“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun.”
The first line of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything…” I do not believe the author of this poem had “social distancing” or “shelter in place” in mind when they penned this line. The author lived some 2,500 years ago. Back then, people did not understand how germs were transferred from one person to another. They did not understand that standing farther away from your neighbor, friend, or family member could potentially save their life. They did not understand that the spread of a virus could be stopped if people stayed home and didn’t go out. They knew people could get sick, but they didn’t know how they got sick. And, yet, the author of Ecceliastes knew there was an appropriate time for all activities that make up being human. The author knew there were certain times when it was good and right to meet together and enjoy one another’s company. They also knew there were times when gathering together was a bad idea. After 2,500 years this poem still speaks truth to our lives.
The poem addresses the times when life doesn’t make sense. It speaks to the moments in life when human wisdom cannot offer any satisfactory answers. It is honest, unflinching, and forthwrite. These words speak directly into our lives, your lives, the lives of session members and your pastor’s life. There are times when we must be honest, unflinching, and forthright. We do so with civility and the utmost respect. All the while, making sure to heed Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Session and I have been exploring what is necessary for the church to reopen. Our conversations have been filled with honesty. We have not hesitated to talk about the dangers of reopening too soon or too late. We have been direct and to the point. We have had these conversations because we long to worship in person with you. We want to see each of you as you walk into church on Sunday mornings and we want to wave goodbye after the service is over. It is our heart's desire to praise and worship God sitting shoulder to shoulder with you. We are asking the questions and doing all that we can to find answers in ways that will benefit everyone. We do not rely on our wisdom alone. We are relying on God. Waiting for God to instruct us.
As we wait we ask that you would pray for us. So will you please pray for us? With so much going on, we cannot accomplish everything by ourselves. We need you. We need your prayers. Please pray for us. Know that as your leadership explores the hard questions, they do so in prayer and thoughtful conversation. As we ask and answer the important questions to reopening we will share with you our intentions and plans.
There are lots of questions that we need to ask and answer before we resumein-person worship. All the while online worship is continuing to be organized and thoughtfully done. The questions we are asking and areas of concern we are discussing pertain to all parts of church life: facilities, worship, Christian education, fellowship, pastoral care, mission, and administrative. Each of those categories has about a dozen sub questions in them. The list of concerns to explore is extensive, but it must be. COVID-19 has changed things in ways we didn’t see coming. It has also given us an opportunity to be creative and experiment. It's likely that we will be able to do some things “the way we’ve always done them,” but some things will forever be changed. And that is okay. As the author of Ecclesiasties wrote, “...everything has a season.” Even in the church, this pandemic will cause some things to end or change. Even in the church, this pandemic has and will open opportunities to try new things and join with new people. Through our live-stream worship, we are reaching more and more people. We have had people tune into our worship service from Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and Nevada, and, of course, Illinois! The good news of Jesus Christ is being shared in our community and across the country. There are some truly amazing things happening in the church right now. Praise be to God! I am so proud and happy to be part of FUPC and its ministry. Way to go church.
With all this talk about questions, please know that I am available to chat or to answer some of the questions you might have. When I interviewed with session back in November, I told them that my understanding of the pastoral life is centered on praying and preaching. In order to pray and preach well I need to do three things. I need to read. I need to write. And I need to visit with people. Since I can’t stop by your house or meet you at a coffee shop, the phone is the best way I can visit with people. I’d like to talk with you. If you’d like to talk with me please call me at (616) 490-1355 or email@example.com
Peace be with you,