UPDATE Published: March 14, 2020
Message from Pastor Tiffany
Beloved Church Members and Friends:
As promised, your Leadership Team has been in communication with one another and working hard to prayerfully discern the best actions to take for our congregation.
We are a multi-generational congregational faith community with diverse circumstances and needs. We recognize the importance of doing our due diligence in proactively caring for the well-being of each of you in our care. Further, we recognize the value of non-anxious leadership and leading adaptively in uncertain times.
In an effort to tend to our diverse needs and to take a leadership role in combating the spread of COVID-19, we have, under the advisement of professional wisdom, chosen to close our physical church campus for the duration of one week.
Much has transpired and changed in 48 hours. We anticipate dramatic changes will continue to occur over the next week. We will reevaluate the position of St. Paul’s on a weekly basis.
As a result, we have canceled all activities on our campus. This includes but is not limited to: worship, small groups, studies, chancel ringers, chancel choir, youth ministries, children’s ministries, Neighboring 101 classes, Community Dinner (see more below), fiber arts group, prayer meetings, women’s group, and daily office activities.
We recognize that our neighbors who are served and fed through our Community Dinners will be harmed by our closing. As a result, Nancy Bryce and I have been in consultation on how we can still feed the hungry and offer love to our neighbors, even during a pandemic.
While the immediate risks pertaining to COVID-19 primarily focus on physical health, we must recognize that it goes far deeper than what we can see. National and global pandemics can lead to isolation, anxiety, depression, financial ruin, economic devastation, hunger, joblessness, and that’s just scratching the surface.
It is imperative that we as a body of faith actively pray for our global community, all who are sick, all who are suffering today, and all who will suffer. Our mission to connect, serve, and share the love of Jesus will be lived out in new ways as we go forward.
Faithfulness in our commitments to the church will offer care and compassion to many. I remind you, we have committed to living the lives of disciples through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.
This call and commitment does not change even when the world around us does. Our faith and eyes must always be firmly affixed upon Jesus.
Remember, it was when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus that he was overcome with fear and began to sink. As long as his eyes were on Jesus, he was able to do impossible things through faith. That story isn’t something we tell because it makes us feel good. That story is a living word for us right now. When Peter walked on water, the storm still existed and the waves still crashed. But with his eyes on Jesus, the storm inside of him was calmed. We sink when we give into fear. Matthew 14:22-33
Faith calls us to acknowledge the storm, name the fear, and stand defiantly in the face of waves with unyielding eyes on Jesus. Faith doesn’t mean we don’t get scared. Faith means that we know whatever may come, we will be alright. All will be well.
One of my favorite spiritual guides is St. Julian of Norwich. She is famous for saying, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Before she said these words, God said them to her. The hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” was composed by Philip Paul Bliss, with the lyrics by Horatio G. Spafford, gave us the words “whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
The stories behind both of these writers are powerful. Not because they tell us “everything is going to be okay.” Their stories and words are powerful because they believed in something greater than their immense brokenness. Both writers knew profound fear, anxiety, and suffering. And yet, both remained convinced that indeed, all shall be well.
The people in the book of the prophet Jeremiah also knew great fear, turmoil, and unrest. They too knew what it meant for things not to be well. And yet they heeded the mighty words from Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Their suffering pre-existed this proclamation and would continue on for sometime following this prophetic promise.
I believe all manner of things shall be well. I believe these are uncertain times. I believe our Lenten journey has us in a very bizarre place of desert holiness. There in the desert Jesus was tempted. Here in our desert moment, we too are tempted. My prayer for us, for you, for me, is that we do not give into fear, but rather stand firm on a rock of faithfulness. All manner of things shall be well and we will soon be together again.
Since we will all have a bit more time on our hands this week, I encourage you to do a few things that I’ve listed below.
- Read the stories of Julian of Norwich and Horatio G. Spafford. Links below.
- If you are healthy, offer to serve on our mission team to run errands for groceries and medicine for our homebound.
- Participate with our faith community online through the links provided above.
- Play games with your families.
- Read a good book.
- Spend time with Peter and Jesus in scripture.
- Pick someone different to pray for each day.
- Instead of posting on social media, send a text to someone to tell them you love them and appreciate them.
- Call a friend, a family member, a neighbor, just to check on them and to say hello.
- Make a note of who on your street may need to be checked on our helped. Then reach out to them. Our mission team can deliver and serve them as well.
- Avoid promoting panic. Rather, promote radical love, compassion, and hospitality.
- Hang out with Jesus.
- Watch a good movie or two or three.
- Observe sabbath.
- Be well.
JULIAN OF NORWICH STORY – CLICK TO READ
HORATIO G. SPAFFORD STORY – CLICK TO READ
Sending each of you my love and compassion. You are not alone. We are still a church even when we must not meet together. If you need me, I’m a phone call or email away. The staff and I remain present for you as we carry out our callings and vows of discipleship. Let us know how we can best care for you.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Dr. Tiffany A. Nagel Monroe, Pastor