“In our distance from one another may we be ever closer to you. In the breaking of bread at every meal, may your presence make the ordinary divine, conscecrated by your mercy and love.”
Dear friends and church family,
This last Sunday we celebrated communion in our own homes and with sometimes extraordinary elements. Many of you sent pictures of the beautiful table you set for your household. Thank you! It was and is such a gift to know that we are united in this simple but powerful act of grace and love.
This week you will have heard that the Governor has opened the possibility of in-person worship later in the month.
In my role as president of the Kentucky Council of Churches I recently convened a meeting with the Governor and other Church leaders.
All of us want to urge caution to those thinking that this means we will be racing back to the pews. Sadly, we cannot. The virus is still present, still active, still deadly. The re-opening of businesses and churches is based on hospital bed availability NOT a lack of danger.
Worship team members and other leaders are just now beginning to discuss possibilities and options for Union Church. Because significant planning is involved in how to keep any gathering safe (including calculating how many can safely attend, etc), we will not be having in-person worship before June 7 at the earliest.
If infection rates go up, or if we cannot adequately insure the safety of each and every one of us, we will delay. The well-being and health of every member and friend is and will be our first concern.
I have been asked by the Governor to write some suggestions for the “Healthy at Worship” guidelines. I have done so in consultation with all the denominational leaders of the Commonwealth and will be discussing them with his Covid-19 Team tomorrow and throughout the coming weeks. A few things we know for the foreseable future (at least several months and up to a year:)
- No one in an at-risk group should come to church or any gathering at all. Period.
- Masks and other protective gear will need to be worn at all meetings, worship, classes, etc.
- 6′ distance in all directions must be kept in order to not spread the disease.This means our seating capacity must be reduced to 20-25% of normal.
- Singing is not safe for the congregation. Limited singing by soloists spaced far apart will be possible, however.
- We cannot offer child care. This is for their safety as well as for those they live with.
- We cannot share food with each other, including communion. We will have to be as creative as we are faithful, but God will provide, I know!
- Even if we start to have gatherings, we may have to stop again if numbers of the sick and dying rise. So, we must be faithful and flexible, responding to the need.
All of this is in the service of what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.
We are pledged to loving our neighbor. We are commanded to so by Christ himself. Wearing a mask protects our neighbors when we are infections but don’t know it yet. This can be for as many as 8 days before we might show symptoms. A single person who comes to church unmasked or acts without care could potentially infect 100 people in a single service.
We know that of that 100 about 20 will become seriously ill, and of those 20 as many as 5 are likely to die. This disease is 52 times more deadly than influenza. Our actions, therefore, bear us using the best of our brains and hearts as we strive to love and serve like Jesus.
That is tough news, I know, but I also know that God’s people are tougher. We are smart, sassy, savvy, and service-minded and the Good News is not going to be limited by this temporary distraction, even if it lasts a decade. We will overcome. We will love and serve. We will care and share with one another the Peace of Christ.
So do not lose heart. We are still a community of tremendous care an ingenuity. Join me this week to pray about how we should think about caring for each other as we plan for funerals, weddings, and possibly worship. Just because we are allowed, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for our people, our community or ourselves. I look forward to our mutual discernment.
In the meantime, please care for your mental and spiritual health. You are dear and precious to me and I will be a willing partner in anything that can keep you fed and housed and well, inside and out.
In deep peace,
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