Last week I was excited...last Sunday (8/23) evening we had a confirmand & parent meeting, which made me excited for this year even if we are starting on Zoom! Then on Tuesday I participated in a Webinar about Advent/Christmas and came away with some great ideas for this year! But then, as the week wore on, reality set in. The reality that no matter what, things will be different. Although I'm excited to have confirmation, doing so by Zoom is going to be different. Even though we will have Advent and Christmas Eve Services, they too will be different from what we have ever had before (No, I don't know how yet...). The possibility and probably reality of not being able for all of us to hold candles during an in person (inside) Christmas Eve Service and sing Silent Night all together began to sink in, and it made me sad.
We are now 24 weeks of worshiping digitally and/or in the parking lot. 24 weeks! I think a lot of us thought at some point life would go back to normal, and I do think it will, but not yet, not for a while, probably a long while. This is where I ended the week, and for some reason I have decided to share it with you.
I wonder how many felt this last week, excited to see friends, to be at school whether in person or digitally, learning, teaching, having fun. Only to be met with the reality that things are different, and will be different for awhile. Does this describe you, or your family? Have you talked about it with your children, grandchildren, others in your life? Sometimes we aren't able to put into words what we are feeling or experiencing but it is still important for us to talk about it with others. If you need to talk, or if your child needs to talk, I'm only a phone call away!
Today is a day that normally I think parents, children and teachers alike look forward to, the beginning of School! So, today I just wanted to share words on behalf of these two congregations:
Students: Know that your church family loves and cares deeply for you. We are praying for you each and every day for you to learn, have fun, and be safe! If you need someone to talk to reach out to me, or your Sunday School teachers, or another trusted adult, because we do care!
Parents: We realize that this year brings its own challenges, that you have made difficult decisions, and will make difficult decisions unlike any other year before. We are praying for you, and the choices you make! Just like the rest of life, there is no handbook for making decisions. We are here for you as well. If you need to talk to someone I'm here for you, and so is the rest of your church family.
Teachers/Staff/School Administrators/etc: We are praying for all of you! You make it possible for our students to go to school, and to learn. We realize this year you face more challenges then you have in the past and wrestle with decisions that are made every day. We pray for you each and every day, and know that if you need a listening ear we are here for you!
My prayer for all of us during this time is that we lift one another up in prayer, ready to listen and support one another during these times! We have all ready lived an end of one school year, and a summer that has been very different than other years, and now we are about to experience a Fall like none other. Prayers for everyone abound!
In closing today I want to say thank you for your continued prayers, and support during these times. We are still the church, and although we long for things to go back to normal; we know that it will be a while before this happens. The Worship Task Force from both churches met again this past week. We continued to look at the responses we received from all of you, as well as our current situation. When I have spoken with pastors in our area with worship attendance about the same, that have gone to worshiping inside their sanctuaries, I have learned that their attendance has been a fourth to half what we have been averaging with our parking lot worship. This holds true as I talk with United Methodist colleagues across the state. At this time, taking into consideration all of the information, we have decided to continue worshiping outside at 9am through the month of September. We are continuing to look for ways to include more people in leading worship. So, if you are interested in providing Special music, or leading congregational singing, I invite you to either speak with Sue Trebil, or myself. If you are interested in reading Scripture I invite you to speak to me. If you are willing to help set-up I invite you talk with Jay Edgar or Andy Hill. If you are willing to help with parking the cars I invite you to speak with Steve Wendt or Richard Baird. We see this weekly worship as a way for us to continue working together as one charge, meeting the needs of our people and communities when and where we can.
Volunteers or servants? Is it just semantics or is it more than that? You see in the secular world it is usually referred to as volunteers...we need volunteers to go on the class field trip, we need volunteers to work the concession stands. In the church it is suggested to use the word servants, for it is a reminder of who we are serving, God. So, yes it could just be semantics...but it also could be a mind-set as well. Does that change things for you? I was reminded again this week of how many great servants we have in our churches, who are willing to serve in any capacity. In addition to those who have been helping to lead and record worship, we have those who help set-up things, etc., those who mow the lawn, who take down gutters and scrape paint. However, did you know that one of our 'servants' has taken a craft over to the Manly Care Center every week since the middle of March? Up until about 3 weeks ago, I didn't, and this week, she enlisted another servant to do it. How are you serving God even during this time of physical distancing? What are ways that you feel that God is calling you to serve at this time? I fully recognize that God may call us to serve in different ways at different times in our lives. That is why it is important for us to continually discern where and how God is calling us to serve! I invite you to leave a comment about ways that you have been serving, or how you would like to serve now or in the future!
Last Thursday around 4pm all clergy received an email from the Conference concerning Professional Interviews, and our self-profile. Both of these things are things that we do each year, and the self-profile has to be turned in at least a week before your professional interview. (A professional interview is your yearly opportunity to meet with the District Superintendent, sometimes they have questions they ask everyone, sometimes as clergy we have things we want to bring up. Basically it's an hour that each pastor has with their district superintendent for the year...I once served with a district superintendent who said this is your hour what do you want to talk about.)
On July 15 in my memories on Facebook, I had finished my self-profile for that year, and it caused me to wonder about them for this year. Then lo and behold we received this email last Thursday. In some respects this is a form we fill out every year, that has basically the same questions on it every year (this year there were a couple more questions having to do with COVID-19). (The form is about 4-5 pages long.) Most (sane) clergy probably think oh man, this again! But for me I was looking forward to filling it out. Why? I'm not sure, was it because it provides some normalcy in this time of things not being so normal? Is it that having it done means, one more thing off the list of things to complete before the end of the year? Could it be that your pastor is just abnormal, and likes things like this? Who knows, there is probably truth in all of this!
I write all of this to say that maybe, just maybe, in these times you are craving some type of normalcy. If this is you, I'm right here with you. As we turned the calendar to August (although I'll be honest I don't have a paper calendar to turn-and my phone does it automatically) we immediately start thinking of school, and gearing up for school. This year this is a little more complicated for everyone involved. So, as we begin something that would be considered normal, we are facing the reality of it being not normal at the same time. I invite you to be in prayer for school/college administrators, faculty and staff, as well as parents as they all make difficult decisions for this Fall.