Letter to Congregation regarding COVID-19
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Psalmist writes:
God is our refuge and strength
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Psalm 46:1-3 (NRSV)
We are living in very scary times. The world we know has been upended and is not feeling very comfortable, to say the least. As we face these uncertain times, allow me to remind you that God is with us. Everywhere and always. God is our refuge and strength. So, this is a time when we must intentionally stay connected to God.
I know it is difficult to stay connected to God while we are distancing ourselves from each other. I’ve often quoted a seminary professor of mine who says, “Christianity is a team sport.” I believe this with all my heart and it hurts to suspend worship here at St. Peter. However, our local, state and federal officials have asked for our cooperation. Now is not the time to think that we are the exception. We are asked to keep our distance from each other and to limit meetings to very small groups.
We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility of not being together for Holy Week or Easter worship. You have no idea how difficult it is for me to even write this. Be assured that we will be ready to bring worship back as soon as the situation changes for the better, and it is appropriate to do so.
In the meantime we are exploring ways to stay connected using technology when it is possible. Knowing how technology challenged I am, I will ask the “Techo-Geeks” among us (you know who you are) to come up with ideas to keep us connected. The Internet has made many options available to us that we have not had in the past.
The following suggestions came from Bishop Jeff Clements of the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod:
1. JOIN TOGETHER IN PRAYER. Can we please stop and take a moment to pray for St. Peter UCC, the Illinois South Conference, and the United Church of Christ? Take a moment at noon each day to pray for our members. Pray for yourself. Pray for the ill, the frightened, the vulnerable, and the poor. Pray for the dying. Pray for world leaders and our own elected leaders. Pray for our healthcare workers. Pray for researchers. Pray for the unemployed, underemployed and laid off. Pray for all students from college to kindergarten who have been forced away from school. Pray for your pastor or whomever leads your congregation.
Will you join me in prayer each day at noon beginning tomorrow and continuing until this crisis is over?
2. PRACTICE SOUND FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP. Our congregation is not prepared for a financial crisis. Our ability to do ministry is dependent upon your regular gifts. We will remain strong only if we continue to practice first fruits, proportionate giving. While we are away from corporate worship, please give electronically or mail your weekly contribution to your faithful church. Let’s maintain our gifts to food pantries, DuBois, Kindercottage, Hoyleton, and all of our 5 for 5 charities that we normally would give to.
3. DON’T LET SOCIAL DISTANCING BECOME SOCIAL ISOLATION. The doors will be open here and I will be available. If you are homebound and need some assistance, call me or Darlene and we will get one of our volunteers to assist you. Also, if you are able, take all the precautions to prevent the spread of illness, but check on your neighbors. If you head to the grocery store, shop for someone who cannot. A crisis such as this quickly exposes those who are the most vulnerable. This is how we continue to be the church. Be a source of encouragement and help to others.
Will you join me in loving our neighbors and encouraging others?
Thank you for your faithfulness. Know that we will get through this together. God bless and keep you.