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Grace and peace to you, beloveds! It's been an exciting time around Cloverdale United Church these past couple of weeks: First, we've welcomed among us Kiran Gill, our new office administrator, and she's been diving right in, getting familiar with all of the wide variety of things that go into her role -- as well as becoming familiar with all of the voices and faces that make up our community. Second, with many thanks to Bruce Forbes and probably a dozen or more other helpers, the place is really starting to 'sparkle' from the refreshed paint jobs, newly cleaned Upper Hall floor (a longtime congregant testified that the floor hadn't looked that good since she was a teenager!), newly cleaned carpets, reorganized storage spaces, and more. We also have attractive new signage in the works for around the interior and at our entrances, which will both be very helpful to newcomers and guests among us and add a sense of vibrancy, I think. With all of this and more that's happened around the facilities in the last few weeks, I imagine many of you will be quite "wowed" the next time you set foot here!

Speaking of setting foot here, we continue to work toward our first in-person worship service coming up in just over 2 weeks, on Sunday, August 15th. I know this is going to be a truly heart-warming experience for those of you who are feeling comfortable stepping into larger group gatherings at this point, and so I hope you'll plan to be with us that day! And I also know that there are some of you who aren't feeling ready to be in larger in-person groups yet, especially as we continue to hear news from south of the border of a rise in COVID cases due to the 'delta variant', and so I'm happy that the preparations are underway to enable a truly "hybrid" worship gathering. Tech installers should be here to begin setting up the components we shared about in the summer issue of Cloverleaves beginning next Friday, August 6th. Come August 15th, whether you're wanting to be here in-person or joining in worship online -- be that for reasons of health and risk, or simply due to other life logistics -- you will still have the opportunity to be part of the one Cloverdale United Church congregation and worship experience, fully present one to another: one congregation at worship together, whether present in body or on Zoom.

By the time we gather in-person again on August 15th, we'll also be welcoming into our midst our new Director of Music Ministries, Dr. Emma Rui-Xuan Shi. Emma begins her work among us on August 4th, and her first Sunday as worship accompanist will be August 8th (our final online-only service).

Finally, as we move ahead toward the early fall, I look forward to a renewed period of getting to know each and every one of you. As we come into September, and the work of preparing for resumed in-person worship and our congregational retreat week at Naramata has passed, I will be reaching out with another invitation for me to come to pay you a visit (something that wasn't possible back in the spring when I started), or join you for coffee or lunch, or whatever other way makes sense for me to get to know you and yours. Look for more information come early September...

As we move through these weeks of preparations and projects, we should continue to hold before ourselves the reasons for which we engage in these things. As one of my UCC clergy colleagues from the States asked in a recent Daily Devotional email, "What if church growth, though, was less about a plan or a program and more about an orientation, an attitude, a way of being? What if the most attractive feature of your church to young families (and old singles and all the configurations of humanity in between) was that you had the kind of true peace that confronted conflict in a healthy, unafraid way? What if the most appealing growth plan was a commitment to faith so unabashedly reverent that it looked something like awe? What if the best church growth program of all was a community of people giving and receiving the kind of comfort that can only be inspired by the Holy Spirit?" Or in other words, these past weeks and, to a degree, the whole pandemic time, has been an opportune time to attend to some of the 'cobwebs in the corners', not only in our building but in our relationships and our programs. And now, as we phase forward, this becomes our time to truly be the church, with as much faithfulness, authenticity, courage, vitality, and awe as we can muster -- and not only among us who are already gathered as the Cloverdale United Church, but in and for the whole world!