When are We Opening for Worship?




July 18, 2020

Re: Restarting Sunday Morning Services

Dear Congregation,

This week the leadership team met to discuss the restart of Sunday morning services.

Reviewing the criteria that we set for a potential restart (the results of our congregational survey, current provincial guidance, the experiences of other churches, and an internal risk assessment) we have decided to wait a little bit longer before re-opening.

The congregational survey clearly told us that we need to proceed with caution. This week a “COVID19 watch” was declared for Calgary Centre (our church neighbourhood). While a few city churches have restarted we think we need a bit more time to clearly assess the pandemic implications of these starts. While our internal risk assessment has shown us that we can open, we’ve decided that a slow move in this direction is our best way forward.

To that end we will continue with online services — in the current format — for the next few weeks. During this time, we will finish building our live-streaming technology. Once we are able to live-stream, the plan is to move our service recordings back into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. This will happen sometime in August. At this point you’ll be able to access a live service (via a link) at 9:30 am on Sundays, and a recorded service on YouTube (shortly after the live service ends).

The plan is to do a couple of live services with nobody in attendance initially (so that we can work out the technological kinks and give our welcoming team some time to practice our COVID19 protocols). Once this is done, we will slowly open up the service to attendees in subsequent weeks.

During this time, we will continue to weigh all of our criteria for re-opening. If everything looks good, we will reopen.

Of course, all of this is playing out in a very fluid context. Ultimately the pandemic will set our timing. As church leaders we are committed to continuing to listen and discern our best way forward.

Thank you for all of your input in this process. We pray that God will continue to keep you in this unsettled time.

Your Marda Loop Church Leadership Team


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June 11, 2020

Re: The future of Sunday morning services

Dear Church Member,

Last week the church leadership team met and began to discuss the possibility of a transition from online services to live services in our facility.

Like many of you we are eager to reconnect in a safe and responsible way.

To that end we have tentatively chosen July 26th as a possible restart date — subject to the following conditions:

  1. We will continue to follow and respond to the most current provincial guidance and adjust our plan/timing accordingly.


  1. We will not be the first church in our city to ‘restart’. Before we go ahead, we will want to hear from several other churches re: their re-opening experiences and be assured that they have been able to successfully avoid a COVID19 outbreak and re-open in a meaningful way (the last thing we want to do is be known as that Marda Loop church that started too soon).


  1. Next week we will be sending a survey to each of you so that we can hear what you think about re-starting (re: gathering restrictions, timing, etc) — especially if you’re a senior. The province currently recommends that churches consider “ways other than in-person attendance to include/support people who are at greater risk of severe disease, including people over 65 years of age and people with chronic medical conditions.”


  1. We will also be doing an internal ‘risk assessment’ in relation to the timing and process of re-opening.

This is the plan we will be implementing over the next month. We look forward to hearing from you via the survey. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the church office (or a leadership team member).

Our hope and prayer is that the virus will continue to abate, the province will be able to further loosen restrictions and many churches in our city will successfully be able to re-gather in the weeks and months ahead.

By choosing a July 26th date and preparing as though we will open on that date, we will be ready for any eventuality.

May God continue to keep you in this socially distant time.


 Your Marda Loop Church Leadership Team












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Originally Published in the Calgary Herald on March 20, 2020

There once was a world that had lost its way. Everyone was moving so fast that they forgot to look around. People didn’t notice each other. Some were blinded by consumerism. Others distracted by pleasure. Some idolized work and worried about the next thing. Others sought power, position and wealth. And everyone, it seemed, shared a common problem — all that should in life matter didn’t matter enough. People failed to notice the fragility of their existence. But then, a wakeup call came… via the smallest of messengers; a tiny coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.

And now we’re awake. And all that we’ve ever taken for granted — our economy, education system, healthcare system, community services, freedom to travel, jobs, investments and lives — is at risk.

Two weeks ago, when I could still afford to be philosophical about the virus, I made a list of all the things COVID19 made thankful for; an immune system that works, readily available food, dependable global supply chains, universal healthcare, work, and healthy lungs that breathe.

Now things are more urgent. Many of our unseen structural supports are shaking. Will our healthcare system be overrun? Can basic services be maintained? Is our social fabric strong enough to handle this? Will I contract the disease?

These are questions we thought we’d never ask. Plagues are for the history books.

Yet here we are; shocked at how quickly life can change.

As a faith leader, I’m starting to notice how the fear and anxiety that COVID19 is evoking is waking all of us up to some profound truths about what it means to be human.

When Alberta’s Chief Medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw strongly suggested, “You don’t need a test to do the right thing!” (re: social distancing, good hygiene and staying home with symptoms) it was as though she was calling out a deeper humanity in me. I don’t need to know if I’m infected to do what’s best for others. I can make good choices simply because it’s the right thing to do. Doing to others as I would have them do to me is always the best way to act.

A few days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau challenged all Canadians saying, “The strength of our country is our capacity to come together and care for each other, especially in times of need. So, call your friends. Check in with your family. Think of your community. Buy only what you need at the store. But if you’re heading out to grab groceries, ask your neighbour if you can get them anything. And if you know someone who is working on the frontlines, send them a thank you. See how they’re holding up.”

As I listened to our Prime Minister speak, I heard echoes of a Judeo-Christian faith that has always called people to lean into community, love their neighbours as they love themselves, lay down their life for them, honour their fathers, mothers and elders, and care for the sick, widows and orphans. These golden rules have been around for millennia and are central to most world religions — central to what it means to be human!

This virus, it seems, is waking us up to a few universal truths.

Truths that helped previous generations through viral outbreaks. Early Christians started hospitals in Europe in response to plagues — they wanted to create hygienic places for the sick.

Many of the faithful chose to love others to the point of risking their own lives (even as frontline healthcare workers are doing today).

I have been waiting for the results of my COVID19 test for the last five days. My symptoms have been mild, so I’m not too worried. At first, I hoped for a negative result (who wouldn’t?) but now I’m wondering if a positive result might free me to help others more fearlessly (once I fully recover).

Social researcher Lyman Stone writes this about theologian Martin Luther; “In 1527, when the bubonic plague hit Wittenberg, Martin Luther refused calls to flee the city and protect himself. Rather, he stayed and ministered to the sick. The refusal to flee cost his daughter Elizabeth her life. But it produced a tract, “Whether Christians Should Flee the Plague,” where Luther provides a clear articulation of the Christian epidemic response: We die at our posts. Christian doctors cannot abandon their hospitals, Christian governors cannot flee their districts, Christian pastors cannot abandon their congregations. The plague does not dissolve our duties: it turns them to crosses, on which we must be prepared to die.”

What Luther says of Christians is true for all doctors, governors, pastors and people everywhere.

In his tract Luther writes, “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.”

Luther’s example is a challenge to us all. To be fully human is to live your life for the sake of others. You become more yourself when you help others become more themselves. To love in selfless ways is to image God. This is what you are made for.

This virus is waking us up to this truth. By bringing us to our knees, COVID19 is forcing us to face the fleetingness of life. It’s reminding us that we need each other. It’s calling us to look beyond ourselves, to join the human race, to notice others, to care, and to realize that even small things can change the world (for good or bad).

The truth is, one day, we will all die. COVID19 is forcing us to ask how we will choose to live.

While our future is still very unknown (it’s always been) know that you are not alone. You are part of a community, a country and a world full of supports.

Thank God we live in a time where science can see what it sees, and history can recall what it knows, and the internet can connect all that it connects, and neighbours can watch out for each other in all kinds of practical ways, and government and healthcare workers can help lead and heal, and families can love how they love, and faith communities can serve how they serve.

And you can help where you can.




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Top 7 Things The Coronavirus Has Made Me Thankful For

7. An Immune System that Works – Two days ago I was standing in the pain-killer aisle of my local food store staring at an empty shelf where the ibuprofen used to be. Beside me was a woman who appeared quite anxious. After a bit of COVID 19 small talk I told her that her body’s immune system fights up to 50,000 pathogenic battles ever hour (without her ever knowing it). After a short pause, she smiled and thanked me for the perspective.

6. Always Available Food – Continuing my shop I noticed how busy the store was for a Monday morning. People were stockpiling (full-disclosure, I was too — for two-weeks-worth of supplies as recommended by the Federal Minister of Health). For the first time in my life I thought about the vulnerability of my food supply. While so many people on our planet face daily food scarcity, I never have. Putting the morality of having whatever I want, whenever I want, from anywhere in the world, aside, I felt pretty grateful for this unnamed daily abundance.

5. Global Supply Chains – Environmental impacts and ethical sourcing concerns aside, this virus has also reminded me of how well global supply chains work. When everything is operating as it should, and shelves are full, nobody ever notices all that goes on behind the scenes. Yet, when a few Chinese cities shut down the rest of the world is profoundly impacted. Which made me think that one upside of a globalized economy is the fact that we need each other. This viral scare has affirmed humanity’s interdependence.

4. How Consumerism is Exposed – Watching everyone stock up on the basics was also grounding for me. People aren’t scrambling to buy TVs, phones or shoes. The potential impacts of this virus remind us of what really matters — good health, food and safe shelter. As I worry (just a bit) about my octogenarian parents (a demographic that is particularly vulnerable to the virus) I am reminded of how important my relationships are. Who really needs that next car or vacation when we’ve got each other?

3. Seeing the Connection between Consumerism and Environmental Degradation – See NASA photos of China’s air quality levels (with and without the pollution generated by Hubei province manufacturing) below;

2. Universal (free) Healthcare – When I ponder a worst-case COVID 19 scenario (God help us) I am reminded of the fact that I live in Canada (where health care is a human right). Never have I received medical treatment and wondered if I would be able to afford it. As a Canadian who is sometimes tempted to complain about wait times I am again reminded of the very good thing I get to wait for.

1. Lungs that Breathe – As I learn about how COVID 19 can lead to respiratory failure I am again reminded of the gift of breath. For my entire life my lungs have faithfully oxygenated my blood and exhaled carbon dioxide. With every breath I am reminded that “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:14, NIV

So I am going to be thankful as I face this epidemic… and prudent… and prayerful (for those who’ve lost loved one’s and are struggling to catch their next breath).

*Coronavirus image -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MERS_Coronavirus_Particle_(14702606627).jpg

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“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” IS 43

One of my favourite texts!

I just wrote this yesterday as a concluding thought for the introduction of my faith/science book:


Through the prophet Isaiah God says:

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you…. I am doing a new thing…. From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’” Isaiah 42:9, 43:19, 48:6-7, NIV

Even as Isaiah’s contemporaries had trouble imagining what God had in store through the coming of Jesus, it stretches us to think that the Jesus we know now (through the gospels) can also be known through creation. Yet, what else could contain the glory of God apart from a universe?

Theologian Walter Brueggemann writes; “If there is any point at which most of us are manifestly co-opted [by the commonly accepted view of reality], it is in this way. We do not believe that there will be newness but only that there will be merely a moving of the pieces into new patterns…. ”

To believe that God can be known through creation — in concert with the bible, in an authoritative, epiphany-inducing, life-transforming, all-things-filling way — is to trust that God can and will do something new.

Brueggemann goes on to write, “We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable.”

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