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A Plan for Reopening Bonnyville Baptist Church

The Province of Alberta has eased its restrictions set in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We intend to open immediately but the province has some stringent restrictions (see here) which means our reopening will not return us to normal practices. This letter is intended to lay out our plan to reopen while honouring these guidelines. 

This Sunday (May 17th) we are having a Drive-in church service at the C2 Center in Bonnyville at 10:00 AM (an online service will also be available at the same time). You can listen in your car on your radio.

Starting on May 24th we will meet in our church building while honouring the restrictions set by the Province of Alberta. The key ones are:

  1. No more than fifty people.
  2. Physical distancing must be maintained at all times (before, during, and after the service)
  3. Infants and children are to remain with their families.
  4. There will be only one entrance per meeting space.
  5. Masks are encouraged but will not be provided by the church.
  6. We will have hand sanitizer at the entrance. Please use it as you enter and leave the church.
  7. No coffee will be available.
  8. The following people should not attend:
  • If they are sick
  • If they are high risk to the virus
  • If they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 within 14 days.
  • If they have returned from travel outside of Canada within 14 days’ prior

In light of these restrictions, we will offer the following: 

Option 1: Live Streaming - We will be live-streaming the service for those who feel the need to continue to self-isolate. The only difference between this livestream and what we have been doing the last few months is that it will not be a pre-recorded service, so the quality may be different. These live-streamed services will be available online for later viewing.

Option 2: Home Groups - We will have several homes available for those who want a smaller setting. The homes will show the live stream of the church service but you will meet as a group and not just a family if you wish. This group must be less than 15 people.

Option 3: Live service at the church - We will have two services: 9:15 and 11:00 AM. We have a limit of fifty per service in the Worship Center and 30 in the Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) allowing us to host up to 80 people per service. The two rooms will be separated and with separate entrances so we do not cross over. We will direct people to the MPR when the sanctuary reaches its capacity. 

Please read the full list of guidelines here

 

Renewing Our Call to Join a Life-group

Since the lockdown prompted by COVID-19 pandemic churches have been mandated to cease meeting in large settings.  The original rational for the mandate was to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system enabling us to accommodate those most impact by the virus. It seems that the Province of Alberta is beginning to loosen the restrictions and has increased the number to 50.

Now that we know more about the virus our options are becoming clearer regarding its risks.  We know the virus is highly contagious but that it only really posses a risk to the most vulnerable people (elderly and those with pre-existing conditions).  The overwhelming majority of people can have it without knowing it or without harmful symptoms. There are statistically zero deaths for those under 18 and only around 0.01 to 0.01 for those under forty-five (based a recent study by Stanford University).  This is comparable to the average flu. It seems then that our response to the virus needs to protect those most vulnerable while allowing others to get on with their lives. 

This prompt us to ask, “What can we as church do now reopen our church while continuing to mitigate the risks?” Let me list a few of our steps to achieve this.

First, the present provincial limitation on group meetings is 15 people has not changed throughout this time.  That is about the size of an average small group.  Many of our small groups have been put on hold due to peoples fears and uncertainties about the virus.  Now that we have a better understanding of the virus its seems there are ways to safely take advantage of that option.  We are encouraging our people to begin attending our life groups again using the safeguards that have been communicated through the media.  This may include masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing and sanitation procedures. There is a lot of ministry and encouragement that can happen in these small settings to allow us to continue to fulfill our mission as a church.   

I have asked Danielle Gervais to begin calling our Life-group leaders to contact you, and those of their groups, to re-establish our meeting times.  People who are in the high-risk categories will need to determine if it is appropriate for them.  In some cases, extra precautions need to be considered.  For most of you any risk is very minimal.

Second, we will begin live services again starting May 25th at our building.  A separate letter will be send outlining the details of what that involves (See above).  During this time, we will continue hosting online services as we have done the last six weeks.  We also hope to host some smaller group gatherings at homes for those not yet ready for the larger setting.  If you are willing to be a host of one of these small groups, please call our office ASAP so we can make arrangements.  Please join us for these services.  Each week we are trying improve the quality and introduce new elements so that they do not become too predictable and boring.

Third, several weeks ago Les Parsons approached me with the idea of hosting meals for those most severely impacted by the effects of the lockdown.  A few days later I was contacted by the FCSS with information that the province was providing grants to go toward assisting those effected by this virus.  I was able to get Les Parsons connected with the FCSS to look into our options for such a grant.  Since then he has gotten the grant and recruited others to provide lunch for those in need.  There are several things you can do to help him.  First, you can tell those who you think might needed that this lunch available (so far those taking advantage of it is few in number) and second, you can help prepare and provide the lunches by contacting Les at 780 691-6912

Fourth, call and encourage those who you think might need it.  It has been documented that as many as one-third of our community has is having mental and emotional trauma as a result of the virus and the lockdown that follows it.  Our local economy was already hit hard by the dramatic drop in oil prices but the lockdown brought the impact to a whole new and unprecedented level.  Most people cannot work and have no income.  The federal aide programs help but they cannot account for, or address the uncertainty such times bring.  We need each other to remind us that God must be our basis for hope and contented as our study in Philippians will show.

My prayers are with you all.  I, along with other provincial pastors and church leaders, are sending a letter to appeal to the province to allow churches to open up again ASAP.  Please join me in prayers that this letter will be heeded so we can worship God together again soon.

Posted by David Mcclain with

A Study of Philippians

Rising Above Life’s Circumstances: how to respond to the victim culture

 

We live in a victim culture.

When we analyze any culture we can start by contrasting honor cultures with dignity cultures.  The best way to explain this is by imagining you've been criticized or attacked.  In an honor culture, your number one priority is to defend your honor and to respond with honor.  In that setting that's what we look for in our leadership.  We want to see people who conduct and live their lives with honor.  In an honor-based culture, your response is normally public so that others may see it. The knights of the medieval times operated from an honor-based culture. 

In a dignity based culture, you see the intrinsic worth in each individual.  When you're attacked or criticized your response in private.  You may say nothing publicly but you may reach out to the individual, sit down in a room with them, and sort things out.  You come out of the room say to everybody that everything is now settled.  In a dignity based culture, you look for that in leadership.

Throughout most of the history of Western Civilization, we valued a blend of those two cultures honor and dignity- but this is increasingly being changed.  It is becoming what some sociologists are calling a victim culture.  In a victim culture everything I do and say is motivated by love but anything you do or say, if you dare attack or criticize me, can only be explained through hate so, therefore, you must be racist, or xenophobic or homophobic, etc.   In a victim culture, we isolate ourselves into little groups that are united by our sense of victimhood.  To join that little group, you have to advocate their complaint more militantly and more vocally than them.  And, you must never disagree in any way or you're thrown out for hate.

In this culture, when people run for office they calculate the number of victim groups in their electorate, they advocate their complaints in a militant and unqualified way.  If they get the mathematics right they will win.  That means culture gets locked into a political whirlpool of grievance where hatred seems to become the prime motivating factor to explain everything. It’s a disastrous mindset that affects us at every level.  It breeds a mentality in which we with think about things in the wrong kind of way.

Karl Max introduced the idea of the victim culture when he taught that society is divided into two classes.  The first group, the privileged and wealthy bourgeois who owned the means of production, and the second group, the proletariat, who did the work that produced their wealth. In more recent years, this dichotomy between the oppressed and the victim has taken the form of identity politics.  Whether it be race, women’s rights, sexual orientation, or gender identity.  It seems everyone is a victim.  Groups like the Franklin School and men like Saul Alinsky have brought the idea of the victim culture to a whole new level in more recent years.

We even see it in our entertainment.  For example, have you seen the original Superman movie? In 1986 Christopher Reeves as Superman had one weakness, kryptonite, a metal that would kill him.  Otherwise, he was perfect in every way.  He was perfect physically, emotionally, rationally, moral, kind, gentle, and understanding caring.

More recently, the 2017 movie, “Man of Steel” was a remake of Superman? That film starts with him on a boat lost at sea lost feeling culturally lonely and orphaned unable to answer the fundamental questions about who he is and trying to cope with the weight of expectations on his shoulders.  In other words, the new Superman movie starts with a victim narrative.  In fact, every modern Marvel superhero has been used abused, hurt, betrayed, and damaged. That allows us to empathize with them so when they obliterate their adversaries we celebrate their demise.  The superhero may bring incomprehensible destruction on his adversary but it is fully justified because he is bringing justice for having hurt him.  As a victim that is his right.  And that is the problem of the victim culture.  It becomes our identity and demands justice even in its most brutal form.  From this perspective anything the victim does is fully justified to appease his sense of injustice.

If the victim cult were restricted only to sensitive college students or a developer/ television celebrity-turned-president, the phenomenon would be of temporary interest only to sociologists and academics. Instead, the victim's assertion, when combined with potential touchstones for conflict (race, religion, ethnicity, and nationalism) and linked to a justification for some action (compensation, preferential treatment, revenge), is destructive for all. The Hutus in Rwanda pre-1994 is one example.  They justified their violent genocidal act on the claim of victimhood due to past offences against them. There are others: Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro, and Pol Pot blamed their societies’ economic troubles on entrepreneurial capitalists rather than on their own economic illiteracy and tyranny. It is always only the other person’s fault.

Stalin and Hitler both claimed to be victims. They persuaded millions of other people that they, too, were victims: of an international capitalist or Jewish conspiracy. No major act of war or mass killing in the twentieth century began without the aggressors or perpetrators first claiming innocence and victimhood.[1]

The problem with tallying up victim counts is this, “How can we compare and weigh suffering- as if an impartial scale exists?” While mostly men were killed and wounded in war, wives and children on the home front lost husbands and fathers. An industrial accident that maimed a man also hurt his family. All we can say with any accuracy is that they, and millions more over the millennia, were actual victims. 

The victim often has a legitimate grievance but somewhere along the way, he must stop letting it define him/her and shaping his/her every thought.  The victim mentality is a major obstacle to peace and reconciliation.  So what is the alternative? Is there a better path to dealing with the injustice and unfairness we face in the real world?  The answer is, “Yes!”  You see, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul were victims of the worst kind.

The Apostle Paul describes it in this way in II Corinthians 11:24-29, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn”

It is in that abusive context that Paul wrote the book of Philippians. The book is called a prison epistle because he wrote it from a brutal Roman prison that he had been sent to for preaching the gospel of Jesus.  We get a glimpse of his experience in Acts 16 where he is found singing and praising God despite his horrible situation.  Even when God broke down the prison doors through an earthquake Paul did not lash back in anger or even attempt to flee.  As a result, his jailor came to Christ.  The book of Philippians gives us an insight as to why Paul was able to rise above his circumstances and still give praise to God.  Paul was the consummate victim but, as he says in Romans 8, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

 In light of the damage this victim mentality can do to a person or society I will be doing a study of the book of Philippians.  I want us to get into the mind of Paul and learn from him how to be content no matter what the circumstances.  The only way we can find a path to healing ourselves or our society is to learn how to overcome our victim culture and gain a new perspective- like that shared by Jesus and Paul.

 In invite you to join us as we study Philippians together.  Check our website a brochure that provides the sermon topics and sermons on audio.  Each week we will speak look at Philippians and try to understand the mind of Christ so that we too can handle abuse and oppression from a better reference point so that we can deal with it in ways that built us up and are more likely to restore relationships.

 

[1] Milke, Mark (2019-10-19). The Victim Cult: How the culture of blame hurts everyone and wrecks civilizations (Kindle Location 179). Thomas & Black. Kindle Edition.  

Posted by David Mcclain with

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