If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that the church is not a building. A building might locate us, serve as a “church house” for gathering us, and a helpful resource for us and the community to do a variety of ministries, but the building is not the church. It is important that we be clear on these distinctions. The church is the people who are committed to follow in the way of Jesus and who have been drawn together by the power of God’s Spirit to be the Beloved Community and the Body of Christ for each other and for the world. We have closed our building to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but we, as the church, are open for business. God is still with us. Our commitment to follow Jesus is unwavering. The Spirit of God is still stirring among us as we prepare with great intention and thoughtfulness to reimagine our vision, reestablish our mission, and reengage our purpose to promote vitality, increase our witness and promote the effectiveness and reach of God’s love and justice in the world.
So, during this time of social distancing, as we hunker down to keep healthy, to stop the spread of COVID-19, mourn our dead, grieve the losses and disruptions that have affected us all, and to wait for the vaccines to begin clearing the air of this damn virus, I want to call us to attend to the work of the church in these winter days. I am asking that we focus on some practices of essential church life.
Like sports and the performing arts, the practice of our faith is crucial. To practice our faith means we give it the time and attention needed so that as we go about our lives, we are centered in God, our Source of Life, and that we are embodying the meaning of God’s Love and Justice more deeply and expressing it more fully as we go. Practice. Practice. Practice. It may not make us perfect, but practice will certainly enhance and empower us in ways both savvy and sensitive, to shine as the Beloved of God: Beloved. Be loved. Love!
So, with this in mind, I invite you to engage and strengthen your faith around these four practices:
THE PRACTICE OF WORSHIP: Live Streamed on Facebook and recorded
We come to the service of worship as a practice session. We come to seek clarity and insight. By this practice, we hope to be provoked and inspired to love more deeply and to act on that love by doing good deeds, pursuing justice, and scattering kindness.
We will kick off the season of Advent this coming Sunday. Our theme is LIGHT IN THE SHADOWS. As the darkness increases around us (in both a literal and figurative sense), Advent calls us to pay attention to the Light that is always present, always shining, even in the darkest of night. It is this Light that shines forth hope, peace, joy and love.
We are now up and running to Live Stream our Sunday morning worship service via the church’s page on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Each service is recorded and then available to play at a time that is convenient for you. If you need help in figuring out how to access the worship service via Live Streaming or to view the recorded services, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or Tiffany, our church administrator. We will be happy to show you and teach you how to use this resource.
THE PRACTICE OF LEARNING: Three Zoom learning sessions each week
This time of social distancing and staying well and warm indoors, it a great time to engage your mind in learning, to do some theological reflection, to ask some hard questions about God and life, and to test our embedded theology to see if that is where you are now, or where you want to be . A Rabbi once said, “When I pray I talk to God but when I study, God talks to me.” As we prepare to relaunch our church in early 2022, I hope to engage you in learning more about progressive Christian theology. I want to help you become conversant and aware of what this progressive Christianity looks like and what it might mean for you. I thought we might begin this important education effort in early 2021, but COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to do it now.
Todd Seikfer and I are going to team up and facilitate a time of education, discussion, and reflection on the meaning and celebration of Christmas. There will be three sessions to the study and we will be reading the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS: WHAT THE GOSPELS REALLY TEACH ABOUT THE BIRTH OF JESUS by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crosssan, who are two outstanding biblical scholars. You can purchase used copies of the book very cheaply on Amazon.com or you can stop by the church office where we will have some of these used books available for purchase.
Beginning the week of Sunday, December 6 you can participate in one of three weekly Zoom learning sessions:
Session One (Reflecting on Pages 1-78 of the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS)
Sunday, December 6 @ 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday, December 9 @ 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 10 @ 10:30 a.m.
Session Two(Reflecting on Pages 81-167 of the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS):
Sunday, December 13 @ 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday, December 16 @ 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 17 @ 10:30 a.m.
Session Three(Reflecting on Pages 171-255 of the book THE FIRST CHRISTMAS):
Sunday, December 20 @ 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday, December 23 @ 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 24 @ 10:30 a.m.
THE PRACTICE OF COMPASSION AND CARE: Enter the Zoom Prayer Chapel
Being a community of care and grace to one another is an essential quality and experience of church that we expect to happen in meaningful, supportive and life-giving ways. As your new pastor, I have not been organized in this important ministry among you. I have been attending to many other concerns and needs of the church and have failed to give this matter of importance the time and attention it deserves. I also sense that many of you are feeling disconnected and/or unaware of the concerns, struggles, and joys that your fellow church members are experiencing. It is hard to offer our compassion, care, and support if we don’t know what is going on. So, to help each of us care for one another better and to be more supportive, I will be convening two Zoom prayer chapels each week, where we will enter into a time of prayer and each person present will have the opportunity share their personal concerns and joys, make others aware of those in our community and beyond in need of prayer and support, and/or simply tell what’s been going on in their lives. So, fix you some hot coffee, tea or cocoa and log-in to a Zoom Prayer Chapel each week. It will be like sitting at a table with friends and sharing a little something of our lives. Let’s not let COVID-19 hinder us from deepening our sense of community and friendship.
Beginning the week of Sunday, December 6, the Zoom Prayer Chapel will be in session for one hour twice each week:
December Prayer Chapel Week One:
Sunday, December 6 @ 11:45a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Following the Live Streaming of Worship)
Wednesday, December 9 @ 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. (Following the Learning Session)
December Prayer Chapel Week Two:
Sunday, December 13 @ 11:45a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Following the Live Streaming of Worship)
Wednesday, December 16 @ 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. (Following the Learning Session)
December Prayer Chapel Week Three:
Sunday, December 20 @ 11:45a.m. – 12:45 p.m. (Following the Live Streaming of Worship)
Wednesday, December 23 @ 7:45 – 8:45 p.m. (Following the Learning Session)
THE PRACTICE OF VOCATION: Advancing the Work of the Church by Serving
There are many ways to get involved in the work of our church. There are a number of short-term committees getting under way to get our church organized and structured for what is to come next. We will be laying a foundation on which we will relaunch our church’s presence and witness in early 2022. We will be establishing the processes and means by which we will make important decisions, do the work of the church, and function in ways that are clear, healthy and promote the flourishing of our life together. Here is a list of the ways you can get involved and participate in the ongoing work of the church. You can be in touch with me, or the person’s name in parenthesis, for more information about work being done.
Maximizing our Welcome and Impact via Live Streaming
Open and Affirming (ONA)Committee (Jay Rosenberg)
Establishing a Congregational Behavioral Covenant (Dick Owens)
Constitution ReView Committee
Developing a Financial Policies and Procedures Manual (Lois Darrow)
Updating our Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual (Barb Knepper)
Facility Use Policies and Procedures Manual (John Kiernan)
Our Wedding and Funeral Policies and Procedures
A Closing note about ZOOM:
If you don’t have the ability or the equipment to use Zoom or Facebook to participate in the practices I have named, please talk with me or Tiffany in the church office. We will be happy to work with you in order to find a solution that will enable you to fully participate in the life of the church during this time of pandemic We don’t want people feeling excluded or feeling isolated from our church community because of the challenges or barriers of technology.