2021 April news letter article
Hello Church Family!
Last month was such an exciting newsletter article to write because it was primarily focused on all the upcoming changes and opportunities we are beginning to bring back! We certainly aren’t back to normal yet, but it is so encouraging to watch our rates continue to decline, vaccinations continue to increase, and folks to feel comfortable enough to return to some of our in-person gatherings! It was so fun to see so many kids and families at our Easter Egg hunt and to see our youth amidst the craziness of clubs and sports that seem to all be occurring at once now! In the months to come, as we introduce more in person events and gatherings I wanted to share a bit of my heart behind our regathering process in the hopes that can be a resource for you and your family as you weigh the challenges and risks of the decision to return. I know our families are in very different contexts and have a tremendous amount of factors to consider. Regardless of the decisions your family makes, I want to say that we as a church love you and want to support your family however we can! If there is anything we can do to be accessible or better serve please don’t hesitate to let me know!
As we continue our regathering process, this has started with some small group ministries (students and SONquest children’s church) and is going to continue in that vein (Sunday School and SONquest Wednesdays). The small group option allows us to control group sizes, safely meet indoors or outdoors as weather permits, and still aim at fellowship, community, and Bible Study. We continue to watch the rates around us and be mindful of any potential risks or community spread that could impact our church family. We are still asking folks to have their temperature checked, answer our COVID questions, wear masks, and sign into events for any potential contact tracing. All of these are done so that we can balance the desire to gather with caution and prudence. So, as your family weighs what we are doing and offering, I wanted to share my prayers for your families as you make hard decisions and gauge comfort levels.
1. The decisions we are facing seem to stem from conflicting needs.
Our desire to gather in person are the good and healthy desires of community, fellowship, encouragement, and discipleship. These are great things! Yet, these things now seem to be contrasted with the need to be safe and avoid risk that could have serious and legitimate complications for our health, work status, family life, etc. The way that one family prioritizes needs or arranges their hierarchy of desires won’t be the same as another family. Each family needs to weigh these competing needs and be honest about the risk involved! Gathering in person will always carry risk (from the common cold up to this COVID pandemic!) and not gather carries with it its own unique risks (loneliness, discouragement, disengagement, etc.) and it is for this reason I see such wisdom when the book of Hebrews exhorts us to “not forsake the assembly of the saints.” Not because there is anything inherently spiritual about the church building or Sunday School, but because those have traditionally been some of the best ways for us to gather with brothers and sisters in Christ and invest in one another!
2. These decisions are really difficult and may understandably be a source of fear or anxiety!
Because these decisions all stem from good and healthy needs, there can be a tremendous amount of stress or anxiety surrounding this process. The more we compare ourselves the more this may even be heightened. There will be many more families who are more bold and more cautious, which comparatively could bring out feelings of inadequacy or confusion. I want to speak against that and truly do anything I can to alleviate pressure you or your family may feel in one direction or the other. We have the most profound promise in God that because of Christ, we do not have to live in fear: in fact, many pastors/theologians/others much wiser than me identify that the most common command throughout Scripture is “Fear Not.” This is not because in this life we are promised to not encounter fearful things; rather this is because we know that whatever comes, our eternity is secure in Christ. This is an easy truth to know, but can be difficult to feel as we wake up and are constantly assailed by the difficulties of life and the fear that it is all too much. My prayer is that God would squash those fears with the resounding truth that He is enough because He has already given us the most good thing ever: His Son Jesus!
3. The church gets to be an example of that enduring promise.
No matter what the regathering process looks like, we as the body of Christ have the profound privilege of being a witness to that same love that God so loved us with that He sent His only Son Jesus to us! That means celebrating and suffering together! That means patiently bearing all things and joyfully enduring the highs and lows of our Christian walk. That is why I want emphasize so profoundly the desire our church has to serve you. If we can make our gathering more accessible to you I want to demonstrate the love of Christ that made Him accessible to us. If we can be an encouragement to you, I want us to be a picture of the compassion and gentleness that Christ had for children, sinners, and saints! As your calendar begins to fill with the return of clubs, sports and vacations, we want to not only be flexible in how we can meet with you but also push you into the body of Christ that sacrifices for one another and can be a source of relief and pause in the busyness of all that is around us. I truly believe that in the next few weeks we will get such a profound and beautiful picture of how God loves in how the church comes together in person. After all, the church was never disconnected because our ability to be gathered and united is not dependent on our ability, our proximity, or our comfort; it is through nothing less than the Spirit of God. We are united in a way that the world cannot comprehend and when we are blessed to be in the same space again, what a truly incredible celebration that will be!
So, church family, if there is anything we can do or any prayers we can offer please don’t hesitate to let us know! I am so eager to see you all again but also praying for patience and wisdom in how best to pursue this regathering process. We hope to see you as a part of that whenever y’all are ready!
Rev. Luke T. Long