My pastor friend Anthony, who pastors a Methodist church in Dumas not far from here, talked about an article from his Bishop Gary Mueller, in his weekly update, that asks the question: during this time of crisis are we testing positive for positivity or testing positive for negativity? While I didn’t read the Bishop’s letter, this question got me thinking about who we are called to be as believers in Jesus Christ.
We have always lived with risk as a church. Church is a high-risk activity in terms of social gathering. We hug, shake hands, sometimes give kisses to each other, eat potlucks together, take communion together, pass the collection plate…virtually every aspect of our rituals involves intimacy and touching (at least cross touching).
Our congregation median age means that for the last 20 or so years most of us have been considered high risk during our yearly cold and flu season (that’s even apart from H1N1, Zika, and all the other sporadic illnesses that have popped up). We as a church have worked to mitigate the risks by changing some things here and there, like the way we serve communion but the underlying risk is always still there.
If you remember when we began the stay at home order it was to flatten the curve and to give our health care providers a “fighting chance”. The goal was never to eradicate COVID-19; only a vaccine will begin to accomplish that. Initially it was to take the projected number of potential infected and spread that out over a longer amount of time so as not to overwhelm hospitals and hospital staff in a massive spike (as happened in Italy and even NYC). Our goal broadened to more than just flattening the curve, while not explicitly discussed at the beginning of the stay at home order, to help minimize the senseless loss of life through social distancing protocols. Although we are likely a year or more away from a semblance of “normal”, we have come a time where our country and state will likely begin opening up.
Churches across the Arkansas Valley will even begin making decisions over the next few weeks what it means to open and worship safely.
Everyone will be required to wear masks, potlucks will be put on hold, greeting time will be waves and muffled good mornings from six feet away and not handshakes, and coffee time after church will be discontinued. The choir will not be resuming and likely, singing will not be happening. Many of our high-risk members will likely choose to continue to worship at home on the radio or on Facebook live. Worshiping in church will feel much different than it did a few months ago.
We will likely not be able to have one service but probably three or more. Our sanctuary was not designed for the requirements of social distancing but we will have to coordinate who comes to what services so that we can ensure we can follow the social distancing guidelines of six feet. Another option is that we might have to keep doing electronic/radio services on Sunday and move to smaller midweek services (much like an Ash Wednesday service for example) like other denominations have historically done for years.
Our church leaders here at LJUMC will also have to make a decision on when and how to reopen our church.
When we come back to gather as a church it will not feel or look like the church you said goodbye to a few months ago-not for a little while at least.
I say all this not to be alarmist or pessimistic but to be honest and transparent.
Here’s the real deal Holyfield: When we do finally open back up, we can embrace the new temporary normal(and all its challenges and disappointments) or we can be frustrated and angry.
The question that has already been asked is, will we test positive or negative?
Our scripture reading today reminds us that we must cling to the hope that is given to us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are reminded time and time again that God is faithful. The fact that this church has a live radio broadcast on Sunday mornings is the envy of many churches during this time. Is it perfect? No. I had a seminary professor who once told all of us perfectionists “Perfect is good, but done is better.” What some churches who have closed would have given to have access to the live radio broadcast rather than cancelling church for three months.
God’s promise isn’t that life will never be hard or challenging or disappointing; far from it. God’s promise, which we’ve hopefully all seen abundantly during this time, is that God is always with us.
I pray you find yourself testing positive during this challenging time. It is essential as a Christian that we inspire each other and not deflate each other’s hopes. We must be conduits of God’s Grace, Love, and Mercy. Be the Christian Facebook friend who encourages rather than bashes and antagonizes. The whole world is watching what we say and do during this time of crisis. The worst thing we can do as Christian’s in this particular time of crisis? Be the ones testing negative.
May it be so,
Rev. Lou Ward
We are meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and 11:00 a.m. on Wednesdays in the Fellowship Hall.
Join us on the Second Sunday of every month for good food and good fellowship.
Military Appreciation Breakfast
Third Saturday of the month, 8 a.m.:
Veterans and Active Military and their Significant Others, join us for a hearty breakfast as we share our appreciation for your service.
United Methodist Women Monthly Meeting:
Third Thursday of every month: March 17, April 21, May 19.
United Methodist Men's Monthly Breakfast:
*Postponed Until Further Notice
Tuesday: 8-12 am
Wednesday: 8-11 am
Thursday: 8-11 am
La Junta United Methodist Church
601 San Juan Ave
La Junta, CO 81050
Phone: (719) 384-7717
Facebook: La Junta United Methodist Church
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