Dear holy and beloved ones of God,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This has been a difficult time to be the church. In times of trouble, our natural inclination is to draw closer to one another for support, comfort, and aid. This time of pandemic has challenged these inclinations. In order to love one another, we have had to learn to keep our physical distance. Some of us have been making connections through phone calls, the internet, and other technology. Yet the desire to be together in person is very natural and very real.
About a month ago, our congregation established a team to assess the situation around this pandemic and its impact on our community. This team's expertise is beyond question, including medical professionals and community leaders. This team has produced a document outlining our guidelines for resuming use of our building. In our council's most recent meeting, this document was approved and has taken effect. I commend it to you for your reference, that you can be aware of our reasoning.
Having said this, our council and assessment team have committed to remaining flexible in these guidelines, and these may change in response to events in our community, including the increase or decline in new cases. Of particular note is the information that we are continuing to follow our synod bishop's guidance not to consider resuming in-person worship together until the end of July. Speaking for myself, I believe that the recent increase in cases in our county makes this a prudent decision. The Apostle Paul writes that simply because something can be done does not mean it should be done (1 Cor 6:12). Instead, as Peter says, we Christians use our freedom to honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17), including the vulnerable in our community.
While our building has been closed, our church remains open. Over these last few months, the ministry of St. James has not declined; in some ways it has increased. Our online worship service has been well-produced, creative, and favorably received, even reaching beyond local boundaries. Our work in the community continues in many and various ways. I appreciate that your prayers and your financial support have continued during this time.
A final note: while we are unable to meet for in-person worship, I invite you to consider the possibility of taking part in an in-person contemplative prayer service on Sunday, July 12, at 2:00 p.m. This would not be a replacement for our regular online worship. There would be very little music, no singing, and limited speaking by the assembly; for the safety of our community and myself, you would be required to wear a mask in our building, including in the sanctuary. I invite you to participate in a survey to gauge interest; your response will help us determine if this gathering would be feasible. The link is found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JZ7J53L. Regardless of this gathering, our online worship will continue in the same form that it has to this point.
I pray that you are safe and well in this unusual time. You continue to be in my prayers as we learn new ways of being God's people together. Blessed be God forever and ever.
8th Sunday after Pentecost, 07-26-20
(Accompanying bulletin not available at this time)