Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We have been living in a whirlwind of news and updates, developments and reports these past days. In the midst of this, Church Council met on Wednesday evening to discuss how we could keep people who come to St. John safe, particularly focusing on practices we could implement for our Sunday worship. We left with to-do lists, on-going concerns and the Lord’s
As many of you know, the whirlwind continued Thursday, the conversation about keeping people safe broadened and news of closings, postponements and cancellations continued. Finally, our Governor issued a proclamation that officially closed schools and gyms and entertainment venues in our County. We had hoped that with our new protocols and efforts, we could, at least, continue to offer worship in our building on Sunday mornings. But it was clear, this would not be possible. We decided that St. John would suspend worship and other activities in the building for two weeks.
After all the deliberations, it was a relief to finally reach a decision but there was a sadness to know that we were giving up some things that are very dear to us. Our life in Christ is renewed by our weekly worship grounded in Word and Sacrament. Our life in the body of Christ that is nourished by Word and Sacrament and our weekly fellowship; our weekly communion
where we come to share our gracious God, our prayers and praise. The old hymn reminds us of the blessings of our coming and being together:
Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.
We will all miss this in the next weeks. However, we want to stay connected, even when we cannot come together physically. We will be making materials available – the Sunday bulletin with lessons and prayers, a message on the weekly texts, devotional materials for Sunday School families – that our members to use during the week. Each family can find a time to use these materials. Perhaps members will want to pause on Sundays at 8:15 or 10:30 and remember our fellow saints at St. John. We will continue to explore news ways to connect with one another.
One way we can stay connected is through prayer. The prayers in the bulletin will include the people on our prayer list. We can use our St. John directory – maybe a page each day – to pray for one another. Our prayers have included and will include our neighbors, near and far.
Vince Bruno, our Youth and Family Director, invited our prayers in his letter to our Sunday School families:
I ask that you keep everyone affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in your prayers. Many people have been affected by this, not just by being infected, but by the financial and social ramifications. Many families cannot afford to take off work to watch their kids who are now no longer in school. Many children who rely on school-provided meals are no longer getting those
meals and are thus unsure when their next meal will be. Many essential personnel are unable to stay isolated, meaning they have to put themselves at risk to serve their employers. I ask that you pray to God that all those affected by this outbreak are comforted by God's abounding presence; that they know when we suffer, God empathizes.
The Council and the Pastor are here for you. Pastor Steve will be coming to the office to prepare a bulletin and a weekly message. Visits may be limited in these times, but he can be reached by phone (215-256-6579). Sue and Marcie will also be in the office – taking messages, answering mail. We will appreciate efforts to maintain financial support of St. John during this time. Our expenses will continue.
We have always taught that the Church is not a building. We now have an opportunity to work into this. We are not able to gather in large groups in public spaces, but we may have a neighbor, a fellow member that we can support in these times. There may be an errand we can do (trip to the post office or grocery store). There may be a phone call we can make, a note we can write (many living in nursing homes and senior communities have become more isolated). We are in this together and we can share ideas of how to be Church in these times.
We close with words from Paul to the saints in Corinth:
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
Phil Vande Berg