While provincial health orders prevent Chilliwack churches from gathering for Sunday services, some are finding new ways to engage membership and help the community.
Aaron Roorda is a pastor at Eden Mennonite church. His congregation understands the need to follow provincial guidelines, calling it a “necessary response” to a once-in-a-lifetime health crisis, “and one of the best ways that we can be a positive part of our community.” But they aren’t content to stay on the sidelines either, riding out the pandemic in solitary silence.
“As a church we have felt it is important to respond to this pandemic in a way that serves our community and our fellow human beings,” Roorda explains. “We have worked hard during this time to be creative in the way we do church and we have worked hard at focusing into two areas, connection and serving.”
A few months ago, Roorda looked around the big church building at 46551 Chilliwack Central Road, one that sits empty most days, and wondered how it could be put to use.
“We reached out to organizations in our city who are doing essential work and invited them to explore ways that we could support the work they do,” he explained.
The first connection was with Bowls of Hope, a non-profit that provides soup, fruit and other hot lunch items to 23 schools within the Chilliwack School District. During the pandemic, Bowls of Hope has used Eden Mennonite as home base for their program.
“And Bowls of Hope has been able to utilize our congregation to increase their volunteer base,” Roorda said. “We love the work they do and feel so privileged to be able to support it in any way possible.”
The church has also developed a relationship with the Chilliwack District Seniors Resources Society (CDSRS).
In the early days of COVID, Roorda volunteered as a delivery driver for the CDSRS seniors’ hamper program.
“At one point I mentioned to the director of CDSRS that our building and our resources were open to them if needed,” Roorda said. “This led to them moving their hamper program into our church basement. Delivering groceries to vulnerable seniors in our community, who often find themselves very isolated and lonely, has been a real eye-opening and purposeful way of being a part of this wonderful city during the pandemic.”
The church also supports the Meadow Rose Society through donation drives, and several members of the congregation are involved with Mennonite Disaster Services, a volunteer network dispatched to help when disasters strike in Canada and the United States.
“Although we are not able to have in-person services right now, we have much work to do as we offer connection and care to people in our community,” Roorda said. “We continue to offer services online and we also offer youth programs online right now.
“Every church will have its own response in this time and we feel that the best way to continue to be church in our community is to respond with love and generosity to those in need, and we feel that the best response is to have empathy for our fellow human being and to, in turn, love our neighbor in any way we can.”
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