In These Times and the Way Forward
Post date: Mar 13, 2020 9:39:45 PM
Greetings of peace to you.
After a week of praying, listening, thinking, checking in with colleagues, looking at the Centers for Disease Control website, and a whole lot of soul-searching, I have made the difficult decision, in consultation with staff and our Vice President of Consistory, to cancel all programming and meetings at MRC -- effective immediately and until further notice -- in order to do our part in "flattening the coronavirus curve" (https://flowingdata.com/2020/03/09/flatten-the-coronavirus-curve/?fbclid=IwAR3sG7Mkre45ZOQMH-xwWhKZzgRF6PJfydjezgPR8mS8BJ-DuwNqBHTjdUM). Programming includes: All rehearsals for the Joyful Noise Adult Choir, New Jericho Choir, and Hand Bell Choir; Adult Education; Consistory meetings; Caregivers; Dorcas Circle; Momistry; Daisy Scouts and Brownies; Middletown Lions Club; and all special dinners and events. I believe flattening the curve is the most responsible way for us as citizens and people of faith to love our neighbor and to care for the most vulnerable in our midst. The more we limit our face-to-face interactions with each other, the less chance we have of infecting someone who has a medical condition or is immune compromised. To be sure, there are many people in our congregation who fit this description.
We will still have worship this Sunday and practice safe social distancing (please sit 6-10 feet apart from each other), but there will be no coffee hour or brunches going forward until this pandemic subsides. If at some point we are told by government authorities that we can no longer gather to worship, or if I feel the risk of worshiping is too high, then we will halt that too. This is a fast-evolving situation and each week brings something new, and I will keep us as up-to-date as possible.
That said, even though we won't be gathering together as much physically, I want to keep us connected spiritually. What I’m going to do is set up a "Care Tree," assigning each member of Consistory about 5 people from our congregation. During our programming hiatus, they will call to check in with you, asking how you are feeling and praying with you. I want you to continue to feel loved and held during these uncertain times.
So, come to worship this Sunday at 10:30 AM as we gather as the body of Christ and quiet our souls amidst the tumult. Juliet Gallagher is the featured soloist and she will be singing, "Jesus Met the Woman At the Well" and “Irish Blessing.” I will be preaching from Psalm 95 and John 4.5-42 and my sermon title is What About God Makes Your Heart Sing? Our Lent Prayer Station is available for you to ponder the Scripture Psalm 95.4-5, In God’s hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are God’s also. The sea is God’s, for God made it, and the dry land, which God’s hands have formed, as you reflect on how wonderful and powerful God is. And don’t we need to feel God’s power right now?
However, if you are ill, or don’t feel comfortable being at church during the pandemic, please don’t feel obligated to come. I leave it to you to make the best, and wisest decision for yourself and the welfare of others. You may continue to send in your tithes and offerings to the church at 121 Kings Highway, Middletown, NJ 07748. To be sure, I am currently working on ways for those of us who can’t attend church to still be connected to our Sunday worship; e.g., emailing the bulletin and my sermon. I am also hoping to be able to record worship and share this video online. In addition, I’d like to do a weekly meditation so that we can stay grounded in prayer together.
Beloved ones, I am confident that we will get through this pandemic stronger than ever, as we cling to God’s love, practice patience, persistently pray, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. Spring is coming. New life is coming. Let us hold onto the hope this new life brings.
In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,