Dear Members and Friends:
Grace and peace to you all!
It is my hope and prayer that you are well. Unrest and uncertainty surround us all as a result of the COVID pandemic and continuing scourge of racism in our society. The social distancing required to combat the pandemic has been a challenge for many of us; as we have grieved the loss of “normal” ways of experiencing fellowship, study, and worship in our beloved sanctuary. Several weeks ago, I remember walking in that sacred space and stopping in my tracks as I noticed that the paraments had remained the same, purple for Lent, since mid-March. It felt like time had frozen and the world had stopped spinning.
The good news and truth, of course, is that the earth continues to rotate on its axis. We have just had to learn to move forward in new ways, to adapt. We have continued to worship virtually on Facebook Live, celebrated the Lord’s Supper twice on Zoom, and one of our Sunday School classes is meeting virtually as well. We have been reminded of Jesus’ promise to meet us whenever, wherever, and however we gather in His name, through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit. More than ever, we have a small glimpse into what it must have felt like for Moses and the Hebrew children to wander in the wilderness for 40 years or for the exiles to keep faith and worship in a foreign land.
Our spiritual ancestors utilized the practice of lament to express their anguish. I lament that not all of you have been able to access our online services and that you may feel forgotten. We lament the pain felt from being unable to share life with family and friends. We also mourn lost opportunities to celebrate rites of passage, including awards ceremonies, birthdays, graduations, Women’s and Youth Sundays, and opportunities to say goodbye to those we love. We lament the continued loss of life by our brothers and sisters of color due to racial injustice. We lament the vast political division throughout our land.
When the Thessalonians were experiencing social pressure, persecution, and difficulties, Paul wrote to them, encouraging them to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16). We rejoice in the stories shared of you (and others) being the church during this time — the acts of kindness, phone calls, and concern communicated to and among one another. We give thanks to God for a time to pause and focus on what truly matters in life – our Savior Jesus Christ, our family, our friends, and our neighbors. We give thanks for your faithfulness in giving of your tithes and offerings, the first fruits of your labors amidst such uncertainty. We rejoice that God hears all our cries and prayers of intercession. We especially rejoice that God continues to work amidst the brokenness of this world in new ways. Let us hope for and imagine the new day God is creating.