My Dear Martin Family,

I miss seeing you, and I am keeping all of you in my daily prayers: all of us who, regardless of age, are at risk as the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread in our community; those of you who have been struggling with other illnesses, declining health and isolation; church members in hospice care and those who love them dearly; healthcare providers and public servants on the frontline; families trying to care for aging relatives remotely, and parents trying to comfort, teach and entertain their children in this season of global threat that does not play favorites.
It still feels counterintuitive to be a congregation that refrains from congregating. We are accustomed to being close to one another, holding each other up through all manner of difficulties as well as sharing faith, praise, service and laughter amid the troubles of the world. As your pastor, I have shed more than a few tears and even had a few outbursts of frustration because I am unable to visit in the hospital, hold hands to pray, embrace the hurting, or gather us together in the sanctuary to celebrate the lives of those we have lost or to praise God in sabbath worship. This is a season unlike any other we've experienced.

I know the timing of this is completely circumstantial, but it has become both an odd and hallowed metaphor for me. As we experience these final weeks of Lent and anticipate the coming holy week in the midst of this challenging time, I am reminded again of the redeeming, restorative power of sacrificial love. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a story of God's sacrificial love that never failed, even unto death. To love is to sacrifice, and in this Lenten season the most powerful way we can love one another and all of God's creation is to sacrifice the very things that generally give us comfort. It is counterintuitive, but being the church demands that we have a faith that rejects the notion that "if we just believe God will protect us then we can gather" and adopts a more mature faith that proclaims "that we are bound not by a building or physical distance, but by the sacrificial love of God that always finds a way to meet us in our need."

That truth is the reason that your church staff, Sunday school teachers and I have been working so hard to move as many congregational experiences online as we possibly can, and we have even added some new things! I hope you will take advantage of as many as you can each week. As most of you already know, worship is live online at 11:00 on our Facebook page. What you may not know is that we've actually added more than a 100 to our average weekly worship numbers in the last two weeks! How is that for God working in the midst of hardship!

Our adult Sunday school classes, children's Sunday school, and confirmation class are all meeting online on Sunday mornings, and Tongan Language Worship is online Sunday afternoons. On Mondays you can join Caleb for Monday Munchies; Tuesdays offer Men's Bible Study, Tuesday Morning Bible Study, and Lunch with Lara; Wednesdays bring JAM Academy, the Wednesday evening adult study, and choir meeting; Thursdays we meet for Lunch with Lara and Tongan prayer service in the evenings; on Friday we are all invited to go "out" with Caleb for curated cultural experiences.
Share your newsletter with neighbors, family and friends across the country who may need places to connect. There is no reason for anyone to be isolated if we all reach out in the ways that we can. We can do so much! Perhaps we can't do what we are accustomed to doing, but sacrificial love always makes a way!

I am so proud of our congregation for the ways in which you have already adopted a new way of connecting. You are downloading Zoom, learning to use technology that may be new to you, and finding in the faces of others a new understanding of what it means to be the church. God never did call the church to be a building, and discovering that in new ways will only make our congregation stronger.

I ask that you continue to support Martin with those things you vowed to give it: your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Our giving remains very important. If we are faithful, when the time is right, we will emerge spiritually and relationally stronger, solvent and strong, prepared to continue the good work God has for us.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. Open the blinds, step outside the door and feel the sun on your face this day; God is with us, we are not alone, and love will always win.

Grace and peace to you,

Pastor Lara
aka Your "Vicar"
Prayer Concerns & Sympathy for Those Who Grieve...continue to check the prayer page for prayers being added daily.

Christian love and sympathy is extended to Sandy Mezanazi and family on the death of her uncle, Arnold Wirtz.

Martin Community: Virginia Browning, Glen Dow, Barb Herbison, Kyle Kunz, Rose Neff, Melissa Norton (Bob & Barb Herbison's daughter), Leah Mezanazi, Bailey & Suzie Smith, Lee Swann
Pam Cook's daughter, Rhonda; Mary Gladstone's son, Eric;
MaryLou Nash's daughters, Nikki & Angie; Sally Puckett's mother.

Family & Friends: Kenneth Almstedt, Jana Faye Bowden, Lauren Brown, Donna & Taryn Cates, Gwen Caylor, Cory Chalk, Kevin Clark, Lauren Fisk, Rose Foley, Barbara Gorden, Art Grimes, Keith Hale, Patrice Harriell, Susan Henry, Pat Hern, Barbara Hertz, Edgar Hough III, William Hough III, Eric & Gary Huff, JoAnn Jenkins, Georgiana Jones, Adi Koloamatangi, Larry Kempe & family, Katherine Lee, Susan Lee & Family, Johnny Lovette, Al Mack, Emily Manning, Milton & Janie Marburger, Danielle Marie, Lana McCormick, Sandy & Pat McDonald & family, Jan Murphy, Jody Murphy & family, Jan Nelson, Monica Miles, Bill & Jo Miller, Susan Miller, Billy Parker, George Parker, Steve Parker, Linda Pool and family,Vernon Proctor, Roxanne Ramey, Michelle Risenhoover, Dottie Rust, Taylor Rust, James Sills, Cressan & Jerry Smith, Bill & Dorothy Standley, Gary & Paula Steele, John & Terri Stridesberg, Tim Sweet, Monette Tawbush & family, Cathy & Daisy Uhi, Al Viney, Tilila Walter, Kathy Walton