Sing to the Lord a new song! … He has remembered his faithfulness to the house of Israel. Psalm 98:1
2020 has been an amazing year. I’ve mentioned before, it is as if 2020 came in like a warm chocolate chip cookie and then one bite into it, BAM OATMEAL RAISIN! In all of our travail, we have not been alone. God has been with us, revealing grace and blessing. God has found ways of building faith, our relationships, and the church, even in these rare times. When we look back at 2020, there has been a lot of good. We have had a year of tremendous change and need. We also have learned we can adapt faster than we ever thought possible. And when confronted with the need, we have seen greater generosity that we ever knew. However, people are still deprived of community, a tremendously important component to spiritual growth and mental health. SO, there is work for us to do.
I hope that we as a church can build on the lessons that we have learned this past year to be a stronger people in 2021. A large part of that is how we care for each other, both in the congregation and in the community. In terms of caring for the congregation, it seems this is an ideal time to consider deacons in our ministry. We had a board of deacons as late as the 90s, if Session records and word-of-mouth can be believed. Deacons are a group that were first instituted by the Apostles shortly after Jesus ascended. When the work got to be more than they could handle, they created a board of deacons (a Greek word that means service) to give practical care. This may be the time to explore welcoming a board of deacons back to our church. Caring for the community is ever so important. Our mission to the community has been strong in some ways- giving to the Brick, building projects for the New Day Shelter, and caring for individuals with the Pastor’s local mission. But, mission is how our faith takes on new life. If we are to continue to grow in faith, hope and love, we will need to invest more time, energy, imagination, and funds in our mission.
We have hopes for 2021! The local news reports that Eva and Colton Thewis are the first two people to receive the vaccine in Ashland. They are a married couple who work in the MMC emergency room. As more doses of the vaccine become available and the vaccine takes effect, our community will begin to spring back to life. We all have tremendous hopes for 2021. We eagerly look forward to worshiping together, taking part in mission together, and holding Christian education in the same room. We can build a new life, smarter for the experience and more reassured of God’s constancy for us.
This will take time, though. Considering that Wisconsin will receive some 40 thousand vaccine doses a week, it will take 10 weeks just to vaccinate the 400,000 health workers in the state. So, it is now even more important to be wise in how we work and play. It would be regrettable to contract COVID-19 just as we are seeing such progress! So, we will trust the slow work of God.
The Session has been carefully considering each month how and when we will gather to use the building. We also still have questions about why we hold worship over the internet rather than in-person. Let me share an analogy. We video cast for the same reason we cancel church on days of inclement weather. If we hold worship on days of dangerous weather, there are always some who will feel obligated to attend. Many of these people are the most vulnerable. So, we cancel church to protect the most vulnerable. The same holds true for in-person worship during this pandemic, many that will come are at the most risk and that is all of our concern. It is a deeply held Christian ideal that those who have much sacrifice so that those with less will not have too little. This is why we hold worship via the internet. Many of us are healthy enough to survive this illness. However, some are not. If we gather together now, they would be in jeopardy. So, the healthier forego gathering now so that when we can gather again, no one will be missing.
The Annual Congregational Meeting is coming very soon. The meeting itself will look and function a little different this year for the reasons that I have mentioned. The wise churches are going with a video conferencing platform to maximize participation and minimize risk.
We will be sending invitations to the ZOOM meeting for February 7th. It will require either the use of a computer or to a phone call into the meeting. You will have all reports in your hands a week or more before the meeting. Please call the office with questions or if you have not received your invitation a week before the meeting. Stay tuned for more information.
It is important to know that the church is not closed. The church has moved into our homes and into the community. Trust in the slow work of God as we learn to sing this new song, as the Psalmist says. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The world changes, so we adapt to bring God’s unchanging love in new ways.
Grace and peace,