Facing the limits of being able to communicate personally and efficiently with our entire congregation, we have had to rely upon these Pastor’s Corner messages more than we would like. There are so many pressing concerns that demand communication and reflection together, and long-winded, written pieces make our eyes glaze over quickly. This afternoon, though, there are several stray, loose-ends that need some attention, and putting it into writing is the best we can do for today!
This Sunday morning we will welcome a smaller group of in-person worshippers to join the service (which will continue to be available via livestream as has become our custom!). Having worshipped in this context for months now, I do have a few words to aid in preparing yourself for re-entry – whether that is this week or in the weeks to come.
- You will feel different walking into a very familiar (for some, at least) place. Wearing a face mask, being ushered to your seat, sensing that everything looks a little sparse, and even a self-consciousness of seeing others worshipping in face masks can be unnerving. As you walk into the Worship Center, catch your breath and simply pray for God to meet you and all others in His house as He has promised so richly to do! Though not ideal, the service is no less of a space to meet with our God, to enjoy His people, to experience union with Christ, and to be filled with Spirit! Just don’t be caught off-guard that it’s different.
- We will continue to have options for engaging in worship: the livestream of the Morning Service, joining the Morning Service in person, and our outdoors Vespers Service on Sunday evening at 7pm. The method behind the madness is to offer a range of entry points for the wide array of people and experiences in our church family – options that are viable, safe, and meaningful. The morning and evening services center upon the preaching of God’s Word and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It may be that some folks are more comfortable gathering (with the appropriate physical distancing) outdoors at this point, while others are willing to put a toe in the water of gathered worship indoors (with the appropriate physical distancing). No matter what is helpful for you, please know that the pastors and elders earnestly wish to serve you and meet you wherever you find yourself along the comfort-level spectrum. We are here to pray with you in your front yard or to bring the sacraments to you if you can’t come. Please let us know how to connect and care!
- In compliance with the civic authorities, we are requiring face masks for the indoor worship services. For the outdoor Vespers service, we still defer to your own discretion. The language of the order from Governor Cooper stipulates masks are required when physical distancing cannot be maintained. We have experienced and still require diligent practice of physical distancing at the Vespers service and feel that we can move forward with our current practice.
We have met as a Session to process all that’s going on and to chart a way forward for our congregation. We are finalizing some plans for sharing resources, creating forums for lament, prayer, and discussion, and articulating ways to capitalize upon listening and learning and move into relationship and action.
One of our deepest longings is to refocus the conversation from a partisan issue to a Biblical, Gospel principle. I find it absolutely compelling that when Jesus is launching his public ministry in Luke 4, he is handed the scroll of Isaiah to read in the synagogue. Out of all the passages he had at his disposal to read as a launching pad for his ministry, he chose Isaiah 61:1-2 – a passage about God’s redemptive favor for those on the wrong end of a fallen world of injustice!
One very helpful resource along the lines of rooting justice and righteousness in the Bible’s witness is from Tim Keller and Bryan Stevenson. It is long but worth your time. Keller teaches for 30 minutes, and for the remainder of the hour, Bryan Stevenson describes his work with the Equal Justice Initiative: An Evening with Tim Keller and Bryan Stevenson (from 2016)
Grace and peace,