In all of my training to become a pastor, and after having a decade of a range of experiences as a pastor, I had never imagined I would be leading in a time such as this. I assume I am not alone, in not having imagined a scenario where we are being asked to stay home for weeks at a time because at this point it is our best recourse in managing this outbreak. Usually when disaster has struck, we rally together, and the building at 2307 SR 602, has become our hub of operations. When I first arrived and we mobilized to create kits for Lutheran World Relief to give aid to people in Nepal, we gathered in the basement of our building. When the opioid epidemic was at its heights our council gathered in the meeting room to determine that our efforts would be most effective in supporting an established ministry at the Alpha Recovery Jericho House (& now Taylor House) run by Rev. Margie Maddox. When a tornado ripped through our village our kitchen was the starting point for us to deliver meals to those without power and those who were clearing debris. When we realized that we could provide a fun and safe space for the children of our neighborhood we stepped up by providing Trunk-or-Treat and a Back-to-School festival. Our building has often seemed to be the setting for a lot of our mission and good work. My heart ached as I packed up a few resources from my office, I changed the sign outside, and snapped a few photos of the sanctuary and locked the door on my way out. I don’t know what day we will be able to return, but on that day we will be singing Alleluia and praising God with Amens.
In the meantime though, we would do well to remember, the church was never the building. WE ARE THE CHURCH, and we are in this together. God is still working in us, and through us, and for us. We are the church, we are the body of Christ in this world, and nothing is going to stop us from that reality. Sure, for the sake of the most vulnerable we are not going to gather face to face until it is safe to do so. God has granted us the wisdom of medical advances and medical experts and we will listen to them. Our worship has not stopped, we can connect online and on our phones. Our mission has not stopped, I know some of you have been sewing masks or delivering food or just checking in on one another. Our prayers are unceasing and we can join with our Synod to pray collectively at 6:21 every day.
As we learn how to do ministry in this new environment I am given great hope by how you have already stepped up. Even though we are physically apart, we are in this together, and we will continue to rise up to every new challenge. Keep on praying, keep using your gifts to serve others, and keep checking in on one another. When we have our services on Sundays please stick around afterward to check in with the community. If you are online there are multiple opportunities to stay connected as well.
Our assurance lies not in our own abilities, but in the God who gave himself for us that we may know the depths of His love. The triune God written about in Psalm 46
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...
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge