Gathering Again at St. John’s

May 19, 2020 in News

A reading from Ezekiel

11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 13I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak. (Ezekiel 34:11, 13, 15, 16b NRSV)

The people of Israel had lost their way, and the blessings God promised through the covenant had evaporated as they turned away from living as God’s partner people. They had been carried away to a strange land with strange gods. The faithfulness and steadfast love of God, however, is everlasting. Even though the people had been scattered into exile, God will gather them back to their homes and provide for them. They will be a cared for, strengthened, and healed people by God’s own action.

During these days of the pandemic, I hold fast to these promises. The ministry that we do together seems lost, injured, and weakened. Yet, we proclaim that God is faithful, and God’s steadfast love is everlasting. God will gather us, heal us, and strengthen us. We will again worship in the nave. We will again study God’s Word together. We will again work side by side in ministry to the least of these.

As we look to the future and what our coming together will look like, I wanted to share with you what is being planned. Currently, our county remains in the red phase. As long as we are in the red phase, we will continue as we are. Access to the building will be limited. In person activities and events are canceled. Worship will be prerecorded with a minimum number of participants.

Once our county moves into the yellow phase, we can begin to have smaller gatherings of less than 25 people while maintaining social distancing and appropriate precautions. We will contact committee chairs and Christian education leaders to inquire with them about their willingness to meet. We will add more participants to our prerecorded services such as lectors, soloists, and instrumentalists.

Once our county moves into the green phase, in person activities and events including worship can resume while maintaining social distancing and appropriate precautions such as wearing masks in worship, only using every other pew with overflow in the Shepherd’s Room, accommodations for communion distribution, no congregational or chorale singing, and many other considerations. We are doing our research and planning accordingly so that we can gather safely.

We have already decided to hold a virtual Vacation Bible School. The Strawberry Festival is canceled. We are considering holding numerous outdoor worship services as the weather allows. We are thinking about ways to hold M.A.D. Camp virtually as well. We are brainstorming about many ministries.

We continue to be God’s people in this place and time as well. We have already started new online ministries that will continue as we seek to engage the world around us. Our CD ministry has expanded. We are practicing faith in our homes more regularly with new and old resources. We are still collecting for Support Our Troops. We continue to care for one another.

What other ministries could grow out of this time? I ask you to think creatively and step into God’s work wherever it is needed. Pray for God’s guidance and inspiration.

Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Scott