Pastoring through a pandemic has been one of the most challenging chapters of ministry. Stay alert. Keep your head high. Trust God. Listen to His voice. Pivot. Pivot again. In the midst of the lost opportunities, there have also been unexpected wins. The Kingdom of God moves forward and God will not be thwarted. Yet I cannot trivialize the cost or pain.
This week has been difficult. With the end of CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) the provincial government has asked us to permanently lay off those who are temporarily laid off so they can move to permanent EI. CLA moved to temporarily lay off about 41 employees on March 15 due to stewardship (we didn’t have work for them) as well as finances. We compensated them with a SUB (supplemental unemployment benefit) top up and kept them on benefits. We were able to bring some back on staff as church finances stabilized and we focused on new kinds of ministry for our people. Most of those who remained unemployed were involved in custodial, set up, administration and Sunday gatherings.
This week we prepared to lay off 15 people and say good-bye to our summer staff (who are on summer grant programs). With the arrival of Pastor Bryce & Pastor Rachelle in Young Adult ministry we also see Rhys Fowler making a transition out of interim pastoral help. He has been such a blessing. In addition, Rob Wilson is leaving our Communications Team to go to Living Waters to become their Media Production Director, which is a great opportunity for him. With Steve Nicholson’s retirement and this weekend’s congregational vote on Vancouver Island for Mike & Laura Bidell the changes at CLA in this season are significant.
Today I want to sincerely thank the following people for years of service to CLA. Their servanthood, heart and devotion has been exemplary. I publicly laud them and encourage you to do the same.
- Ashleigh Stevens, Maple Ridge Campus administrator and office coordinator
- Dean Hull, 13 years of service with Recovery Church, he will carry on as a key volunteer
- Dianne Carnegie, 21 years of service to CLA in Hospitality / Custodial work
- Joshua Galicia, Bible College student serving in Hospitality / Custodial work
- Julie LeDoux, 15 years of service to CLA in Hospitality / Custodial, moving towards retirement
- Leah Crowle, Kids Ministry Coordinator, Recovery Church
- Luc Straforelli, SFU student working in Hospitality / Custodial
- Margaret Kerluke, 22 years of service working in Finance Department, retiring this month
- Princess Ilabor, single mom, refugee family from Africa, working in Kitchen / Hospitality
- Rhys Fowler, Young Adults Interim Pastor, transitioning to Vancouver
- Rob Wilson, 4 years in CLA Communication Dept, moving to Living Waters in a new role
- Sam Magnusson, theological student serving in Hospitality / Custodial
- Sarah Lee, 6 years at CLA, working faithfully in Finance Dept overseeing short term missions
- Simeon Stevens, 2 years of service at CLA in Hospitality / Custodial
- Wendy Gerbrandt, 7 years of ministry in a few key portfolios, currently Sunday & Special Events
In these challenging days my goal has been to care well, communicate clearly, and be generous to our laid-off staff. We do not know what the future holds but we trust God. No one saw COVID-19 coming and we do not know when “normal” will return or what it will look like.
As pastor to our church, leader to our staff, and chairman of our board, I’ve tried to walk through the uncertainties of these days with discernment and hope. These important staff will be celebrated at a special event on September 10. Please join me in prayer for them, may they experience God’s comfort, strength and guidance. May His Grace towards CLA, its ministry and mission, continue to accompany us.