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Grace and peace to you, friends,

It is with regret that I am writing to inform you that the Council of Southwood United has voted to cancel our planned in-person Christmas Eve services and move to a virtual platform.

This decision was a difficult one. We are all disappointed. Christmas Eve is one of those services that has such great meaning for many of us. It is a time of gathering and a time when we welcome not only our regular attenders, but also our extended church family, those we see occasionally and on special days. Oh, how we long for a church filled to overflowing with people worshiping and celebrating together. The book of devotions I read each morning is often mysteriously pertinent to my life, and today included this: “Sometimes God’s plan opens up so slowly that you must hold yourself back.” We are oh-so-ready to shake off the restrictions of this pandemic, but it seems we are still in the “not yet/waiting time,” as our Student Minister JJ Soriano preached last Sunday. Although the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is potentially less severe, it also appears to be more easily spread, and Southwood United wants to take every action possible to protect our congregation as well as all those we have contact with.

Take heart. We have cancelled the in-person services, but you can still have a wonderful Christmas Eve experience. Our website will have details of how to access the online service which will be live at 4:30 PM and available any time after 5:45 PM. Take this opportunity to turn your lights down low, light a few candles, and attend the service from the comfort of your home. This invitation is extended to all, including our extended church family and newcomers.

One final request. We hesitate to mention finances, as our church is most definitely centered on worship and service. However, the fact is we have had to take out a large loan to cover the cost of long needed repairs to our church building, and our Christmas Eve services are historically those that provide significant financial support. If you were planning to attend a service and put an offering in the plate, we pray that you will be moved to contribute online or through some other means. All the ways to give are listed at southwoodchurch.ca/give.

Christmas comes but once a year, and it comes whether we are ready or not. This Christmas may not be what we want, or what we have planned, but it is still the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Let us rejoice, for “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Amen.

May the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of Advent bless you through Christmas and the coming year,
Jan McLean
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Jan Mclean, Council Chair
Southwood United Church

Please also take time to read the pastoral letter from our Lead Pastor, the Rev. Samuel P. Grottenberg, posted here: southwoodchurch.ca/news/christmas-eve-pivot