Dear Church Friends and Family,
Over the past year and a half we have worked very hard to keep our church family safe through each new twist and turn of this pandemic. We have been guided by the best thinking of scientists, doctors, and health department professionals; and, by the theological conviction that our highest calling is to love one another. Jesus said, unequivocally, that people will know we are his disciples, “by the love you show to others” (John 13:35). Jesus is clear that connection to, union with, love for God is not a private, self-beneficial, or self-centered thing – it is about a public love. You cannot have an eye toward God, if you don’t also have an eye toward God’s creation.
COVID-19 is no respecter of boundaries, ideology, or religious affiliation. I believe, as a matter of faith, that we should not engage in ill-advised and dangerous behavior, expecting God to protect us in ways we have been unwilling to protect ourselves. So, while we yearn to get fully “back to normal” and understand the financial and emotional toll it is taking while we aren’t quite there yet, we will continue to err on the side of caution.
Our re-opening committee has been meeting regularly since last spring to discuss the best way to proceed with church services and meetings. Since last July we have had one Eucharist a week on Sundays at 9am, and that is what we will continue with for the foreseeable future. While we will not be offering nursery care, we will be holding Christian Education classes during the 9 am service for k-6 graders. We will also be offering monthly community outreach events and occasional family activities.
All (healthy individuals!) are welcome to attend Sunday morning. We will still be requiring facemasks to be worn at all times while on our church grounds. Movement within the church will still be limited and we will be respecting social distancing guidelines to the extent possible. St. Stephen’s will continue to have Morning Prayer online via Zoom , the daily Morning Prayers will be sent via email and posted on our website/Facebook page, and the 9 am service will be livestreamed on our Facebook page each Sunday morning.
Through the diligent work of qualified people and through internal reserves of creativity, patience, resilience, and courage, God is equipping us with both the knowledge and the faith to navigate this treacherous terrain. But we must be honest. We can expect this situation to continue for months to come.
We have made great strides in our community to alleviate the spread of the coronavirus and mitigate its deadly effects. Thank you to those within and throughout our community for helping to keep us safe.
I am reminded of this blessing from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:4-7
May the peace of God dwell richly in your homes and neighborhoods in these next weeks and months.