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2 SPRING 2022
Joy and Patience
   By the Rev. Dr. Daniel D. Scott, Moderator of the 2021 General Assembly
I remember one night, as a child, waking up to screams of “Fire! Fire!” and “Please help! Fire!” It was the voice of our neighbour who was also frantically honking the horn of his car to get our attention.
Fire trucks soon arrived, and I re- member being led across the street by firefighters, one of whom held hands with me and my brother as we hopped over fire hoses and blinked at the flashing lights coming from the fire engines that had arrived from
the nearby fire station. Another of my brothers was carried by a firefighter, and my mother carried our new baby brother.
In the morning, my parents gath- ered us together in the bedroom of a neighbour’s home on an adjoining street to where our now burnt house was. My father had a red-cover edi- tion of the Gideon New Testament—I was not sure where he got it from when he had lost everything else. He took it out from his pocket and read from Chapter One of the Book of James in the King James Version:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let pa- tience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (1:2–4).
He then prayed, “Dear God, help us to count it as joy as we go through this fiery trial. May we have patience, and please provide for us. Amen.”
This all happened in October 1969. More than 50 years later, we are in the midst of a pandemic, and for many, it is a significant trial and test of faith. I’ve found the fifth wave to be the hardest so far. At St. John’s Pres- byterian Church in Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ont., we were gather-
ing, carefully, in person throughout the fall of 2021. Every week, we were excited to see people return who we hadn’t seen in months. We thought that things would soon be back to normal.
Like many congregations across the country, our critical incident re- sponse team decided the week be- fore Christmas that we would return to services online only. In response to the decision, someone said what a lot of us were feeling, “This is a drag.”
Recently, I met (virtually) with faith leaders for a retreat organized by the Canadian Council of Churches. The facilitator asked us to talk about the joys and sorrows we experienced during the pandemic. Each leader described some of their difficulties— some shed tears. It was heartening, though, to hear about the tremen- dous joys that people also spoke of. The list of joys included tangible things like long walks and hikes in the
woods, grandchildren, pets—a new puppy or cat—and making snow angels. Of course, there were sto- ries about spiritual joys like prayers, scripture and fellowship with other believers.
It was a good reminder that there have been joys despite COVID-19.
The trying of faith has not only brought joy, but patience, too. Back in March 2020, when we went into the first lockdown for two weeks to “flatten the curve,” I would have never dreamed that two weeks would stretch into two years.
We’ve all had to learn patience. A particularly poignant lesson of pa- tience has been the deferral of major life events—especially weddings and funerals.
New parents have had to wait to introduce their parents to their new- born babies in person—some have posted pictures on social media of grandparents looking through a win- dow at their new grandchild, unable
to hold them or hear their giggling noises or smell the baby breath of the little one.
Children have shown great pa- tience by attending school day in and day out online, not getting to be with their classmates. Some university students have never gotten the op- portunity to go to a class on campus or hang out with roommates in their dorm room. They didn’t get to go to their graduations or the prom, either. Missing out on these experiences re- quires patience.
Patience, according to James, is perfecting us. He should know. He wrote his letter to a group of strug- gling early Christians who were scat- tered, separated and isolated.
As a young boy, it was as if James’s letter was addressed to me and my brothers.
Reading the letter of James during the pandemic is not reading someone else’s mail. It is addressed to us in the midst of our fiery Covid trial, too.

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