The Future of Sunday Morning Service




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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Sunday, February 2, 2020.  What a great day it was to start a new church!    “Just as soil nourished the ground, God has created the soil of community to nourish us so that we can grow and encourage each other.”  ( Pastor John) . Here are some pictures of the service!

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Daniel Lee


Two years ago. Dan and John met for the first time at Ambrose. The music that day was very well done. So much so, that after the service John went up to the young worship/music leader and jokingly said, ‘I’m going to be starting a new church and would like you to sign a contract to be our worship leader’.  John says, “At first, he thought I was serious, and then he laughed and thanked me for the encouragement.”

Little did John know how prophetic that joke would be.  What’s even more amazing is how God works.  John emailed Dan on a faint hope.  Dan’s first thought evidently was quick ‘no’. But he didn’t. And then through a whole series of providential affirmations on his side — along with a few good conversations with John— he said, ‘yes’!

A student at Ambrose University, Dan is studying behavioural sciences to better understand and see God in and through his relationships and interactions with others. Dan plays guitar and bass and has studied under local guitarist and music producer, Cory Bitner. Daniel is passionate about music, people, and worshiping the Lord not only in song, but through every aspect of our daily lives.

Michelle Gritter

As Dan’s story was playing out, God was also inviting Michelle Gritter to play a crucial part.

One of the big challenges for John in taking on a .75 FTE position was filling the .25 preaching gap in a way that maintains a continuous sense of voice and vision. Meet Michelle Gritter – who just happens to have planted a church herself, and is a very strong leader and communicator, and totally ‘gets’ the God-everywhere vision!

Michelle is a trained family therapist who now practices in Calgary. She’s an adjunct professor at Providence Seminary in the Master of Psychology program and helps teach practicum courses for student therapists. She teaches about marriage and family, child and adolescent psychology, the psychology of aging, and a course on the integration of theology and psychology.

John spoke to Michelle about her talks and how she could turn them into sermons, saying “If all good family systems truth is God’s good family systems truth then this could be a very cool way to take the God-everywhere vision to the next level.”

The more they spoke about the idea the more real it became for both of them. What better way to help a group of disparate people coalesce around a new communal vision?

We are excited and looking forward to worshipping with Dan and Michelle in the months and years to come.  God is Good Indeed!

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I have a lot of favourite Christmas hymns and songs. They change frequently depending on my mood, but I have one or two ultimate favourites.  This year it’s “Be Born in Me” by Nicole Nordeman. I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourites have Mary at the centre.  Upon reading a recent devotion, I felt challenged to look deeper into why I am drawn to these songs, so I went back to where it all started , Mary’s Song or The Magnificat ( Luke 1: 46-55).

Timothy Keller referred to Mary as the first Christian, not in the sense of the first person saved or the first believer, but in that she was the first person whose life was CHANGED by message of Christmas.  “My soul magnifies the Lord”, Mary sings, revealing the very core of her being.  When I think of the soul, I think of something far greater and deeper than the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I sing, ‘O come all ye faithful’ or even “Joy to the World”.  Mary’s response to the news of her pregnancy reveals a transformation of epic proportion.

Mary sings God’s praises throughout the Magnificat.  He is holy and merciful.  He is powerful, mighty and he will come to bring peace, restoration and wholeness to his people.    She sings of his covenant with Abraham.  His promise.   Mary’s song reveals a heart that understands a need to live with God in faith personally and corporately.  She begins by singing about what God has done for me and then shifts to what God will do for Israel.  Like Mary, we must respond in faith personally.  We must also join ourselves to His people.  What God has done for Mary; He will do for all His people.

As 2020 approaches and I reflect on the year past.  God is a God of history. He is timeless.  God never forgets. God always remembers. I realize I cannot go back. Mary could only look forward and take the next right step in faith.

We were created to fulfill a different agenda.  God’s agenda.  Mary’s song reminds me that everything matters.  God is not only concerned for my spiritual salvation, but He is also at work in the comprehensive restoration of the world. God’s agenda is aimed at striking every last vestige of humanity’s sin.  Mary’s song reveals the church’s mission to share in God’s mission and play a part in restoring all life.  We can never go back to the way we were.

Mary sings ‘let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).  Mary’s yes to God reminds me of my response.  The words of Nicole Nordeman’s song echo, “I am not brave, I’ll never be… I am willing, I am yours”.   A heart that’s changed.   She sings “I’ll hold you in the beginning, You will hold me in the end.  Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem.”   My goal for the coming year is to continually conform my life to the pattern of Mary and her song of kingdom justice.  Every moment of every day, my prayer is ‘be born in me’.

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Hello Everyone.

As a way of introducing myself I’d like to share a story with you.

Last week I met with Dirk Vrielink at Tim Hortons to work out some of the details of my calling to the church. Ten minutes into our conversation, a police officer stepped up to our table. As soon as I saw the officer I pointed to Dirk and said, “It was him!” The officer knew Dirk from the school Dirk works at. Then Dirk introduced me, “This is John, my pastor.”

After we shook hands, I told the officer that I really appreciated the work he did. I told him about how I’d preached a sermon on the work of a police officer — interviewing 4 Calgary Police Service officers as part of my research and also doing an interview with the Calgary Herald — and gained a new sense of gratitude for officers who — in a God-like way — run toward the danger and whose work keeps crime in check so that the rest of us can have the space to live in security and freedom. I looked the officer in the eye and said, “Where would our city be without the work you do? Thanks.”

Before he could say anything a five-year-old girl ran up to him and asked if she could give him a hug. Surprised, he looked over at her parents and asked if that would be okay and they eagerly nodded. After the hug the officer said, “That doesn’t happen very often!” He asked about the denomination of my church and after I explained that I was in transition we spoke briefly about his faith background. After a quick goodbye he moved on to order his coffee.

I turned to Dirk and apologized for breaking into “sermon mode” (but I wasn’t sorry). Neither was Dirk. For both of us this was a bit of a God-moment. I told Dirk that this is the kind of interaction that is indicative of the kind of church we’re going to be; a faith community that names God’s already-there presence in all things.

Driving home from the meeting I thought about how perfect that little series of events was. A police offer was deservedly thanked for his work — theologically and via a hug — and Dirk and I got to experience our first church outreach opportunity together.

My hope and dream is that our faith community will be filled with people who experience these kinds of stories all the time.

So, this is who I am. I see God in all things; at work, in relationships, in family, art, sport, politics, the economy, nature and so much more. I believe that our world belongs to God and that all things hold together in Christ. And I believe that naming God’s already-there presence in the world is a beautiful and compelling way to be God’s witness.

Pastor John

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It is said that the only constant in life is that change will happen.  This often brings us a sense of fear and anxiety because we find that we cannot control what is happening around us.  This anxiety often expresses itself as anger or frustration with life.

The good news is that God has a plan for us both as individuals and as a congregation.  As we give up control over our path to God and allow Him to guide us to where He wants us to be, we can let go and relax and look forward to all the God has in store for us.  Our prayer can truly become “Your will be done.”

We soon realize that we are right where we need to be at this time and we can look towards taking the next best step forward by praying for His will to be made clear to us.  The change becomes something to look forward to and should not be feared because God is preparing us for this.  Isaiah writes in chapter 43 verse 19 “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.”  This is exciting and invigorating.  It is His promise to us and His promise is sure.

In the end we can only go forward in the promise that “…. we know all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

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If someone told me that I could go anywhere in the world, no holds barred, I would pack lightly, take myself to the airport, randomly choose a destination depending on my mood and hop on the first plane.  Planning is not essential for me.  I am all about the adventure of the journey.

Psalm 121 is a song that the Jewish pilgrims would sing on their journey.  This psalm is not only for going from one place to another, it also gives us perspective on our journey through life.  It’s my song.  And let’s face it, music always makes the journey go better.

I have traversed a landscape full of magnificent mountain tops and deep valleys.  There were times of great joy and times of great sorrow.  There were times of hopelessness, that scary feeling of being stuck, vulnerable and weak.  God has promised, however, that he will not let my foot slip. (v. 3)

I admit that when I read this, I am immediately suspicious of false hope.  I want to have confidence in the scriptures, but it’s a dirty road that I travel.  How many times have my feet slipped either inadvertently or on purpose?  How do I reconcile this?  What happens when God’s promise doesn’t seem to match up with real life?

My feet move in progress, but I stand firm in the foundation of God’s infinite power and goodness.

I stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24)

I stand in grace (Romans5:2)

I stand in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15: 1)

I stand in courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13)

I stand in the Lord (Philippians 1:27)

Wherever my feet fall, my ultimate goal is to stand within the complete and perfect will of God. (Colossians 4:12)

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (v 8) God is just as present in the destination as in the journey.  No matter where we are on life’s path, God’s heart does not change.  The Israelites didn’t live to see their final destination across the Jordan.  Joshua lead them over a whole generation later. (Joshua 3). What does this tell me?  Just because it sounds true in our life, it may not come true in my life.  I am a part of a much bigger story. Reality is for all time. I stand, trusting the path of my feet to be woven into His story.   My destination is fixed, I need only keep my eye on the horizon and sing.

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By Rita Burkard

Every year after the Christmas rush, when we have been busy with church services, buying Christmas gifts, visiting people, parties to go to or have, making oilbollen, comes January.  The days are still short, nights are long and the weather is still getting worse before it gets better…it’s January and I get the January blues.  Do you feel the same way?  What do you do other than wait it out?

I thought I would research what experts would advise and found this tidbit on the internet (  It suggested to: 1) Exercise – that is a given – 10,000 steps a day or at least 30 mins of walking or exercising.  Besides you need to work off the turkey and trimmings!, 2) Plan a holiday – for us that is Palm Springs in February, but if you can’t afford to go anywhere, go for a road trip to the mountains, 3) Balance out your life – The idea is to draw a wheel with eight spokes. Each spoke should represent eight areas of your life. These include:

  1. Your health
  2. Your money
  3. Your social life (including fun and recreation)
  4. Your partner/relationship
  5. Your work/career
  6. Your friends/family
  7. Your physical environment such as your home
  8. Your personal growth/spirituality. This could include your religion, interests, hobbies, for example.

Now, for each area of your life represented by a spoke, give it a score out of 10. Where you score below five, take that area and try to focus on it.

When I look at these areas, the one that I need to focus on is number 8 because of our situation with calling a new pastor to grow our church.  I don’t know what this will bring and this uncertainty is going to take some faith on my part to see what the Lord is going to do.  We are at an impasse, a crossroads, and the only way is forward because doing nothing would be going backwards.  Choosing to go with the Nesting model means we still want to have a Reformed Church in Calgary that is spreading the gospel in the community.  Isn’t this what we want?  Isn’t this what we are supposed to do as Christians?  Then why is it so hard.  We need to support this vision and direction and do what we can to make it happen.  This isn’t a job for one person.  We are Jesus’ hands and feet and we need to step it up and support this for it to become successful.  Praying is a good start but it isn’t the only action we need to take….and it isn’t only for the young at heart, it is for the whole church community to figure out what their role is.

This will be a challenging yet interesting year in our church.  Be encouraged that we all want others to share in the joy we have in Christ.

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil  1 Peter 3: 13-17.



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God has been doing some amazing things in our community through our church this past year! Take a moment and listen to the video above that highlights the various community engagements we are so privileged to have!

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