John Wesley gave the Methodist societies three general rules to follow. These general rules are one of the foundational cornerstones of the Methodist movement, and they are still our guiding principles to this day. The first general rule is “do no harm.” It was out of a desire to follow this rule that we made the decision to suspend in-person worship services starting on November 29th. At that time it was announced that we were only suspending in-person worship services for the remainder of the year. Unfortunately, we will have to expand the time that in-person worship is suspended into 2021. The reality is that it makes little sense to return to in person worship when the conditions related to infection and viral spread are worse than we initially suspended.
To make the determination of when we return, we are paying attention to the metrics given by the state of Indiana. In the very least, Starke County will need to be out of the red advisory level for at least two weeks before we can begin considering the possibility of a return to in person worship. It is our prayerful hope that this can occur by the end of January and then conditions continue to improve. However, as we have learned during this pandemic, future plans need to be made in light pencil.
Even though we cannot get together in person right now, we are still a church. We are still a faith community. There are several ways that we can lean into and embrace that:
- First, we will continue to offer virtual worship services. We are working to continue to improve the format and we are open to new ideas. To that end, you have an open invitation to be part of those videos. If you want to read scripture, share a testimony, give a children’s message, or share a special song then let us know. We want to include as many voices as possible and the more we can see each other virtually the stronger our connection will remain.
- Even though we are physically distant, we do not need to be relationally distant. It is not as easy as seeing each other at church, but we can still keep connection with one another. I encourage you weekly to reach out and connect with a brother and sister in Christ during this time we are not in-person.
- We can still be the hands and feet of Christ. Our outreach ministries continue to function, and if you want to be involved I am sure that we can find a place for you. If there is a need in the community that you see should be met, then we can still find a way to work together to meet that need.
- I am still your pastor, and I am here for you. If you have a pastoral care need or you just need someone to listen and talk to, we can still do so (using masks and following distancing guidelines of course).
I am reminded of Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians 4:8. He wrote: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;” I feel that is apt description of where we are right now. Church will continue to look a little different but we are not crushed, and in-person or not, because of our Lord Jesus Christ we have no reason to ever despair.