Dear sisters and brothers,
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. This year all is a bit different, as parades and celebrations have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This virus and the attempts to slow its progression have altered life more than anything I can recall living through. Even with the events of 9/11 there was widespread concern, but the areas affected were very specific. With a virus, there is no containment by imaginary lines on the ground that mark towns, cities, states, and countries. The concern is real, and the impact will be significant.
I did not realize when we cancelled worship this past Sunday that Governor Wolf had requested that all places of worship close for two weeks also. After we cancelled, I heard on a news program that he closed all K-12 public schools, closed all public libraries, encouraged all non-essential businesses to close or work remotely, encouraged all gyms to close, AND encouraged all places of worship to close in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
We now have further word from the White House that all gatherings of more than 10 people should be cancelled until the end of the month.
To that end, Council has concurred (not unanimously, but strongly) that we need to continue to close our building to worship and all events through Sunday the 29th. In this time, our sexton is doing a thorough cleaning of our facilities.
We are waiting to see what Governor Wolf has to say about schools re-opening in April. In the meantime, our nursery school has also been closed until the end of the month.
I will send out an email form of worship tomorrow for the mid-week service, so those who would like can continue in prayer and consideration of “What difference does Baptism Make.” It seems a good topic to ponder these days.
I will also send out some form of worship again next Sunday. We may or may not be able to coordinate some form of “on-line” worship, but there will be something sent for us to use to continue in worship.
On a practical note, while we are not able to join together, the expenses of the congregation continue – mortgage, insurance, utilities, etc. If you are still able, your offerings are still needed. “Tithe.ly,” the giving app on our website, is a great way to share your offerings from home, or wherever you may be. The app will walk you through what you need to do to have your gift sent directly to our account.
I pray that all of you are staying safe distances from each other, washing your hands regularly, and avoiding unnecessary trips out of your homes. I have been working from home, dealing with issues of worship, our nursery school, reports for our congregation and the Synod, and having meetings by phone and zoom to deal with where we are in this time. I am trying to touch base with various people by phone. If you have caller ID, my number does not have my correct name. Comcast apparently listed my first name as “Karol,” rather than “Karl.” I note this because some people have chosen not to answer because they do not know a Karol.
We do not have any true idea of how long this virus will last, or for how long we will be encouraged to isolate ourselves. The CDC is encouraging no gatherings of more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. We will need to determine what this means for us as a community of faith, particularly with Easter Sunday not far away. One thing to remember is that whenever we gather it is a remembrance of Easter, as we celebrate the power that Jesus has over all things, even life and death.
As we continue in this ambiguous time, allow me to share a word of prayer with you:
Lord Christ, on this day we remember your servant Patrick, bishop of Ireland.
As he is said to have cleared the serpents from Ireland, may your power clear this virus from our world. Keep us safe from harm. Remind us of your constant love. And until we can meet in person again, hold us in the palm of your hand. Amen