Dearest Hope Family,
Thank you for making time to fill out the online surveys over the past weeks. Your honesty, vulnerability, and sheer faithfulness in responding were impressive and helpful to me and the elders. I am hopeful that this message provides a brief overview of our next steps and some lasting encouragement from the Scriptures.
First of all, I asked for prayers for our Session meeting, and I can report that we were able to forge ahead with some decisions as we sense where and how God is directing us in the murky re-gathering process. I offer a few bullet points of where we landed for the time being:
- Continue the livestream of Sunday morning worship indefinitely: Regardless of when and how corporate worship reconvenes, we will maintain the livestream. We are hopeful for the wider scope and reach of the ministry of the Word it allows, and, more importantly, we are committed to ensuring that those in our congregation who are not ready for a return to gathered worship or are prevented from a return are able to access the worship service at Hope! We are even investing in additional equipment to enhance and expand the already top-notch stream our folks are providing! Be on the lookout for slo-mo replays, zoom close-ups, video review of controversial sermon points, and even improved preaching – ha!
- Begin the preparations to our building for re-gathered worship: deep cleaning, physical-distance friendly seating arrangements, gathering supplies, and the like.
- Use the various guidelines from the CDC and North Carolina Governor’s Orders as a baseline for our decisions and practices regarding re-gathering for worship: One of the hardest aspects of the pandemic is the demand that we function as de facto Public Health Experts and arm-chair virologists. I am content to serve as a pastor of a local church; I am not an Infectious Disease professional! Therefore, we are appealing to these two sets of guidelines for some agreed upon baseline for calibration in our decisions.
- Hammer out a more detailed proposal for re-gathered worship in phases: Please continue to pray for wisdom, discernment, courage, love, and creativity as we get down to brass tacks! Please pray for unity and charity among the Session and the whole Hope community.
- Create an Advisory Team of congregants, deacons, elders, staff, and pastors to review and inform the Session’s preliminary plans for phased in gatherings: This needs to be bigger than the Session or the pastors. Practically it gives the pastors some freedom to focus upon the ministry of the Word rather than be consumed with the volume of decisions. Also, it allows folks who have availability and some level of expertise a chance to help formulate a solid path forward for everyone at Hope.
Lastly, I commend to you a passage of Scripture that truly helped us calm down and have a fruitful discussion this past Tuesday: 1 Peter 4: 7-11. In the heart of the passage, two imperatives stick out, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” It seems right to acknowledge that the season we find ourselves in is ripe for “grumbling” and “a multitude of sins”. I think of the limitless opportunities for division, judgmentalism, fear, impatience with the rate of change, impatience with the values and views of others, and infighting. Just say the word, “mask”, and watch the feeding frenzy from all sides! Let’s show hospitality to one another instead of drawing lines in the sand. Let’s keep loving each other earnestly in such a way that snuffs out the sparks of petty self-interest and shallow judgment.
For our Session meeting, we borrowed a prayer from Dr. Peter Marshall that has helped me a ton this week. I pass it along to you with the same hope, with the same desire for “the long view of our work and our world”:
“Our Father in heaven, give us the long view of our work and our world. Help us to see that it is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail. Guide us how to work and then teach us to wait. O Lord, we pray in the name of Jesus, who never was in a hurry. Amen.”
Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate
Peace of the Risen Savior,