Dear Members and Friends:
Grace and peace to you all!
Nearly four months have passed since we last held worship in our sanctuary or gathered for a Wonderful Wednesday. In some ways, especially financially, I feel like we have not skipped a beat. Thanks for your continued faithfulness and generosity in supporting the life and ministry of Jonesboro Presbyterian Church. Still, I realize that I am only kidding myself (as I have become so accustomed to this season of online meetings and worship required by social distancing) if I do not admit that there is plenty that I do miss. Being physically present with you, whether in gatherings large or small, is the single greatest aspect of church life and ministry that is lacking. So when are we going to reopen, to start gathering for worship and other activities in the building in any sort of way?
When Session scheduled its June 14 meeting (back in mid-May), reopening phases had begun and I surely thought that we might be able to make a decision by then. However, following the easing of restrictions, Memorial Day weekend, and the subsequent rise in COVID-19 cases, your Session realized that we did not have enough information to do anything more than extend the cancellation of gatherings and activities in the building at least through July 12. The unfortunate truth is that the situation does not look better now, but there is some hope in that more is being learned about COVID-19 — how it most often spreads, risk levels for certain groups (age, blood type, etc.), treatments that seem to work best, and early results from clinical vaccine trials. Please keep Session in your thoughts and prayers as they consider this issue on July 12. You are surely in ours!
Today, as a nation and world we face great challenges and trials to ensure the health and well-being of all God’s children so that we all have the possibility (or a fair chance) of living the best life God has provided for us. In response, Session authorized the establishment of a Peace and Unity Taskforce at its June Meeting. The taskforce will explore resources that will enhance our understanding of the evils of systemic racism and create opportunities for members of all ages to positively effect change. Together we can actively support efforts for racial equality and promote civil discourse. The 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge is a resource that Session has discussed (and I am sure the taskforce would encourage use of) and it was mentioned by the Rev. Laura Lupton in her excellent sermon, I Don’t Know You, last Sunday. You can find links to the Challenge and other resources for adults and children in a dedicated section in the pages that follow.
Finally, I find the following words from the third chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians to be good counsel as we seek to be peacemakers and faithful followers of Christ.
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body (NRSV).