photos, which I used to create these virtual Mother’s Day Crosses.

We are not together, but we are not alone.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Fifth Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Are you now, or have you ever been, a rock hound? That is, do you have a rock collection?

My cousin had a fabulous rock collection growing up. She’s not an active collector anymore, but when we were up north for a visit in October, she had pieces from her collection on display for us to look at. She had semi-precious stones, minerals, gems, petrified wood, all kinds of diverse specimens – all beautiful in their own way and treasured just as they were.

The author of 1 Peter says we are living stones, built into a spiritual house with Christ as the cornerstone. As the church, as followers of Jesus, we build our lives on the foundation of life in Christ, in relationship with God and each other. We lean on and support each other as we build a spiritual house where all are welcome, all are accepted and loved as they are, and where we are nourished and nurtured as we grow in faith.

There are so many metaphors used in Scripture and through the ages to describe God. Just last week we were talking about God as a shepherd. But it was only this week that it occurred to me that God is also a rock collector.

As the church, as God’s beloved, we are diverse, beautiful, precious living stones. Like the stones of a building, God brings us together. Like the multi-hued pebbles gathered onto a beach, we come from different places. Like river stones, smooth from life’s surges or chipped in the world’s torrents, we have each been shaped by different experiences. Like precious stones, chosen, crafted, and treasured, we are crafted, treasured, and loved by God.

Whatever the coming week has in store, remember that you are not alone – God remains faithfully present. Remember that you are precious in God’s sight, and that God’s love is ever true.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen

 


Fourth Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, the Fourth of Easter, is also celebrated in the liturgical calendar as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” The Psalm for this Sunday is always Psalm 23. My reflection for the Worship Service on Sunday comes from the book of Acts, but since I don’t want to spoil anything, I’m going to share a few thoughts about the Psalm here.

Psalm 23 is a song of hope and strength in times of darkness and doubt, grief and fear. It reminds us that wherever we are, our Good Shepherd is with us, guiding us even during the most difficult of times. It is a Psalm of great comfort, and is often read at funeral services and other occasions when we need to be assured of God’s presence.

My understanding of and appreciation for Psalm 23 has been greatly influenced in recent years by Rabbi Harold Kushner and his book, The Lord’s My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm. I often share his words at funerals, because I hope their wisdom will provide comfort to the grieving, and because they provide comfort to me.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Kushner says he was often asked, “Where was God? How could God have let such a thing happen?” The answer he found himself giving was, “God’s promise was never that life would be fair. God’s promise was, when it’s your turn to confront the unfairness of life, no matter how hard it is, you’ll be able to handle it, because [God will] be on your side. [God] will give you the strength you need to find your way through.”

This answer, he says, is essentially a paraphrase of Psalm 23: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Psalm 23 “comforts us with its familiar words and images,” Kushner writes, “but its message…teaches us to look at the world we live in…as a world in which we can live courageously…The world may be frightening place, but it becomes less frightening when we know that God is here with us.”

The world seems a frightening place right now. There is so much we don’t know, so much we can’t control, so much that will never be the same. That is painful and difficult and causes us much grief. We may find ourselves asking, “Where are you, God? How long?” In these times when we find ourselves “in the valley of the shadow,” we look to those things that bring us comfort – a friend, a loved one, a favourite food, a favourite song, a favourite Psalm…

“[Psalm 23] never asks us to pretend that [loss] does not change things,” Kushner says. “But it introduces us to a God who is with us in our pain, and who leads us through the dark valley back into the light. It summons us to live bravely, to go forward with our lives in the confidence that we are not alone.”

We are not alone. God is with us, and we are in this together. Thank you for the many ways you embody God’s presence and live God’s love, in dark valleys and in green pastures, and all the places in between.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Third Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

The gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Easter is Luke 24:13-35. In this post-resurrection story, two travellers are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about all that’s happened, when they are joined on the road by a mysterious stranger. The conversation continues, and the stranger interprets “the things about [the Messiah] in all the scriptures” (v. 27) The stranger is invited to share a meal with the travellers, and as the bread is blessed and broken, the stranger’s identity is revealed: he is Jesus, the Risen Christ.

Referring to this passage, renowned Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan wrote: “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.”

Maybe Emmaus didn’t happen exactly the way Luke tells it. There is no mention of this story in the other gospels. There is no scholarly consensus about where Emmaus was, or even if such a village ever existed. But maybe that’s not really the point. Even if it didn’t happen exactly like this, it’s still a true story.

Crossan’s statement invites us to grapple with the truth that the factual (historical) significance of the resurrection stories is secondary to a more profound truth: the risen Christ is with us. Now. Here. And Luke’s story responds to the heart’s desire of later Christians (including us today!) to see and experience the resurrected Christ, just as the first believers did.

We’re like those travellers. We’re trying to make sense of all that is going on in the world, in our country, in our communities. We may be feeling anxiety and grief about what was, what is, what will be…

Jesus meets the travellers where they are on the road, and in their need. He gives them space to speak and space to be themselves. Recognition comes in its own way and in its own time. The Emmaus story isn’t only a story about something that happened long ago to other people. Emmaus always happens. Jesus’ words and actions continue to call out to who we are and what we need. Sometimes we might be so preoccupied with or angered by our own concerns or grief that we don’t realize that the Risen Christ is alongside us as we travel, revealing who he is, who God is, in the encounter. We do not always recognize God’s companionship on our own.

How have you encountered the Risen Christ this Easter season? Who have been your companions on the way?

I am so grateful for you, the Trinity community, for walking the Emmaus Road with me every day.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen

 


Second Sunday of Easter

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

If I had to choose a theme song for this past month, I’d probably go with a song from my university days, “Some Days Are Better Than Others,” by U2:

“Some days are dry, some days are leaky,
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky,
Some days take less, but most days take more,
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor.” 

I could also go back to my childhood and quote John Denver instead:

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones…” 

You get the idea. Taking it day-by-day is all we can do – and that’s okay. Some days are better than others. Some days the technology is working, some days you want to throw your computer out the window. Some days the to-do list gets done, some days it’s disheartening to even look at the to-do list. Some days we’re huddled behind closed doors, fearful and uncertain, waiting for a word of peace from the Resurrected Christ. 

Peace be with you.” These were Jesus’ first words to the disciples when he appeared to them on “the evening of that day, the first day of the week (John 20:19).” They are the words we need to hear when anxiety, fear, and frustration overwhelm us. 

Every year we celebrate the Easter story with joy and fanfare. But on that first Easter, there was more fear than joy. The disciples’ reaction was more quiet astonishment and doubt than fanfare. And though we couldn’t be together in celebration, the story remains the same. Jesus has risen, love and hope have triumphed over hatred and despair, and the Risen Christ speaks these same words to us: “Peace be with you.”

Though we are apart, behind our own closed doors, we are in this together. Peace be with you.

Blessings, 
Rev. Jen


Easter Sunday

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Holy Saturday is the day in Holy Week when all we can do is wait.

Today the disbelief of all that has happened is wearing off, and the reality of what it means is sinking in. Jesus is in the tomb. The community is scattered and afraid. Nothing will be the same again. Hope is lost.

The grief and longing in this waiting is palpable this year. The pain of separation, the loneliness for loved ones, the yearning for things to just “get back to normal,” the fear…All of it. It’s difficult, and we need to acknowledge that it’s difficult. We need to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we’re feeling without judgement, and to show the same compassion to ourselves that we would to others.

We can honour our pain and still acknowledge in faith that God is at work, even now.

Things are difficult. But we now that the story of Holy Week doesn’t end with the agony of Good Friday, or even the sorrow of Holy Saturday. We know that the dream is not dead, that hope is not lost, that love conquers fear, and that despair does not get the last word. We know that Easter is coming.

Easter is coming!

This good news is our hope, our joy, our story. Even though today all we can do is wait, we can wait together. And so we wait, because we know, deep in our hearts, that Easter is coming. Thanks be to God!

Blessings,
Rev. Jen


Holy Week

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends, 

Holy Week is always an exhausting week – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Within the span of a few days, we celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, share in an unusual meal, witness Jesus’ anguish as he prays in the garden, watch in horror as he is arrested, tried, and sentenced, and weep with the women at the foot of the cross. We know that this is not the whole story, thanks be to God, but we also know we must walk this path in order to reach the resurrection. 

This year, Holy Week also feels completely surreal. This year, the word “Hosanna” feels especially poignant: Save us. 

This Holy Week, like all the others, will be emotional and exhausting. This year, like very year, we will, as Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, “bring our own new selves to [the story] – experiences, emotions, expectations.” 

“Entering the Passion,” she says, “should give us courage – courage to lament, to embrace righteous anger, to see the course to the end. And entering the Passion should give us comfort as well – the comfort of knowing that death is not the end of the story, and the comfort of knowing that the good news continues not just when people proclaim it, but when they enact it.” 

I am grateful to be taking this Holy Week journey with you, and blessed that we are called to proclaim and enact the good news together. 

Blessings, 
Rev. Jen


Palm / Passion Sunday

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

On Wednesday evening, several kids from Trinity (and their caregivers) met online for a check-in and a bedtime story. It was so good to see their faces and watch them interact with friends they’d not seen since early March. 

Earlier in the week, Trinity Church School Coordinator Nicola Van Dam and I were discussing what story she should read for our first get-together. We wanted something from the Bible; something relatively short, but not too short; and something engaging for all ages.

Our first choice was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, given that it’s nearly Palm Sunday, but those stories are being told during the worship service. Some of the other contenders were either too short, too long, or too exciting for bedtime. We were in our respective homes, scouring our respective children’s Bibles, when a voice from Nicola’s house piped up, “What about Noah’s Ark?”

The voice had a good point. We were able to draw several parallels between Noah’s story and our story today, the most resonant being that many folks are cooped up inside for a long period of time. So that’s what Nicola read to us, and it was lovely.

Scriptures

Matthew 21:1–11 – Jesus enters Jerusalem.
Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29 – The stone the builders rejected.
Isaiah 50:4–9a – The suffering servant struck and insulted.
Psalm 31:9–16 – My times are in your hands.
Philippians 2:5–11 – Let the same mind be in you as was in Jesus.
Matthew 26:14–27:66 – Judas agrees to betray Jesus.
Matthew 27:11–54 – Pilate questions Jesus.

Today, I’m thinking not only about those folks who are cooped up inside their arks, but also about those who step out into the storm every day. Essential service workers are doing their jobs to keep their communities safe, fed, clean, and cared for. It is humbling to reflect on some of the things we often take for granted. Thank you. 

Though we can’t know how long we’ll be in this particular ark, we are nearing the end of the 40-day period of Lent. Holy Week begins on Sunday as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and commemorate the events of the days before his death on the cross. 

There is one thing I am certain of as this season of Lent draws to a close: Easter is coming. Thanks be to God. 

Blessings, 
Rev. Jen


Fifth Sunday of Lent

Message to Trinity United Church – Bowmanville Community Members

From Rev. Jen Broomhead

Dear Friends,

Typically when preparing worship services, I use the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s a three-year cycle of readings that follows the seasons of the church year. And even though we’re not having regular Sunday services, Rev. Michelle Brotherton of St. Paul’s United Church and I decided we’d stick with the lectionary readings for the season of Lent.

Keep in mind that these readings are part of a fixed cycle. The Psalm, Hebrew Scripture, and Gospel readings that we’ve shared these past two weeks were chosen from the options for Lent 4 and Lent 5.

So I find it pretty incredible that the Psalm for Lent 4 (March 22) was Psalm 23, the beloved and familiar song that brings comfort to so many. And then this week, we hear about Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones and Jesus’ raising of Lazarus, two stories of hope in the midst of loss and grief.

Scriptures

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (“Dry Bones”) | Psalm 130 | Romans 8:6-11 | John 11:1-45 (“Lazarus”)

For this this week’s service my focus was on Ezekiel’s vision. Now, I don’t want to spoil this worship service for you, so I’m not going to give too much away! “Dry bones” is an image used in Scripture to describe spiritual desolation. Ezekiel’s vision was first spoken to a dispirited people who were scattered and separated, longing to return to their homeland. “Can these bones live?” God asks Ezekiel. “O God, only you know,” is his reply. “Tell the bones that I will restore them to life,” God says. And so Ezekiel speaks these words of hope to the bones and they live again – but not before they are enlivened by the Spirit of God.

God’s promise is that there will be life beyond exile. The community will experience the life-giving breath of God and be restored.

As always, please be in touch in whatever way you prefer, and please keep checking in with each other. We’re in this together, and we belong to each other. For this, I have deep gratitude – I feel it in my bones.

Blessings,
Rev. Jen