We are still in the Easter season, so I remind you of the first words spoken by the angel to the two Mary’s at the empty tomb. “Do not be afraid.”
Over the past two months, our society plunged into a battle against COVID-19, a virus that we are still learning about. Our lives have changed rapidly. It has disrupted small businesses, our schools, many of our routines, and our regular contacts with friends and family. It has been stressful and frightening, and so we have offered one another grace and prayer for strength.
And of course, it has disrupted the way we do church. But just so you know, I’ve been very proud of our church’s response - from organizing to serve those in need and to finding ways to worship online and stay connected. Many of you were choosing to stay at home out of concern for your health and your family’s safety even before the church made a decision. What a gift that is to have such thoughtful, caring community members!
This past week, Governor Hogan announced the beginnings of a phased reopening for businesses with guidelines to follow. Our County however has extended the stay at home order until at least June 1, anticipating 14 straight days of declining cases of COVID-19. If that benchmark is not achieved, the stay at home order will likely be extended even further. In addition, we continue to see updated guidelines for how we interact and work to prevent the spread of this disease, especially because of how it will impact those who are most vulnerable.
The key is to know that we are still taking things one week at a time as we both learn more about COVID-19 and follow the guidance of health leaders in our county.
Since being faithful means to plan for what may come, this past week I formed a task force to begin the careful planning of what we, University Christian Church, will do when it is safe to gather again physically in our building. This task force will identify clear benchmarks to serve as guideposts to when we will gather again. These benchmarks include gathering appropriate supplies, communicating and implementing all procedures needed to, and adjusting worship style, seating, and building use to make sure we are doing our part to gather safely and with love.
The task force is made up of the following people, representing a cross-section of the church:
- Linda Bock as healthcare professional and chair of the Task Force
- Lorel Morrison as Trustee and Elder
- Janise Allyn-Smith as Admin Division representative
- Pat Hindsley as Worship Chair
- Katrina Dodro as Education Coordinator and as a parent
In the coming weeks, you will hear more from this task force and other ways you can provide input on how we could make this process safe for you and your family. Please know we will only choose to gather physically when the time is appropriate. Know that can still be months away. And know that, as Rev. April Lewton called us to on Sunday, it may look like a new way of being church, different than what we have done before.
In the meanwhile, we will continue to be creative, gathering online for worship and remaining connected through the bonds of faith, text message, phone calls, email, and video chat.
As the angel proclaimed to the women at the tomb, who were beginning to experience a new normal themselves, our faith guides us not to live in fear in this difficult time. We will seek the expertise of health professionals. We will gather wisdom from other faith communities. We will abide by the best practices recommended by the CDC and other health agencies. We will live out our call to be good neighbors, guiding our decision when to reopen also on Jesus’ commandment to “love one another”.
Please pray for this task force and for all of the leaders of the church and our community, for all of those who are hurting and who are struggling without income, for all who are battling the disease or grieving the loss of loved ones.
As usual, if you have any questions, you may send me an email or give me a call, and I’ll be happy to talk further.
— Rev. Nathan