Pastoral Letter #2

I wanted to give an update on church and virus related things, and to share a short meditation.

Church Related Info

After meeting with the council last night (3/18) there are a few more actions that we will be taking for the time being.

  1. Everything from my pastoral letter still stands.
    1. We won’t be canceling service (although we might be making a change, see below)
    2. Most small group activities (i.e. confirmation/bible study) will continue. 3-5 people are well under any limit.
    3. The other modifications to standard routine (no handshaking, offering collection plate at entrance, individual cups for communion) continue
    4. If you are in an elevated risk group, are sick, or simply don’t wish to risk, please stay home.  Also, I’d ask that you let me know.  I’d like to stay in contact, and I’m not a psychic.  (I will have one additional thing to add below.)
  2. Additional Changes
    1. Choir practice and worship spots will be put on hiatus.  This one hurts, but it seems an appropriate precaution as they are huddled close together.
    2. I’m not sure how it will work for a Sunday, but I have established a zoom channel.  I will log in and stream the service as best I can.  Here is the login link.  I can handle up to 100 people in the channel.  Unless you already have the zoom plug in or app you will have to download it and follow the instructions.  So the first time give yourself an extra 15 minutes.  This is for those in those at risk groups.  https://zoom.us/j/6458485288
    3. That same zoom link will also be active for the congregational meeting to follow service this coming sunday.
  3. Plague Schedule
    1. The official limit is 50 people in a gathering.  While our average is above that, on most Sunday’s we are right around that.  The request is to limit to 10.  We have 18 pews, although this will mean that people will have to use the pews up front.  We could sit roughly 20 people checkerboard style each in their own pew and you’d still have more than 6 feet of separation.
    2. To make a good faith effort, starting Sunday, March 29th, we will have two services (Please, please notice that is not this coming sunday!).
      1. The first will be at 9 AM, the normal Sunday school time.  What I would ask is that if you are a Sunday School/Bible class attender to plan on attending this service.   That gets us 10-12 to start.
      2. The second will be a 11 AM.
      3. For the first time, other than Sunday School folks, I’m not making any assignments.  I’m hoping we roughly divide equally naturally.  If we are unbalanced, we may ask some to move.
      4. We should be able to keep attendance at each of these around/under 20 is my guess.  Enough to be a minyan, but small enough to be prudent in time of plague.
      5. We will return to normal schedule as soon as this passes.
      6. Holy Week is coming up. We will address this in coming weeks.

Meditation

Since the kids are out of school, I’ve been starting the day at home with chapel service.  We’ve been having our own Matins service.  In part teaching the kids the Te Deum and the Venite. Two chants that every Christian for most of time would have known by heart and known when to sing them. I wish I sang better.  There is accompaniment available online, but we figured out it is just better plowing ahead bad notes and all.  The readings (and the matins liturgy) for the day have been from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  This is a prayer book that is part of our Confirmation curriculum that we provide to students as we study the Lord’s prayer and try to demonstrate examples of an intentional prayer life.  (Here is the CPH link. https://www.cph.org/p-11350-treasury-of-daily-prayer-regular-edition.aspx ).  A physical copy is great, but there is also a digital version that you can get for you phone. (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.praynow ).

Today’s Psalm was from Psalm 106.  And like most lectionaries, you get the gospel part.  We got verses 44-48.

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46 He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. 47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

But Ellen didn’t have her own copy of the Treasury and was just using a hymnal and when she turned to the Psalms found out that 106 wasn’t there.  Which got me interested.  I know that imprecatory Psalms, those calling on God to smash our enemies in often gruesome ways, are often left out.  But that turns out not to be Psalm 106.  It was probably left out of the hymnal psalter simply due to length, but it is worth your read.  It reviews the history of the people of Israel, but unlike most histories that would focus on the glories of a people, this one recognizes its faults.  We forgot the wondrous works of the Exodus.  We forgot the manna and quail.  We exchanged the living God for a golden calf or the Baals.  That last episode brought on plague, a plague which ended when Phineas took up action against all of Israel who had yoked themselves to Baal.  Worth pondering what we have yoked ourselves to in the midst of plague. 

The gospel portion provided is a remembrance of the context of God’s steadfast love.  The LORD calls and gathers together his people not because we are so deserving, but because he is love.  He remembers his promises.  He saves his heritage.  He gathers from among the nations.  While we were sinners, he does this.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Lord, deliver your people. 

Blessings,

Mark