Dear Church Family,
The past weeks and now going on months have been trying, exciting, frightening, awakening, exhausting and exhilarating. More emotions than I can put into words.
On Sunday, March 15th the difficult decision was made to suspend in-person gathering for worship. We postponed our Irish Dinner, Tuesday Vespers at Mesa Valley Estates was suspended and the list goes on. The hope was to be back together for the best Easter ever. How could we ever have guessed what would come into being in the weeks to come.
I won’t belabor the past, but I will set my eyes on a future of hope. Psalm 96 was written in a bible given to me as I was preparing to enter into ministry. It has given me hope and strength throughout the years since I began this journey. Let me share the words from the first three verses of Psalm 96:
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
This is where I think we are at. A time to sing a new song. Not to return to what we have always done but to come back together with a new song, a new hope, a new beginning. The common language in the news, media, conversations etc. has sounded something like this “we must stop worship at our churches” or “when can we go back to worship” or how about “why aren’t we worshiping since houses of worship are now essential.” I don’t know about you but I have never stopped worshiping. I have continued praising God in all places and all things. I would like to believe that all of you have also continued to worship and praise God. So from this moment forward I would like to address the question of when we will be able to gather together in the same place at the same time again. I choose the word gather over worship because isn’t that really what we are yearning? To be together. To gather together in a common place?
Right now there are so many questions and I hope I can answer some of them or at least provide you with some insight and comfort.
The President has given houses of worship the distinction of essential. The Nevada governor has included the same in his phase 2 plan for re-opening Nevada with the suggestion of remaining on-line/virtual for a bit longer if deemed reasonable. Our Bishop of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference has asked that we remain steadfast in sheltering at home and maintain our on-line/virtual worship.
Three levels of direction, and still the question of when. We as the United Methodist Church will continue on the path of “Do no harm” and to “Do good.” We are going to continue to worship, since we never stopped and never will. We are going to continue to do all that we can to care for, protect and honor each other. We are going to continue to work on a plan to bring us closer to opening our church doors to receive limited gatherings.
This past week our re-open team began the work of what must be done to get us to our gathering together back. With the guidance of our Bishop, conference re-open team, national and world medical and science teams we are creating a covenant that we will present to the body of our church that will strengthen us in Do no harm, and do good. This covenant will include wearing masks, sanitizing our sanctuary, restrooms, fellowship hall and classrooms. We will reconfigure our sanctuary to accommodate physical distancing. We will stay home if we do not feel well, are at risk or immune compromised. We will respect each other in these stressful times and do what we must to truly be the Body of Christ. We will do all that we can to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
When we return to the building. When we gather together again we will sing a new song. We will not go back to “the way we have always done church. We will have made it through the time of wandering in the desert and made it to a new and revitalized body of Christ. We will return with joy and we will clap our hands.
The Trees of the Field, by Bill and Gloria Gaither
You shall go out with joy
And be led forth with peace
The mountains and the hills
Will break forth before you
There’ll be shouts of joy
And all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands
Be patient just a bit longer. The time of testing and waiting is coming to an end. We cannot rush the process, we cannot push God’s hand into acting. We must not be as Judas and try to hurry to kingdom as he thought it should be. We must trust the journey and experience the fullness of the Crucifixion, death, and resurrection before we can celebrate the newness of life. I do not know when we will be able to gather together again, but I do know we will.
Blessings and virtual hugs,