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A Pastoral Message on COVID-19
Beloved in the Lord,
In a desire to keep all in worship safe, our Mission and Ministry Council (MMC) decided today to cancel in-person worship services for the next two weeks. To be specific, there will be no midweek Lenten services on Wednesdays, March 18 and 25; and no Sunday services March 22 and 29. In the next couple of weeks the MMC will reassess the situation as more information becomes available.
On Sundays, we will hold “virtual” services and Bible study. There will also be a Tuesday evening Bible study. These virtual events will be simultaneously on our Facebook page and web page. The worship service will begin at 9:00 am on Sundays; Bible study will be at 10:15 am on Sundays. The Tuesday evening Bible study will begin at 7:30 pm. All these events are archived on our web site and can be streamed at any time after the event.
This decision was not taken lightly, and we realize how disheartening it is to not be able to worship in-person, particularly during the Lenten season. Personally, this is difficult for me as I find the greatest rewards in ministry to be found in face-to-face contact. With health care facilities restricting access from the outside, it is already becoming difficult to offer pastoral care in the traditional format.
With that said, I remain your Pastor and will continue to provide for your spiritual needs. The format and opportunities may very well be different in the next few weeks, but I will do what I can to feed you with God’s Word to sustain your faith. We will use our web site and other opportunities afforded us by technology.
I would like to reinforce what I said in my sermon yesterday. I believe this can be the finest hour for the Church in America during my lifetime. We are witnessing a crisis the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in a long time. The Christian Church is built for times like this, and we have a tremendous opportunity to show love to our neighbors and witness to the love of God that is ours in Christ.
I remember very early in my pastoral ministry experiencing an analogous situation. On August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Dade County, Florida. I was living about 30 miles north of where the eye of that storm devastated property and disrupted lives. In the days and weeks following the storm the Church was the center of relief efforts in the hardest hit areas. For months after Hurricane Andrew individual Christians and congregations loved their neighbors in tangible and meaningful ways.
All these efforts began with little coordination, no central command or control, and very few resources. It was for me a life lesson that God’s people can make a significant difference in the lives of our neighbors when we step out in faith to bring God’s grace to those around us.
On a personal level, it is easy in uncertain and turbulent times as these to experience fear and anxiety. Some level of caution seems appropriate given the facts we have at this time. At the same time, we don’t want to give in to fear and be driven by a sense of panic.
St. Paul reminds us: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
The prophet Isaiah encourages us with God’s promise: “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Christ’s own words to His disciples of all time strengthen us: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
This is a time to engage in prayer for our world, our nation, our leaders, and our neighbors. Take some time away from the constant coverage of how COVID-19 is disrupting life to pray to the Lord of Life for His protection, guidance, and peace.
Here is a prayer I have long found helpful:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God bless and keep you in His care.
Pastor Dan Czaplewski
PS – We will continue to deposit checks mailed to us on a weekly basis. Gifts given through direct transfers to the Church will be posted on your statements as normal.