Slideshow image

Dear Southwood Church Family,

Happy early Thanksgiving! My hope and prayer for each of you this week has been that even in the midst of the present circumstances we find ourselves in, you might notice and experience the small blessings and miracles that God is revealing each and every day. There is much to be grateful for!

I wanted to give a little bit of an update/clarification regarding the transitions we've made in our live stream setup this Fall. As we planned towards re-entry in the Sanctuary and hybrid worship for Sunday mornings, you may recall that I shared the news that we'd be phasing out the Facebook and YouTube feeds at the end of September. September 26th was the last service that was streamed on those platforms, as we've moved over to a central live stream page on our website.

Accompanying this change, we've also phased out the posting of recordings of full services on our YouTube channel and Facebook page. I've had a few people reach out to me to inquire about the reasoning for this, and so I wanted to share a bit about what lies behind that decision. 

When we first launched our live stream way back in March 2020, you might remember that I shared these words with you from the Epistle to the Hebrews:

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb 10:24–25).

In the context of where we were at that time, my encouragement to us all was to join each week in online worship, in living out this vision of a united community of faith, worshipping the Lord together. I am so thankful that so many of us have taken up this call and been faithfully participating and relating to one other through these long many, many months.

I recognize that the rhythms of our lives have shifted in many significant ways throughout the pandemic and that the convenience of being able to watch a recorded version of the worship service at a time of the week other than Sunday mornings has become a regular practice for some people (both in our congregation and beyond). However, as I have prayed, discerned, and consulted with other church  leaders over the past number of months, I've come to the realization that we really are missing something essential in our practice as a worshipping community when we "watch" a worship service rather than "participate" together. I'm reminded again of the caution from the Book of Hebrews: don't neglect meeting together. 

Certainly, there is edification, learning, and growth that takes place when we consume spiritually-rich media. But if this becomes the centrepiece of our spiritual practice, something crucial is being lost—the togetherness and embodied-ness of Christian worship is no longer prioritized. There is something significant and important about "showing up" for one another at a certain time and in a certain place (whether physically or virtually) to worship together. I would venture to say it's a non-negotiable part of our commitment as disciples of Jesus Christ. Worship isn't about us, or our convenience, or even primarily about "getting fed"—it is about being in community together, offering service to God.

And so, I don't want us to risk losing sight of that. My theological convictions, my pastoral concern for church unity, and my extensive past experience with different forms of online ministry inform my beliefs about this matter. We need to gather together for worship, not just watch the same content in isolation from our siblings in Christ. 

What this means is that a recorded version of the full service will no longer be posted online. I deeply encourage you to commit to attending worship, whether in-person or online, at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings. The platform we've now launched on our website (southwoodchurch.ca/live) has a wonderful live chat feature, which I encourage everyone participating to use—to be known, to share words of encouragement, to ask for prayer, to offer prayer, and to meet together in sacred, online space for worship.

As we had been doing for several years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to post the sermon each week online. There's a new media page on our website where you can access video, audio, and any additional notes that may be attached to a particular week's sermon. Sermon videos (not full services) will also continue to be posted on our YouTube channel and audio-only sermons are available by subscribing to our podcast feed.

I hope you hear my heart in all of this: to both continue to provide inclusive access to Sunday morning worship via the live stream, and also to protect the flourishing and unity of our community of faith. Sometimes, faithfulness to God and to one another may require a little bit of inconvenience on our part, and I think that's OK—it might even be biblical ;-)

Peace to you all, and we'll see you soon.

Blessings,
Rev. Sam