A Challenging Season
We have reached the mid-May, and still have not met together in-person for worship since Mid-March. A year ago, I would have never anticipated a world-wide pandemic that would require us to stay at home, cease worshipping together, and requiring facemasks and disinfectant when we do venture away from home. I would not have dreamt of facing toilet paper shortages, hand sanitizer shortages, and signs at the grocery requiring that we limit the amounts of paper products, or meat, or bread we could purchase. As I have said before, I have run out of adjectives to describe this season we are in; unique, difficult, challenging, odd – all of these describe life right now.
On May 1, and Governor Holcomb has given us further instruction on re-opening the state for business. The Governor has asked that if we can work from home, we should do so. Therefore, for now, the church office will remain closed, but we will discuss with church leadership and staff when and how we will move to reinstate some office hours for the church office.
The Governor also said that churches may restart in-person services with more than ten persons in attendance as of May 5th. However, he has recommended that vulnerable people, those over the age of 65 and those with preexisting health conditions, should stay home. The Governor also encouraged churches to continue online and outdoor services. As of now, our Bishop, Julius Trimble, has asked that we not meet for in-person worship before May 17.
Based on what I am hearing from members of our congregation, colleagues, and our leadership, I do not anticipate meeting again in person before June 14. When we do meet again, it will not be like we were before. So much has changed. Our world has changed, and we will be entering into a new normal. As we resume worship, we may begin with some outdoor services.
I heard that the CDC recommends that churches that do resume in-person, indoor worship to maintain social distancing guidelines provide masks and hand sanitizer for all worshipers. One webinar I attended recently recommended having two or more smaller services that would be attended alphabetically. That is, persons with the last names beginning with A-E attend one service, F-J another, and so forth. The leadership of the church and I will continue to investigate what will be best for our congregation.
Jesus said to people who were facing many challenges in their lives, “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28 – 30) Sometimes we have encouraged ourselves with this verse when we are so busy, overscheduled, and preoccupied. Right now, many of us have ceased doing much of what we usually do. Our calendars and schedules have been cleared. But we are still preoccupied and bearing the heavy burden of the unknown. This word from Jesus appropriate for us now, just as it was before. Whatever our struggle, whatever our heavy load or burden, Jesus offers us rest. I pray that you will take Jesus’ yoke and find rest. And when the new normal begins, I pray that we will only take into it those things that serve us well, that give life and give glory to God.
Peace be with you,