Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge (CIFPC) are not only adapting to the strict COVID protocols put in place by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), they are embracing it.
The CIFPC, more commonly known as the Greater Trail United Church, welcomed Minister and Community Spiritual Companion, Sue Breisch, to the Silver City this past September.
Breisch moved from Regina to the Greater Trail community, filling a position that had been vacant for more than four years. Moving to a new area in the middle of a pandemic provided some challenges, but for Breisch, they were incidental to the resilience that rises out of adversity.
“I think it’s actually pretty good,” Breisch told the Trail Times. “It is a challenging time because people are feeling lonely and separated but guess where they reach out when you’re feeling lonely and isolated?
“And with COVID, it’s become an opportunity for churches that have been fearful or hesitant of spring-boarding on the internet, to do so.”
The PHO restrictions cancelled all religious services to the dismay of many religious leaders and church goers, who missed their Sunday fellowship.
Yet, Trail’s spiritual companion turned the challenge into a cooperative effort.
The church created a platform for live-streaming online services every Sunday. Church members, including the elderly, were open to the new platform, and quickly grew comfortable in participating in the service from their own homes.
“You’d be amazed how many of the quote-unquote ‘elderly’ are on Zoom,” Breisch said. “Most everybody was on Zoom immediately in March, because that was a way to keep in touch with their families. I know people who read bedtime stories to their grandkids.
“So it’s really interesting to see how people have reacted. It just means we’re in flux and we just need to ride that wave, because that may be the new normal.”
Breisch says she was beyond excited to come to Trail after following her ministerial calling to New Brunswick and then Regina.
“I’m a B.C. girl. I was in Regina for six years, and I was homesick. I missed the green, I missed the mountains, I missed the water, so when I was looking for a church, the Communities in Faith, I saw their advertisement and I was really excited about doing the community spiritual companion.
“I’ve been doing ministry since I was young, so this idea that what they wanted me to do was reaching beyond the walls and meeting with people, without an agenda, without an expectation, and not limited to people who believe what I believe.
“So really, an open-hearted exploration to who are our neighbours and what’s going on in their lives, what gives them hope, what gives them joy, what’s their experience in Trail. To do some deep listening and I’m really good at that.”
With all meetings cancelled, Breisch and a group of volunteers also regularly stay in contact with members and non-members over the phone. The church has a phone-care calling list that checks in with residents about once a week to see how they are doing and if they need anything.
“They are at least having one active outreach connection with those people. And if there are others in the community, who are feeling a little lost and disconnected we can add them to those lists. They are not committing to come to church. We are not trying to hook anybody in, we just want to be there for people, and support them in whatever way possible.”
The annual Hope for the Holidays service will be delivered virtually this year, and a variety of faith-partners have put together care packages for residents who have lost someone in the past year or in recent years, or are struggling during the holiday season.
In addition, the Communities in Faith will offer patrons an online Sunday service so people can enjoy a semblance of spirituality and faith over the holiday season.
And that is not all.
The traditional Christmas Eve service will be celebrated, although with a definite twist.
“Even before these new guidelines came down, we talked about Christmas Eve,” said Breisch. “And Christmas Eve, both in Rossland and in Trail, a whole bunch of people show up for that service that don’t go to any other services.”
The CIFPC came up with an innovative and communal way to help celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ
“We are going to film an online candle-light service. It will be available on demand, and if people need candles, like the little white candles with the paper covers, they will be able to order them from us.”
Breisch says the candles can be ordered over the phone and picked up at the United Church, or the CIFPC can also deliver.
“The idea is when they are there having whatever family gathering they can have, they have this resource to click into, to enjoy some Christmas singing, because there will be a lot of music in that one, and all the familiar ones right, and then the candle lighting in the end, which everyone loves.
“People don’t have to rush away from their own Christmas celebrations, they can just log-in anytime.”
In spite of COVID protocol and restrictions placed on communal meetings, the CIFPC are doing their best to bring a semblance of faith, spirituality, celebration, and joy to the community.
“It gives people a faith to be present and reminds people that they are not alone and they can come and talk to me, or any of the ministers in town, or people at hospice. It’s the best thing we could do to engage people.
“It’s important, and this is the beauty of COVID, if we can see an upside of that.”
Residents can attend online services by going to cifpc.ca or contact Sue at her office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 250.368.3225.
To access the virtual Hope for the Holidays go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNoFK5SguS8.