In October of 2019, FAC launched our second campus in the SW quadrant of Calgary. There was lots of excitement and uncertainty, and new systems were formed as we moved forward with the Southwest launch. The structure for the preaching was to record the message from the Saturday 6:30 pm service at the Deerfoot campus and play it back during the live service on Sunday at the Southwest campus. One Sunday a month, the Deerfoot campus pastor would preach live from the Southwest campus, and the Deerfoot campus would receive the pre-recorded video message from the Deerfoot campus the night before – much like the experience of attending the Southwest campus most Sundays. The Southwest campus quickly became a gathering place for 250 people every Sunday morning, with new families and individuals coming to check out the campus weekly. The launch was a success and wonderful to be part of. God was clearly moving amongst all the planning and prep that went into this new online preaching delivery.
2020 In Focus
Meanwhile, over in China, a slow-moving threat was taking shape throughout November of 2019 and the rest of the world remained completely unconcerned as info slowly started to expand in the news. In North America, it wasn’t until early in January 2020 that I recall hearing the word coronavirus, still not thinking much of it. Because of the similarity to influenza, which was a common health issue and much like the coronavirus, it didn’t seem all that concerning as this was the norm here in Canada … ”Stay home if you’re sick” wasn’t unusual, and ”Go get the flu vaccine” was a common call to all people.
In December, Christmas came with such excitement, the world of sport was thriving, and the entertainment industry continued to grab our attention. I had made some personal goals and plans for 2020 during Christmas break. I loved thinking how 2020 would be a year of full transparency. My twin daughters were turning sweet 16 … My second daughter graduating from Grade 12 was turning 18 and full of excitement as we picked her grad dress together and were making plans of celebration … My oldest daughter was also having a milestone year, turning 20 … And I would turn 50. My wife and I were thinking how exciting it was that this year we‘d have so many amazing things to celebrate. Taking the thought of “vision” and “seeing things” in 2020 was exciting to me in the year that lay ahead! Little did I know how true this would be for me and every person on the globe.
Then tragedy hit the sporting world. Kobe Bryant and a number of others died in a tragic helicopter accident in southern California. I look back and see how that impacted people from all over the world … A superstar athlete gone at such a young age, with a tremendous future as a leader and mentor to many. That he was the father of 4 daughters resonated deeply with me, causing me to think of my 4 daughters and how my wife would cope without me. The news showed mourners, fans, friends, and family struggling to comprehend how this could be. That was a transition point for the year 2020. January 26, 2020 … And the world was getting ready as a silent, unseen entity was creeping towards us all! The world was about to experience something we never thought possible – beyond the loss of another superstar! Globally we were about to lose everything normal to the comforts of our lives.
A Shift in Perspective
My role at FAC is Director of Guest Experience – leading a team of frontline people that engage with the community that call FAC their home church. We want everyone who walks through the doors of FAC to feel a sense of belonging and value. Part of being on the front line is getting to hear the opinions of people who love to freely share what’s on their minds. As I write this it now strikes me funny how we as humans all too often operate out of today‘s current realities. We‘re so fragile with what we perceive is allowable for our comforts. The complaints I would hear on a weekly basis from a small population would range from “The music is too loud“ … “The church is too cold“ … “I don’t like the worship leader“ … “I don’t like that preacher“ … “How come the sidewalks aren’t cleared of snow?“ … “Why can’t I sit where I want?“ … “Why are you closing sections?“ … “That’s my seat!“ … and so on. It’s just normal that people need to share their thoughts and opinions and push boundaries for their own wants and needs despite the current situation.
Then it happened. Remember I mentioned the pre-recorded message broadcast and how once a month our Deerfoot campus would have the sermon projected as a video and the Southwest campus would have a live preacher? This caused a commotion for some. A petition was formed from a small group of people that the Deerfoot campus have a live preacher all the time. People also came up to me and showed their displeasure during the once-a-month video of our preacher at our Deerfoot campus, saying it was “wrong” to do that. Little did we know God was just prepping us for a new normal. It’s amazing to me that we can become so focused on what we personally feel should not be altered. We often will not stop and wonder what it is that God wants us to think … How we might help others to understand that perhaps change and disruption happen for good beyond what we can see, and to learn to adjust and make opportunity out of change.
March 11, 2020. My twin daughters’ birthday. As we celebrated their sweet 16, enjoyed sharing gifts and cake with family, that day changed Canada and the world forever. It was announced that a global pandemic was at hand. On Friday, the 13th of March, FAC made the difficult but right decision to cancel all church gatherings. March 15 in the evening our lives would further be altered with the cancellation of school in Alberta. The ripple effect of this was massive. March 17 the NHL suspended the hockey season. It was a numb feeling as one by one things were taken away and there was nothing anyone could do about it. It was a forced new reality to us all.
May is nearly over. The world is still turning. There are thousands of essential service people doing ordinary yet extraordinary things for all people … People are more friendly … Life is adjusting yet still very hard for many … School is 100% online … Work from home is normal … Church is 100% online every week … And I have had more conversations with my neighbour of 15 years in the past 2 months than over the entire span of 15 years. We now have thousands of church campuses in every neighbourhood all over the world – if you’re willing to be the church. It wasn’t our choice that a virus disrupt us, but it is our choice to be a positive disruptor – to be a difference-maker.
Our normal was taken from us for our benefit, I believe. We‘ve been shaken out of complacency and routine to see our neighbourhoods, cities, regions, and world in a fresh light, and God’s world is beautiful. I understand the tremendous challenges, pain of loss for everyone, and the disruption to our “normal” lives. I will never forget the lives lost because of this global pandemic. I also won’t allow positive opportunity to be missed as a result. God has not changed. He wants you and seeks to know you if you are willing to knock on His door and step through. What is the year 2020 bringing to your perspective through the eyes of God? His ”2020 vision” is what we all need! If you slow and look closely a wonderful opportunity is waiting for you.
Jaret Giroux served as Director of Guest Experience at FAC from 2016-2020 and now works at The Mustard Seed here in Calgary, helping those who are navigating a lack of permanent housing in our city.
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