It was two weeks ago today (Friday) that I taped a sign to the entry doors that said "Prevent The Spread Of COVID19 - Take the same precautions you would to avoid colds and flu. Wash your hands. Stay home when sick. Cover your cough." i actually remember thinking that it seemed a little overly cautious at the time, but I had just been to a Countryside Public Health meeting where churches along with other organizations represented were told to take precautions. I decided to ask people not to shake hands, and we weren't going to pass the offering plate. We already had hand sanitizer in the building. I decided to put up the COVID19 signs as a gentle reminder that we were going to take this seriously. It seemed like that was all we needed to do.
Within 24 hours, things had changed. I spent most all of Saturday online watching and waiting as messages came online that more and more churches were canceling services. The local pastors of the Montevideo area had an email thread going to keep everyone on the same track. Rumors began that schools would be closing. Churches in the surrounding area were canceling services until Easter and beyond. Finally, together with the Salem Council we decided to follow suit and cancel worship - and it would need to be canceled for at least two weeks in a row, which seemed like a long time.
Oh, to think how much things have changed since life seemed much simpler: Take the same precautions you would to avoid colds and flu. Wash your hands. Stay home when sick. Cover your cough.
At the same time, God has been gracious. We've been able to continue to have worship. There are still folks giving online, through ACH, or simply mailing in or dropping off their offering envelopes. We have this wonderful opportunity to put our trust in the Lord to the test. Most of all, my confidence in the kindness of people has been restored. It's good to see folks caring about the well being of one another. It's good to see folks willing to volunteer to help others, and for those others to accept the help.
What does it mean to continue to be a congregation and follow Jesus during this time? Does our life of faith get put on hold by all of this? No. God meets us where we are, calls, gathers, and enlightens us to be the hands and feet of Jesus for the world. As a pastor I'm discovering this to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to lead a congregation in the absence of a central location. Yes, we have a church building - but it's sitting empty. The sanctuary is dark. The heat is turned down. But, it's not sad to me, because I know that YOU are the Church. You are very much alive and out there in the world, and God is at work through you.
Worship always ends with the words "Go in peace and serve the Lord." That's where you are now.
Thanks be to God!