The Journey Continues…
I am sure you’ve noticed, there is a growing level of uncertainty and anxiety in our lives these days. The biggest issue we are facing is the Coronavirus. I’m not going to rehash the statistics about how many people have been infected in our country and around the world from the Coronavirus. It wouldn’t matter anyway because the numbers are constantly being updated. What we do know is this: international travel is being banned, professional and collegiate leagues and tournaments are suspending their games, the VA Hospital in Lebanon has limited its access, and colleges and universities are shutting down their campuses and conducting the remainder of their classes this semester online.
As the fear rises and the virus spreads, more and more businesses, schools, and places of public gathering are going to close down. But the question remains: what are we going to do? Are we going to suspend our worship services and gatherings until the danger passes? Well, for right now (at least as I am writing this) no, we are not planning on suspending our activities at church. At least not yet. If we are required to shut down (by a local, state, or federal agency), then we will comply with the directives so that we can do our part to control the spread of the pandemic. But while we remain open, we are going to need to do things a little differently.
First of all, as much as I enjoy shaking hands with everyone after the worship service, we are going to need to stop shaking hands for a while. Not because I am worried about catching a disease from you, but because I am also worried about spreading a disease to you. We can still talk, we can still say hello, we can even bump elbows if you want, but we need to do our part to keep each other safe until the danger of the pandemic passes.
And speaking of keeping each other safe…if you are feeling sick, please stay at home and take care of yourself. If your immune system is weakened for any reason and you are worried about being in a group of people, then it is OK to stay home. Think of it this way: if there was a major snow storm and you didn’t feel safe going out, would you go out? Probably not. Treat the Coronavirus the same way. But whether you go out or you stay in, please wash your hands. It’s hard to imagine we have to tell people to wash their hands (didn’t we learn this as children?), but I’ll still remind us now: wash your hands often and wash them thoroughly. If you have to cough or sneeze, use the crook of your elbow instead of your hand to provide cover. And try to limit how much you touch your face.
Do you know what else you can do? Please don’t forget the church in this time. Even if you aren’t able to be in attendance or we need to suspend our gatherings for a few weeks, we still have bills to pay, we still have financial obligations to meet, and we still have ministries that need our support. So please remember, giving to the church in difficult times is just as important as giving to the church when times are good.
We are currently exploring the potential of using a simple form of technology to keep us connected as a church in these times of uncertainty. We are testing a program this Sunday (March 15th) that will be as simple as calling a phone number and listening to our worship services over the phone. And it won’t matter if you are calling from a landline, a cell phone, or a computer, if this program works like we hope, you will be able to listen to our worship service from the comfort of your home and with the simplicity of any phone you have. As soon as we have more information about the viability of this program, we will pass that information along to you.
Compounding the challenges we have with the Coronavirus are the uncertainties facing St. Mark’s and St. John’s as the two churches become one in just a few months. The members of St. John’s are dealing with a lot of sadness, grief, and frustration right now and I am sharing their sadness, grief, and frustration. The members of St. Mark’s are dealing with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty over the large gap that will be in their budget when June rolls around and I am sharing in their anxiety over the uncertainties ahead. With the changes in our churches, there are a lot of unknowns in our lives right now. But we need to remember that God is still God and God is in control. And it doesn’t hurt to take a few deep breaths (just like we do at the beginning of our worship service) to breathe in the breath and the Spirit of God as we seek healing, peace, and comfort from the Creator of the universe in these times of difficulty and uncertainty.
God didn’t create the miracle of life only to abandon us when May 31st, 2020 rolls around and St. John’s closes its doors. I believe God will see us through the challenges of becoming one church just as I believe God will share the journey with us until the danger of the Coronavirus pandemic passes. What we need to do is be patient and trust in God to journey with us as we do the challenging work of bringing two congregations together and as we face the changes in our lives due to the Coronavirus.
Let’s face it, we are dealing with a new normal these days. So long as we turn to God for strength, hope, guidance, and healing, we will be able to adjust to anything that comes our way.
The Journey Continues…