We greet you today once again, as “partners in the gospel” of Jesus.
For many of us, today has been a very unusual Sunday. For the first time in our memory, corps meetings and services in other churches across Canada have been cancelled. This is so very different from an occasional “snow day” cancellation, as we are all aware. These are different days and they require a different response. We have received reports of how corps across the territory have creatively responded to the cancellation of worship gatherings. Online “services,” email messages to corps mailing lists, check-ins by phone and in person, delivery of care packages with essential items to shut-ins and the elderly. Although gathering for worship has been cancelled, “service” has continued. We express a word of appreciation for the way Salvationists, officers, soldiers, employees and volunteers are embracing the opportunity to give hope today.
Today may well have been the beginning of a series of weeks that will require us to gather differently as Salvationists. We will need to find additional ways to nurture our own spiritual lives as well as those of the people who form our communities of faith and fellowship. We must step into the daily opportunities that will present themselves to share the hope that we have.
We encourage you to take advantage of the online services and devotionals that are already available from corps and other Christian websites. In addition, commencing next Sunday, we will provide an online worship experience for the territory, led by territorial leadership, as an additional resource for Salvationists.
As the world continues to grapple with the realities of the COVID-19 virus, we encourage you to not dwell too long on the news reports and updates which can increase anxiety and fears. Although the COVID-19 virus is not the end of the world, for many people it has and will have significant impact upon their world. Many have received a positive test result while others have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Some have returned from outside the country and are now in self-isolation, while countless others find themselves at home with children who cannot go to school or public activity spaces. Others have watched as store shelves have gone empty and they feel helpless because they do not have the resources to “stock up.”
Perhaps you can identify with one of the people we have described. Maybe you are feeling unsettled, like your world has been shaken. In times such as these we hear the encouragement from God’s Word:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 NIV).
Hear again that affirmation. Read it out loud: God is our refuge and strength. Not just that God has been our refuge and strength, but the affirmation that he remains our refuge and strength. We may be shaken, but we need not be afraid. We are a fearless people. We are not reckless nor confident in our own strength, resources and preparations alone. Throughout his Word, God exhorts us to “Fear not.” That direction is always rooted in the promise of his plan and presence.
The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda humbly yet with confidence declares to our communities and nation that we are committed to “Giving Hope Today.” This has come in so many ways to millions of people. In these days, there is an opportunity to magnify that commitment in words, actions and by walking alongside others, giving hope when it is needed most. We live with a hope that does not disappoint “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 NIV).
We encourage you to claim that reminder today and know that God is faithful to his promises. Find hope for today in knowing God is with you as your refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. Remember that the hope God offers is a hope for the world. There are those all around us, especially in these days, who are looking for a hope that will not disappoint.
In our necessary “social distancing” as outlined by Public Health advisories, let us find ways to care for one another, including those outside of our family and fellowship communities, those who live and work alongside us. There are other ways to embrace one another than with a physical handshake, hug or touch. Make a phone call to check on a shut-in or a neighbour. Give a word of encouragement and offer a prayer for health professionals and many others who daily make a difference in our communities by their faithfulness to their tasks. And the list goes on and is limited only by your creativity.
While following the directives provided by health professionals, we must remain a people who give hope today. We have a hope that does not disappoint and a privilege of being bearers of the hope Christ brings to our neighbours and communities.
We count it a privilege to stand and serve with you in these days. Thank you for who you are and for making yourselves available to be used by God to share the love of Jesus. The faithful service and engagement of so many people for so many years has developed a credibility and a trust in The Salvation Army, especially in times such as these. Thank you for your continuing efforts to be The Salvation Army others look to in times of trouble, knowing you will give hope today when its needed most.
May you know the certainty of his hope that does not disappoint, the depth of his perfect love that casts out fear, and faith as of a mustard seed that will see God do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine, for it is his Spirit and power at work within us.
Praying with you and for you, that God will bless The Salvation Army so we might bring blessings to others.
Yours in Christ.
Floyd and Tracey Tidd, Commissioners
Territorial Leaders–Canada and Bermuda