Coronavirus Thoughts and Theology

Some Reflections and Hopes As The Season Turns 3-10-21

From Pastor Robb:

It's been almost exactly a year since our church had the impact of the coronavirus outbreak first feel directly noticeable to the parts of church life we're most used to. (If you remember, our size was under the first gatherings the Governor announced should be restricted - 100 or more - but then Coen got a really bad cold on Saturday afternoon, so I audio recorded my sermon and stayed home just in case while the rest of the worship held down the fort for that last service before some things started being different in response to covid.)

Over the course of the year how we are able to gather for worship, or have to adjust from what we're used to, has been one of the most easily noticeable changes we've experienced, but there's been lots of other responses and adjustments we've had to figure out together along the way, too. We've had whole new experiences in our senses of safety, security, and sustainability... We've expanded our practices of communication... We've stretched and struggled with our sense of commonality as a society... We've learned new things about what it means to prioritize our personal relationships... We've found new appreciation for things we used to take for granted... We've re-prioritized things that used to capture so much of our attention, but that new perspective proved to really be less important... We've wondered, we've hoped, we've mourned, we've vented, we've strived, we've struggled, we've persevered... and we'll continue to do so in some ways for at least a little while still.

We are, though, thankfully, starting to have some experience of transition. Vaccine implementation is increasing steadily (and many of our own members have been able to participate already), and new cases are decreasing steadily, too. What people have learned about risk and spread has been able to inform good protocols and policies so many activities are able to look a lot more like "normal" than they have in a long time - with schools one of the most welcome examples. This is true for our church, as well, as the changes are allowing us to expand our building use safely and responsibly very soon as you can read in the posting just below this one.

I've had a number of conversations with folks recently about the sense of hope and excitement that is settling. It's been noted in many of those chats how the signs of spring - sunny days, warmer weather - are reinforcing this. It's definitely true that the long, cold, bleak, snowy winter that was also full of other stressors and strains this year likely compounded the experiences of covid impacts for most of us - both practically (being even more cooped up inside) and psychologically (with frustration and fatigue often piling up). So the glimmer of new light and new life in all this is especially encouraging. As Christians, the approach of Easter and all of its themes reinforce this even more - and I know it's been on many minds as the possibilities of how we can gather for worship for treasured holidays and traditions comes quickly to mind.

It's good for us to find renewed meaning in these seasons and holidays, and I'm sure that this will foster thankfulness and joy at Easter in particular that many of us may not always feel as strongly and directly in the annual rhythm as we do when it really hits home like this year seems likely to. However... I also find it really powerful that two seasons of Lent are feeling like bookends to our most concentrated experience of the impact of the pandemic. This is especially true as I begin to reflect on how this experience will end up shaping us as God's people in the long run. Will we end up seeing this past year as an anomaly, as an especially unwelcome blip, in our faith journey - what comes next looking as much like what was happening before as possible, and just thankful that God got us through the interruption? Or, will we have a sense of how God walked with us through the struggle and in that faithfulness made it especially meaningful in our formation, so that we have even better, more thoughtful, more responsive, more incarnate ways of living our faith and participating in the Kingdom of God in the world because of what we went through this year?

I am hopeful that connecting our experience of coronavirus with this season of Lent will help our next steps of faith as God's people together look more like the latter idea. Lent, after all, does hold the hope and promise of Easter for us, but even more so helps us not rush ahead, and instead sit with our vulnerability, our frailty, and our failure that so call out for God's presence in our lives and the overcoming victory of the resurrection. The impact of this pandemic has demonstrated so much of the same. The temptations to rush ahead to being done with changes and to want the impacts to be only temporary are understandable, but like wanting to pass over Lent for Easter, we can miss something powerful for the development of our faith God likely has for us.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday when we remember that we are God's holy dust. We are faced with the reality of our own limitations, especially as individual grains. We seem insignificant, especially in the face of the grandest sweeps of time and circumstance, and yet the identity of dust is more than we expect through the empowering of God's breath - discovering that as dust we are bonded at our foundation to our creator, to each other, and to the world around us to participate in the creative project even against that which seems most insurmountable. I hope that part of Lent shapes our faith when we might feel despaired in powerlessness, or tempted to be unmoored from those bonds to a grain blown more by our own desires.

Lent also evokes Jesus' 40 days of temptation and Israel's 40 days in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. We are prone to most seeing suffering and struggle, and sometimes that how we put Lenten practices on ourselves in what we give up or take up - thinking our faith is affirmed by what we prove to God we can put ourselves through. Hopefully we see even more the season of deep communion with God - letting that bond form a new perspective in us that will serve us for all that lies ahead. We offer our vulnerabilities and temptations so they can be dealt with instead of carrying them with us in denial. We welcome an opportunity to be stretched so we have more capacity for times that can seem more comfortable but have their own aspects of challenge, as well. That's the true meaning of Lent's roots as a time of preparation for the faithful's full adoption into the beloved community, and what serves us best when we delve into practices still today - as long or as short as we've been fully committed in the Kingdom. That's especially what we have the opportunity to see our experiences as covid being - if we ask God to reveal where refreshed perspective is most important in our individual lives, in our expressions of faith, and in our application of faith values to the struggles and injustices around us. Where can our recent struggles, frustrations, and vulnerabilities be used by God to transform how we are God's people in God's world in this next season and in future seasons if we are open to what God will reveal to us?

We can remember in Jesus' 40 days of temptation, he was especially challenged to use his power to prioritize provision for himself with bread, to find glory and his own personal preference by seeking an authority separate from God's that is marked by justice, and to prove the specialness of his faith by trying to have a relationship with God more on his terms than on God's. I know I have had a lot of times over the last year when I wished I could wave a magic wand and get all the things I wanted so I wouldn't feel so worried anymore... when I was sure that decisions without the bother of other people's concerns that weren't as important to me would be the best ones... and when I wanted God to make things a certain way so I could do the things that made me feel faithful in the ways I was most used to and comfortable with. I really see the Lent and coronavirus connections closely in those feelings.

In each case, Jesus answered Satan's temptation by evoking stories of his ancestors experiences in the desert during the Exodus (Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6 and 8, and Exodus 17 indirectly, in his replies). When we want bread or whatever provision that works best for us and we're in control of, Jesus remembers that God spoke and brought forth manna that filled everyone's needs and couldn't be hoarded so some missed out. When we want authority to cut through all the complications and get what seems best to us, Jesus remembers how God prioritized common justice in the given law and especially the perspective and experience of people who are normally marginalized. When we are sure that there's only one way to be faithful so we should do that to prove God is with us, Jesus reminds us that God is sovereign over everything, is with us everywhere in all circumstances, and that our faith develops more when we open ourselves up to more of what God is doing than when we ask God to be boxed in to what we like best. I'm thankful that the experience of stumbling through this difficult season with a faith community wanting to support each other in following God more than trying to drag God along our way has helped me see those lessons from Jesus more clearly and taken them more seriously in what we try to do. Hopefully that has proven true for you in how we've tried to navigate all this together, too.

So, as seasons are beginning to turn, but before we rush on to Easter and having the impacts of coronavirus be put behind us instead of letting them transform us - here's some of the profound things I'm finding hope in from the spirit of Lent for this time, from things we've already started to learn over the last year, and from the reflections and hopes I'm starting to hear from many of you that I hear God's voice behind and inspire me. I hope that they will remain transformative reminders from this season that will help us live fully in God's purposes for all seasons to come:

  • Our church family is not defined or determined by a particular place or time, but God has gifted us with resources for gathering and inspiring that we can make sure we always use to live out our God-given unique and powerful community identity wherever we go, whoever we encounter.
  • God will empower our capacity to be resilient and creative to meet the needs that arise in the circumstances God walks with us in - even if it seems completely new and overwhelming. This can embolden us to be open to God stretching us beyond what is familiar, especially if it enables welcome and us making room to fully include those who are looking for a place to find home.
  • Being anchored in God's perspective is a gift especially in our relationships. It helps us be mutually supportive in difficult times even when we're prone to worrying only about our own struggles. It helps us learn how to ensure the connections that are important to us are maintained and even deepened, even if new practices are required. Perhaps most importantly, it helps us recognize when some people are being more negatively impacted, more forgotten, more ignored, or more left behind by circumstances that are sweeping along - and it helps us be brave, resolute, and creative enough to follow God in doing things that ensure justice especially for them.
  • Remembering God's being, character, and ways are beyond the conception and control of our limitations encourages us to look beyond ourselves to those with other perspectives and experiences to understand more of God and how to participate in God's Kingdom. God's abundance helps us not play zero sum games to get what we want, but seek what God is calling us to together beyond our own concerns. We can really tackle even what seems most contentious and overwhelming together if we are willing to seek God's perspective first and welcome people different than us as partners in discerning that from each of our own limited viewpoints.
  • God gives us shared practices and invites us to find rest, comfort, refreshment and meaning when we need it. This does ultimately help us ensure it can be shared with all, but seeking the common good and stretching ourselves to find more of God's fullness does not come at the exclusion of experiencing it exactly where we are for ourselves as well. God is more than able to hold all of that together for his beloved children, and we don't need to run from it to prove anything else about ourselves.

May we all experience all of that in encouraging and empowering ways in days, weeks, months ahead - not missing out on the formation of Lent and ultimately full of Easter. Grace and peace.

Announcement for Beginnings of Restored Building Use 3-10-21

Greetings church! It’s been a long and challenging year under the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve felt frustration and hope together, persevered through struggle, and learned new things for our faith and ministry. We are most of all thankful for how God remains faithful.


As the season turns, we are excited to announce that due to significant decreases in local covid cases, significant increases in vaccine implementation (especially for our members), and improved weather, WE ARE RETURNING TO EXPANDED BUILDING USE – INCLUDING IN PERSON WORSHIP SERVICES STARTING MARCH 21, 2021! (the first day of Spring)

I have been thankful and proud that throughout the past year, with everything that we've faced and needed to figure out how to tackle together, the board has kept 3 key values as the priority:

  • Making decisions based on the external "facts on the ground" - including being responsive to when they change or new things are learned.
  • Taking ALL of the important variables fully into consideration as much as possible (physical health, emotional health, relationships, sustainability, etc.).
  • Seeing our different perspectives, preferences, and senses of God's leading as gifts so we can look at all the angles together and reach a consensus that is thorough and representative.

I feel confident that the current decision and plan we're working with ministry teams on for implementing continues to reflect those important values.

We look forward to gathering together more in coming weeks while remaining diligent in safety and consideration of each other and others in our lives. Here’s some important things to keep in mind:

  •  We will continue streaming worship services and other events on the church facebook page for people who will continue to avoid larger gatherings.
  • We will initially have as many services and other events outside as weather allows to encourage as much participation as possible, as some folks feel comfortable outside, but not inside yet. (Each week leading up to worship and before other events, we will send notification of the forecast and what that likely means for being inside or outside so everyone can best prepare - but we'll be able to do either if circumstances end up different than expected day of.)
  • Event participation will continue to be distanced by household and masked. The vaccine prevents severe illness from covid, but doesn’t prevent carrying the virus, and evidence suggests transmission is still possible if you’ve been vaccinated. This is an important way we use our freedom to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
  • This decision also impacts other events that can be held in the building or on the grounds – so reach out if you have an idea or request.
  • Some ministries like certain types of fellowship and music will still be operating under adapted procedures, but we’ll keep looking for the right time to expand them, too.
  • In addition to your mask, don’t forget to bring things like a lawn chair, seat cushion, the copy of the hymnal and bible you’ve checked out, and anything else that helps you participate in worship and other events comfortably under these circumstances.
  • Doing all of this well for everyone will require a few more things being done with a few less people – if you can help out in any way, please reach out and step up!

If you have questions or would be able to volunteer in any way to help us stay hospitable, faithful, and effective in this roll out, please contact me at the info below.

I'm so glad to have had you as the church family to go through this experience with, and so excited for this new season of being able to gather more again. Grace and peace,

Pastor Robb

Reflections on Ebbs and Flows - October 16th

Greetings church, I wanted to write a specially focused message to you as we continue to go through the ups and downs of the impact from COVID.

Yesterday it was announced that Franklin County has experienced significant increases in per capita cases, and needed doctor's and ER visits and as a result we are back at Level 3 Red status in the State Health Advisory system. Due to forecast chilly weather making the courtyard not comfortable for our worship service, this means we will be doing Facebook Livestream worship only this Sunday, 10/18. This is based on the board's plan for limiting inside activities when there is higher risk. (Courtyard worship an option under Level 3, but inside worship as a backup only under Level 2 or lower.)

I know for many of us this feels like a disappointing set back. It's been very meaningful to see more of each other in person while still staying connected online to others who are worshipping that way. Even though we can't control all of the factors that are causing the ebb and flow of the risk of the virus in our area and the impact that has on our own plans, we don't have to deny or regret any feelings we have about the ups and downs as they come. We know that God is with us in these feelings, can take all of them, and that Jesus had similar experiences in the most personal way - having times of needing to step back from ministry to recharge, or to not to certain things or go certain places because they were dangerous and it wasn't time to face the powers and give his life yet.

In addition to feeling some disappointment, and some frustration that we are probably entering a season in the coming months where our risk levels will be going up and down and our experiences together will be facing a lot of adjustments on the fly - I also remain excited about some meaningful things coming up in worship in any format, thankful for how we have persevered and rallied together as a community in worship and ministry already in difficult circumstances, and hopeful of how God will continue to empower us to keep doing that no matter what comes next. I hope you do, too.

I also hope this circumstance around worship and access to our building will give us a chance to remember other ups and downs that are going on for ourselves and those around us right now. This can help us reach out to God for support, and find ways to remember to be supportive of each other and others in our lives. Some of us have gone back and forth from feeling decently in touch with loved ones to feeling pretty lonely. Some of us have health scares and recoveries for ourselves or our loved ones. Some of us have had times with work and school and schedules where we're feeling like we're getting in a good groove, and other times when it feels like everything is completely out of control. There will be more times ahead for us and others we can support when health, emotions, relationships, finances, jobs and more have big ups and downs. We should remember that worship, wherever and however we're able to engage in it, is a chance to get rooted in God's faithfulness, know we can pour all of ourselves out for grace and support, and be inspired and empowered by God's spirit to face the ups and downs and be a lifeboat for others facing them, too.

We'll keep communicating our week to week status on worship and other events based on our local risk level.  

We'll keep giving opportunities for people to rotate into the worship team and participate in other ministries to share your gifts.  

We'll keep offering what opportunities we can outside that has less risk.  

We'll keep being working together to be prepared for a safe environment inside for events and circumstances that option is appropriate for.

Myself and other church leaders will keep being available for prayer and processing with anyone who wants to reach out, and being a listening ear for things that come up that need the church's support.

And I know we'll keep being a gracious, supportive church family to each other, held in God's hands, ready to fulfill our calling as a community in every setting and circumstance we face.

Grace and peace

The Return of In Person Worship (Sept. 6 - Socially Distanced Outside in Our Courtyard)

The time has arrived - Franklin County is at Level 2 in the State Health Advisory System, and that means under the plan our board developed for responding responsibly to the risk of spread of coronavirus that we will return to offering worship together on our church grounds. It hasn't always been easy the last five months or so, but you have all been faithful and supportive of each other, the church, and our worship efforts, so this is an exciting time well worth celebrating. Here's the info about how we'll manage worship under the current plan.

What to Expect for Courtyard Worship

 - Service will start at our normal 10:30 am. Temperatures seem to be pleasant enough now for this to be comfortable for everyone.

 - Please bring your own folding/camping chairs to sit in if you have them. We will have chairs available to anyone without it - passed out by volunteers in masks and gloves - but it will help things run smoothly and safely if we minimize that.

 - When you arrive in the parking lot, keep an eye out for chalk markers to help with distancing as people potentially line up to be seated. If possible, it would be courteous to allow anyone with mobility issues to "cut" if there's a line and you are more comfortable standing for just a little bit.

 - When you arrive, a deacon will be taking temperatures like you have probably experienced at other buildings or events sometimes. This is not to have a reason to pick a fight and send someone away. This is to give us all a helpful reminder of how to be mindful of any symptoms. We will be continuing the livestream and conference call for anyone who chooses not to join the courtyard service for any reason, so we hope if you're feeling sick or know you've been exposed and might risk spreading to others, you'll participate online until things are clear as a way we can all take care of each other (and please do reach out for prayer, help with supplies, etc. if this comes up for you)

 - We are also asking everyone to live out apostle Paul's value in Galatians to "use your freedom to serve one another in love" by wearing a mask during the service. There will be some available for any adults or kids who need it at a check-in table near the courtyard gate.

 - We will have lots of other goodies for you at the check-in table as well. This includes touchless hand sanitizer stations... as well as pre-ziplock-bagged hymnals and bibles for you to check out to keep as long we need to be careful about sharing items and spreading... similarly bagged printed items (set up early in the week) if relevant for any given service... and this week, pre-packaged individual serving communion elements.

 - A deacon will also be available to help you find a chalk-marked space for your family unit to sit safely distanced around the courtyard. Please be mindful of extra sound and video equipment that will be on the west side of the courtyard towards the cross to help people participating in person and online see and hear.

 - Please refrain from using your phone or another device if it is connected to church wifi. This can impact the upload speed for the livestream for people participating at home. (Pastor Robb has been having successful tests of this outside this week, but we also know sometimes Sundays can end up having an unexpected glitch.) We want to ensure as welcoming experience for everyone as possible. Thanks.

 - We will have a space and activities available for kids on the front lawn. Thanks so much to our nursery volunteers for making this happen.

 - If you need to use the restroom or come inside for an important reason during the service, a deacon will be at the door to get the door and ensure no bottlenecks happen coming in. There will be a touchless hand sanitizing station on the wall outside the bathrooms (please stay on the main level) so there is little risk of being dirty or spreading anything from as soon as you touch a door handle through when you're done. Be mindful to be distanced when inside, and thankfully there should be plenty of room, especially without using it as much right now.

 - I know we are all looking forward to fellowship together as part of this, in particular. Please stay distanced, show off the skills I'm sure you've acquired of smiling with your eyes and waving warmly, restrict physical contact as much as possible and definitely skin to skin contact (eg handshakes).

 - Please do remember to bring water, or even snacks, if you think that will help your comfort level during the service. If you have an EZ Up that can help us provide more shade, contact Pastor Robb. Do be mindful of others' views if you bring something like an umbrella for personal shade.

 - Don't forget to check out the Community Produce Garden for GRIN on the east side of the lawn between the parking lots - it's coming along beautifully.

 - The current board approved plan for worship services while Franklin County is at Level 2 of the state health advisory is to offer courtyard in person worship, but not move to indoor services yet.  So, if there is inclement weather, please participate in livestream worship as we have been. Pastor Robb will be sending out notice on Fridays at 5 pm of what the plan will be for Sunday morning based on the most up to date weather forecast. This is to put the worship and welcoming teams in the best position to succeed by giving some notice of how to prepare. If a call was made to be in person on Friday, but there turns out to be rain or similar inclement weather on Sunday morning, an emergency notice will be sent out to remind folks we'll be livestream only after all.  Forecast is looking bright and beautiful for this Sunday.

If you have further questions that weren't addressed clearly above, feel free to reach out to Pastor Robb to ask whatever is needed. Grace and Peace!

Making Responsive Plans, Managing Set Backs 7-9-2020

Pastor Robb and the Board recently met to work on a collaborative plan for worship and overall ministry for our church that would be responsive to the quickly changing landscape of COVID risk in Franklin County. This obviously most impacts our ability to physically convene and make use of our building and grounds.

The most immediate result of our meeting is that we will be indefinitely delaying in person worship, even outside. Though we had planned to resume in person Sunday services outside on July 12, worship will continue through facebook livestream that Sunday at 10:30, and stay on that plan unless conditions described below are met.

We are all saddened by how the impact of the virus has returned and escalated - not only because of the effects on our worship services, but for all the sacrifices and negative impacts people are continuing to experience from physical health, to economic impact, to mental health, to isolation, and more. I've given details below about what the plan the board and I decided on last night is, what is next for our church during this season, and what the most important factors in our discussions were, some ways we can make sense of these events and decisions with our faith. This is intentionally thorough, so feel free to read this as you find it most relevant, read some and come back to other parts, etc. 

What is the plan for building and facility use?

One of the things the board and I found most helpful for understanding our local circumstances for COVID, and how to make choices for our church based on that was the new State Public Health Advisory System that was rolled out last week. This categorizes the risk of coronavirus in a particular area according to 4 levels, and clearly explains the metrics used to determine what level a particular county is experiencing. Franklin County is currently in Level 3 - "Very high exposure and spread. Activities should be limited as much as possible." (This will be updated every Thursday, so it is possible a new level will be in place for Franklin County soon after you read this.)

The board decided to put in place building use guidelines, especially for our Sunday worship services, based on what level Franklin County is in according to this Advisory System. Here's how that ends up breaking down:

 - Level 3 or 4 - Livestream worship offered, no in person congregational participation.

 - Level 2 - In person congregational worship offered outside. If weather prevents outside worship, only livestream worship will be offered.

 - Level 1 - In person congregational worship offered. Weather permitting, outside worship will be prioritized. If inclement weather occurs, worship in the sanctuary (and overflow livestreamed in the fellowship hall) will be offered as a back up with distancing and other cleanliness and safety guidelines followed.

Due to Franklin County being firmly in Level 3 (and possibly Level 4 by this afternoon), as well as having a mandatory mask order, we delayed our roll out of in person worship that was planned for this Sunday, and expect this may still be delayed for a number of weeks. It is safe to assume the same general principles apply to other building use for ourselves and our building partners for anything beyond very small group gatherings.

What factors were most influential for this decision?

As is probably expected and has been mentioned in a lot of other communication we've had about this over the last few months, a high priority was placed on acknowledging the risk of even unknowingly spreading the virus when our congregation has a high percentage of people with extra vulnerability to its worst symptoms and effects. Here's a few of the other main points that were brought up:

 - A large number of people expressing they were likely to participate in the livestream under Level 3 and 4 (and maybe Level 2) conditions for their own safety even if in person services were offered.

 - Goal to not overburden volunteers and staff with extra, potentially risky tasks spread thinly amongst a few people, and to not make them feel pressured to participate if they felt at risk but didn't want to let people down.

 - The impact of mandatory mask wearing on the experience of worship. Especially in the heat, and when things like singing and musical worship become more difficult and are potentially more dangerous, this could cause other negative effects to people trying to participate and/or limit the worship expressions that could be appropriately offered in an in person environment.

 - Witness to the community. Are we able to meaningfully show those around us that our actions and choices as an organization consider what happens when we interact with others outside of worship, and any potential risk that could be increased or decreased by what we're doing.

We had great participation and consideration of as many sides and perspectives others might have as we could during the board's discussion, including the disappointment and negative impacts of continuing to be physically separate from each other. Hopefully you'll see how that consideration was applied in the next two sections.

What's coming up next for the church with all this? 

Here's a few key things you can keep an eye out for more details on, and connect with us to participate in over the next few weeks and months, however we are or aren't able to use our building.

Upcoming Sermon Series: Finding Faith Off the Beaten Path

I originally thought of this series theme before COVID as a fun way to spend the summer taking advantage of people's minds being on vacation and the outdoors - a way to recognize and celebrate how God is with us beyond our most familiar "churchy" activities. By now this has obviously taken on some extra meaning, and may feel less like a nice adventure or diversion, and more like we're weary travelers needing a break.

We'll ask God to help us understand how God can meet us and teach us in seemingly "less spiritual" situations and and circumstances, while acknowledging how that can feel difficult or exciting. I'm excited that there will be a mix of team sermons and sermons from members as part of this series in addition to some sermons from me.

Broader Ministry Opportunities Outlined and Participation Invited

I've spoken a decent amount about our hope to not just respond to the current difficult circumstances with adjustments and creativity in worship and Sunday mornings, but in every part of ministry that makes up the full life of faith together - but I'll admit there have been only a few, more sporadic opportunities offered to all of you.

As a lot of the initial responsive focus on ensuring worship, our technological set up, bible studies and small groups, and certain special events has settled in, I've been starting to be able to put more time and energy into this important part of the work of the church. I'm sorry it has been delayed in a more robust form.

In next week or so, there will be communication about a thorough, robust, organized effort to fill out our ministry efforts beyond Sunday worship - even accounting for limitations under current circumstances. Even more, there will be clear ways to sign up to participate with opportunities designed to match people's safety needs and not be burdensome in time, while hopefully giving compelling outlets for everyone's gifts. These opportunities will emphasize things like relational connections, sharing creativity, and supporting people who are especially negatively impacted in a number of ways by the ongoing effects of COVID and sheltering in place. 

I hope you'll join in rolling this out and serving each other and our community.

How Do I Make Sense of This With My Faith?

This has been a difficult season for everyone for a number of reasons, and we have to acknowledge it has been more difficult for some than others. We are used to shared experience and physical closeness in worship being one of the main ways we hold in our souls God's faithfulness and the strength of camaraderie when we're drawn together by the Spirit. Adjusting to new circumstances, styles, and technologies for connecting has been difficult and can feel disorienting for how we connect with God and live our faith together. Since this impacts our worship and service of God, we want to make sure our decisions are sound with the values of the God we are worshipping, whether together in person or virtually. Here's some key biblical themes that can help us continue to navigate these difficult circumstances and decisions:

"Use our freedom... to serve one another in love"

This specific quote comes from Galatians 5, but it's a sentiment that I think we can recognize in many of the apostle Paul's letters, the teachings of Jesus, and the prophets in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). God gives us freedom and walks with us to even make choices that may seem strange, risky, or dangerous to others. However, the purpose and faithful exercise of this is to show love to others and seek a common good over our own advantage and preferences. Even rules we set up or follow are ultimately meaningful based on how they pass that test - as Jesus said in Matthew 22, "All the law and the prophets hang on loving God with your whole self, and loving your neighbor as you love yourself."

Our hope is that our decisions for how we worship demonstrate this heart of love towards others by considering their safety. It is just as important, though, that we show love in every way we can to people who feel especially impacted by changes in our worship practices because of isolation, missing sharing their gifts, etc.

Do we operate out of fear and worry, or out of wisdom - how is God leading us?

This a legitimate question, and one we shouldn't take lightly when we seek to make decisions to care for others and ourselves. It is a common tension in scripture because both values are present - we should be wise in our decisions and not take the negative impacts of certain decisions lightly, but we also should not be ruled by fear and potentially not trusting God to be with us and risk not doing something important because we thought it was too dangerous.

I really have tried to consider this carefully, and at least in my reading, I believe that the first principle above - prioritizing serving others in love - is what is modeled in the bible about knowing whether our potentially careful and brave actions are coming from fear God would call us out of, or wisdom God would call us into. We will feel called to do things that are risky, or inconvenient for ourselves, or that seem foolish - the way we'll know it's God is if the motivator is showing love to others. We will feel drawn to doing things that feel bold, or protectionist, or that make us appear impressive - the way God will show us we're off is if our personal feelings and preferences become more important than the common good (often called shalom in the Bible).

The context of passages like 1 Corinthians 15, Luke 12, and Isaiah 22 can help us see that fear and worry cause us to seek our own comfort and enjoyment even if we rationalize it as trusting God to protect us or being safe with what God has given us. On the other hand, wisdom helps us see when and how to love others and to trust God to provide care for us, even if it seems slow in coming and even if we have to do things that feel burdensome or risky in the meantime.

What about God's power to protect and heal?

This is also a key component of our faith that shouldn't be forgotten. We continue to pray for God to intervene in these trying times in whatever way is possible - a change that seems miraculous, inspiration to people for treatments or vaccines, comfort for people especially struggling and more.

I do think that there are extra components in the healings in the bible we should keep in mind as we make decisions on how to be God's people together, too, though. Healings in the bible are not just demonstrations of God's power, they are demonstrations of God's values - perhaps this most of all. What I mean by this is that there was always extra meaning in healings people could learn from for other behaviors and choices, especially how they treated people. This was often shown by who was healed, how they were healed, and the future life that was enabled for them because of the healing.

If you look at the most commonly cited healings in the bible - by Jesus in the gospels, and Elijah and Elisha in the Kings and Chronicles books - some patterns emerge.  

 - Healings were often done especially of people who were outsiders and socially vulnerable for reasons even beyond their illness. This shows God's value of vulnerable people when society doesn't recognize it.  

 - Healings were often done in ways that seemed strange or ridiculous. This shows that a Godly healing is not really meant to puff up a healer, but to serve the one who is healed. This was also often true especially of healings of socially important people, as a way of reinforcing that they were not being healed because they were important, but that their healing gave them an opportunity to rethink their importance and how they treated the apparently unimportant.

 - Healings always enabled full participation in community, including worship of God. This shows that this sense of bringing people together is as important as a physical solution.  

If we act on an idea about physical healing or protection that works against the overall valuing and ensuring the inclusion of the vulnerable, then we risk actually violating the full meaning of healings in the bible.

Waiting is the worst - does the bible say anything about that?

Actually, yes, "waiting on the Lord" might seem to demonstrate an element of not believing God is acting on our behalf, but it's a pretty common theme in the bible. (For instance, chapters 40, 27,33 in the Psalms and chapters 40, 30, 64 in Isaiah, the words of Jesus to the disciples towards the end of his ministry especially in John and Matthew, and how Paul wrote about Jesus' return)

The bible writers often do share our own feelings of frustration, impatience, and wondering what is going on - so we know we're in good company when we have those feelings and God is more than capable of handling them. (we don't have to hide or pretend!) However, the bible writers also consistently see some key positives that come from waiting that are worth us thinking about and asking God to work in us too:

 - Having a sense of God's absence helps us recognize and appreciate God's presence in ways that we may have started taking for granted.

 - Waiting for God often motivates a seeking for God that brings us into new experiences and perspectives that God uses to help our growth.

 - Waiting for God forms wisdom, joy and strength in us from God that would have been hard to form when we were comfortable and everything seemed easy and obvious.

Many of us may especially find encouragement in Isaiah 40:31 "Those who wait in hope for the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles..." I think that image of eagles is especially telling. When we are struggling, we often feel like the only way to get things work is to act urgently and be busy - flapping our wings as much as we can to get going to lean into that metaphor. Eagles ride the drafts and don't have a lot of constant movement - it helps them see more of their surroundings and act wisely and decisively when the right situation presents itself.  

Waiting can feel passive, and is not easy, but we can trust that God will be carrying us the whole time and enable us to make each choice well when it is needed. I believe we'll all have our faith and identities ultimately developed in meaningful ways by God in all of this.

Grace and peace in all you're experiencing and making sense of right now. Please never hesitate to reach out for prayer, care, discussion, support, etc,

Pastor Robb

"Re-Opening" Conversation from Pastor Robb 5-22-2020

It's been quite the last couple of months for our world, and for our church. COVID-19 has inflicted a heavy toll, but we have also seen amazing resiliency, strength, sacrifice and love by people fighting the illness, front line workers caring for the sick and providing essentials for everyone, folks who tried and learned new things to keep live moving along in strange circumstances, and those within our church and in other spheres of our lives who checked in, provided what was needed, offered all kinds of support, and helped us feel cared for and that we would make it through. All of you fit at least one of those categories, and I am so proud, impressed, and thankful - though not surprised.

In the last few weeks, more and more conversation has turned to "re-opening" out of the shelter in place guidelines we've been living by. This makes sense and is important, as the impact by COVID has not just been a particular type of physical illness, but isolation takes a mental and emotional toll, and many people have been significantly economically impacted because jobs and businesses went on pause and may likely be reduced for awhile still.

We have been discussing how this impacts our church family, and the ministries and activities we do together, over the last couple weeks, and for the most part we've seen our physical re-opening as something more to look ahead to, rather than something that will happen right around the corner. There have been some questions about further details and dates - especially as news came of churches in some other parts of the country with different guidelines than Ohio re-opening and churches in our area starting to pick out dates sometime in June. Today I imagine that those questions came to the forefront of many people's minds again as the president announced that the federal government was issuing an order to supersede any relevant state guidelines so churches could open for worship services immediately - as soon as this weekend.

So, I wanted to make sure I laid out our current working thoughts clearly and thoroughly for folks so people felt in the loop, and to hopefully help give a reference point for any further questions and conversations that people may want to have as we proceed within our community.

First, here's some key values and theology about the nature of the church I hope we keep in mind and can use as a foundation for our actions and choices:

As a church, we never have been, nor are we currently "gone" or "missing" or even "sheltered."

This is a fact of how God works amongst God's people, and it is also a credit to all of you. I believe we only bother to do the weird thing of gathering in a building to sing songs, and say and listen to words that can seem out of place in many other parts of our lives, and put in the effort to spend time with people we sometimes have a great time with and sometimes struggle mightily with because we have encountered a God that cannot possibly be contained by that building or time slot, and so draws us to do some weird things to help be more like God. All the ways all of you are sacrificing, caring, loving, communicating, learning, giving, seeing, stretching and being who God is calling you to be proves this even more. It is good and right that this is not building or time slot or activity dependent.

We don't have faith so that we can put on church services. We hold church services as a tool for celebrating, comforting, inspiring, and developing our faith to be transformative in every aspect of our lives.

Over the last month or so, we have leaned into our experiences by admitting that the "church" is not actually our building or our worship services. In fact, our familiar experience of church is really unique in the scope of human history and geography. We've learned from many passages of scripture what the foundational characteristics of "church" are that should always be our primary focus and identity - whatever resources for practicing and living out our faith we have. We've discussed how the "church" is defined in the bible as the people - the "called out ones" - not particular buildings or services. We've seen models and metaphors by God's people being the church as living altars where we lay out everything about ourselves and the world - good to bad - and go out to make that vulnerability available to others, too...

as forums of intimate friendship - first with God, and then with lots of surprising, strange people in lots of surprising, sacrificial ways because the ability to be friends with the transcendent creator of reality so transforms how we see ourselves and other people...

as a family that sees how the world can wear people out, break them down, or leave them to the side, and then makes room for everyone who's been impacted by that and makes them feel welcomed and ready to offer their gifts...

and as embassies of sanctuary and transformation that specifically bring and seek God's presence outside the boxes of our expectations, resources, and institutions so that everyone can experience reconciliation with God - even if they'd been excluded from other people's acceptance, or made to feel like God could never reach them because they weren't worthy or their problems were too big.

We'll continue to learn more about these amazing identities we have as church in future weeks (including this Sunday), and hopefully we'll both be encouraged that we, as God's church, are also more than our building or certain activities and times we gather can contain... and be refreshed in our ideas about what our building and worship services and other activities can be as an expression of this boundless identity.

Our worship, witness, service and impact are not measured by what we do in a building when the world is going crazy around us - they are determined by how we use, or don't, every resource at our disposal wisely, generously, prophetically, and creatively to join God's presence in that craziness however we are called.

Every way we find to worship God and develop our faith is important, meaningful, beautiful, powerful, and transformative. Our building, and our worship services, and our other ministries have been that to all of us in significant ways. Many of you have also joined me in working really hard at figuring out how to have what we do online, and over the phone, and in our cars wearing masks, and so on be that way lately, too. The proof of that is not that we do more and more, and fancier and fancier services so that the world outside can't affect us. The proof of that is all the amazing things all of you have been the last couple months that have so affected each other and the world around us.

Relatedly, it is true that our faith often does call us to do things even if they are not traditionally "safe" and that truly require meaningful sacrifice. We shouldn't ever disparage or discourage people who feel called to follow God and live out their faith in these ways. We should always remind ourselves and each other, though, that the bible and the best of church history show us that God's people do not follow these paths for our own comfort, familiarity, or satisfaction, but God always empowers us to live this way for the healing, wholeness, protection, empowering, and loving of others.

So, we are doing our best to have the ways we proceed with using our building and worship service times to live our faiths as God's church family be driven by those values.

Enough of the sermonizing, now, right? What about some of the practical questions. Here's the highlights of how those conversations have gone and how it shapes what we'll be able to do and when:

Accounting for our specific context to care for people's physical health.

Our congregation has a large proportion of people who are more susceptible to especially negative impact by COVID-19. We also have a decent number of people whose lives don't allow them to primarily distance besides during worship services. This is a potentially a very tenuous combination.

Franklin County and Columbus specifically have still being experiencing daily increases of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. In fact, those increases have jumped a bit since other initial re-opening steps have happened. There is not widespread testing or contact tracing mechanisms in place yet, so our local risk of unrealized infections floating around until a susceptible person catches it and has a really bad experience is higher than many places around the country.

Many churches and houses of worship who opened in other parts of the country that seemed to be less impacted by cases have turned out to be hot spots for new infections after they held a service, and so had to re-close indefinitely. This is likely because activities like singing, many people going through pinch point entrances and exits, and the vast number of common surfaces that are hard to fully manage for cleanliness could foil even the very best efforts to be careful and diligent.

Being realistic about our capacity to put people in safe positions to succeed.

There are a lot of things that go into making our worship services the welcoming, participative, and meaningful experiences they are to help us grow in our transformative faith and live it out daily. There are a lot of people who help us do all those things. We need to make sure that those people have time to decide about their level of participation under current circumstances without feeling pressured, and have all of the supplies, training, planning and support to perform their roles in ways they will thrive in and that will give everyone the right experience to not just be in the church building, but be the church of the values discussed above.

I have been and continue to be in communication with those people, and with the board that organizes and supports them, but our infrastructure (especially as we want to keep giving time to continue being the church from day to day) is not set up to rush through that process for all our volunteers and leaders.

Ensuring the access and participation of everyone who is a part of our church family in whatever form our worship and ministry take.

It may seem counter-intuitive that jumping into having our building open for our more regular worship expressions and other activities could be less accessible for people, but this is the strange times we're living in. Streaming services keeps us physically separated, and technically privileges people with computers and who are more used to social media. Hopefully you've noticed though, that our goal has not been to stream services per se, but to find the tools available to us to offer access to worship and other activities for anyone during this challenging situation. That's why you've seen me juggling multiple headsets for Sunday worship, because we do both facebook streaming for a more engaging experience for people with access to that, and a dial-in conference call for people who don't have computers or feel comfortable using streaming sites. That's why we've spent more time recently making sure we're doing things for kids and families because a lot of what we were initially able to put together was more geared towards adults. That's why myself and others have put in time to learn new skills so that as many of our gifts amongst the congregation are able to bless the whole church.

Whenever we re-open, participation in the building will be more complicated or not possible for some of our church family. We have to prepare as much for that as we do the more complicated logistics of having people in the building. In particular, things for kids and families, as well as continuing to do a viable stream for those who need to stay at home that captures a more complicated service structure involving more people will require more infrastructure to be able to do. I will admit that I am inclined to not take steps for restoring worship practices and other activities until I know no one who wants to participate will be excluded because they can only engage in a particular way.

I hope all of that, as long as it is, makes sense to people. I understand and respect that our church family will have a range of opinions and priorities about all of this that will shape what you are hoping for in coming weeks and months. I know myself and the board have tried to take all of that into account as best as we can in our work and conversations up to this point, and we're committed to continuing to do so. We are striving to be collaborative, wise, values-driven, data-informed, and earnest in how we proceed.

We have already been discussing and moving forward stages of re-opening that can include streaming worship in small group watch parties in people's homes, doing outdoor services, and having multiple services in the building eventually so people can be more spread out. We're also looking at outdoor fellowship opportunities during the summer. We don't have set dates when those will be ready, but they are in process and we will notify everyone of the specific details when we have them.

If you have concerns or questions, I encourage you to share them with me. It may be that we don't look at navigating this the same way. It may be that I won't be able to do much right away in response to a request or preference you have. But I will be thankful for your input, listen carefully, and take what you say into consideration with what others share with me and the values and thoughts described above, and be as transparent with you about what's going on as I can.

In addition to offering your questions and conversation, I'd also humbly ask that you offer any ways you can help. It could be hosting a small group so we can at least see a few of each other very soon. It could be volunteering in a way you haven't before because you know we all probably have to chip in a little more right now to cover for those who can't, and rise to the unusual circumstances. It could be sharing your expertise about health, tech, logistics, cleaning, etc. that are especially valuable to the tasks before us right now. It could be something I'm not able to think of right now, but you know will be valuable.

Lastly, let me encourage you one more time to keep being the church in the amazing beautiful ways you have. Keep finding creative, powerful ways to do worship, study, communication, service, and comforting that don't need a building or a time slot. Keep thinking about how we can use all of resources (including our building and worship times) creatively and wisely to serve the mission God gives us to be a called out people that impacts the world. If you're able and it's meaningful to you, don't feel bad if you want to go to a physical worship service somewhere else before we're able to do that. It's good to connect with others in the body of Christ sometimes, too, and our streams and videos and posts and phone calls will be there waiting for you to engage with at other times throughout your week, and I know that that won't keep us all from being a beautiful family that keeps coming back together through any circumstance we might face.

Grace and peace.

Practical Updates from Pastor Robb 3-20-2020

Greetings church family! I'm sure this has been an interesting week for all of you. Lots of news... lots of adjustments... lots of questions still feeling open, I imagine. I have been really pleased to start to hear tricklings in of lots of care and support offered to each other, lots of mindfulness of our missions partners serving the most vulnerable and ways we can continue to help, and lots of examples of people feeling God's presence with them. I'm sure that will continue, and it's helped me be reminded that while our circumstances can change significantly, our identity as the body of Christ called to join in sharing the experience of God's Kingdom remains the same in all situations. What it looks like can vary a lot in response to what's happening, God is with us to help us figure that out together no matter what.

Just as we're constantly getting new information and guidelines right now, I have updates about how we're proceeding as a church right now in a few categories of our life together. You'll notice each item below has an "action item" you can help us follow up with as able.

Worship Updates

  • We will be moving to online only worship for the foreseeable future - livestreaming on Facebook every Sunday at 10:30. With guidelines about group gatherings getting smaller, and the significant percentage of our church family that is higher risk to COVID-19, we're confident this is the wisest move. I will streaming from our sanctuary so we have more familiar surroundings, and so if someone pops by looking for prayer and encouragement I can carefully speak with them, but please consider the building closed and join us online. Worship will feature prayers (including taking live requests through the comments), scripture, and a sermon. At least one past choir anthem will also be posted to facebook for people's edification and enjoyment after the livestream. 
  • Action Item: If you know of someone who is not actively on facebook, check in with them to see if they feel confident going to our page to watch (there's a link on the church website), or even if they want to sign up and help them do so. Then hopefully we'll all see each other online every Sunday at 10:30.
  • We will also be regularly posting other spiritual practice and devotional content to facebook during the week. This will include bible passages, songs, and devotional quotes with prompter questions for people to respond to in the comments.
  • Action Item: Please check-in and leave comments every now and then so we can have that shared collective conversation even if we can't be in the same physical space right now.
  • Keep an eye out for other updates about worship options in the future - especially around Holy Week and Easter. There's still a lot of questions about when different types of gathering may be considered advisable again, but we'll be mindful of offering safe, meaningful experiences however we can.

Support Updates

  • We have a team of leaders with specific interest in outreach, support, and keeping people feeling connected who have a structure in place to regularly check in with folks who may be especially isolated right now, and respond to needs people let us know about. We'll be doing things like making phone calls, writing letters or cards, and being ready to make supply runs or similar for people who can't get out.
  • Action Item: Email me back if you want to help this team, or if you know anyone we should make sure to stay in touch with. This could be people already deeply connected to GC3, or anyone in our wider orbit.
  • Also please keep an eye out for further updates about options we might have for conference calls, video group chats, or similar so anyone interested can have good chances to stay in touch and connected together as a church family.
  • Action Item: If you have any ideas for times and reasons to invite folks to someone like this, or a service you've found to work well to facilitate it, please let me know.

Missions Update

  • Worship and fellowship are really important, but mission is core to who we are as God's people too, and we'll stay as mindful of this during this time as we do those other parts of being a church. Thursday April 9 from 7:00-8:30 we will be holding a drive through "canned cash drive" for GRIN to make up for the benefit concert for them we had to cancel. This format will give GRIN the best ability to maximize their buying power, and the most flexibility to respond to what is needed at any time under quickly changing circumstances.
  • Action Item: Bring a monetary donation in an empty, clean can of food to our drive-through set up in the church parking lot that evening. Spread the word and get contributions or participation from others you know as well. If you feel you can help that night taking donations or directing traffic, let me know.

Organizational Sustainability Update

  • During this time, we know the giving and donations and contributions from building partners is going to change significantly. Many people may feel their capacity for resource support has changed under our current circumstances - we understand and that's fine. The church is in a healthy financial position currently, but we do still want to be mindful of our mid- to long-term organizational sustainability.
  • Myself, the board, and our staff and lay leaders will all be earnestly committed during this time to working on ministry that connects us, edifies us, and serves the community that is hopefully worth investing in with time, talent, and treasure.
  • We can still receive cash or checks mailed to the church for support at any time (please include envelope number if you use that). The finance team is also working on making online donation with credit cards or electronic bank transfers available with a simple, secure button on our website. Look for more instructions about this coming soon as we figure out the details ourselves.
  • Action Item: Consider any ways you can contribute to the vision and mission of the church under our current circumstances - monetarily or otherwise. Please reach out to me with any thoughts you have about how we should best use our resources since our relationship with our building and regular meeting times is having to change.

Thanks for all you are and all you do, everyone. Grace and peace during this season.

A Message from Pastor Robb 3-12-2020

Grace and peace to all of you during this challenging time that I'm sure feels like it's hard to keep up with. I imagine many of you are like me as news about the spread of COVID-19 comes out - checking up on loved ones who fit the profile of folks most at risk, praying for comfort and intervention, trying to keep up with recommendations about staying safe and healthy, finding your calendar pretty much clearing itself out, trying to buy a few supplies to be prepared, and wondering what specific steps you and groups you're a part of should take as everyone tries to chip in to limit the worst of the potential impact of this outbreak.

I wanted to send out some pieces of information and a few thoughts that are relevant for our church family, and that can maybe be helpful for us to process what's going on specifically through the lens of our faith. I'll do my best to be relatively concise, but most of you already know that's not always my strong suit.

Some Practical Thoughts

We encourage everyone to take the steps they (and/or a consulting medical professional) feel they need to to be healthy. If you stay home from things or say you can't work on something you had planned on, you are not letting anyone down. Don't worry about pushing yourself to fulfill other people's expectations. Our greatest desire is for everyone to be their safest and healthiest.

We are tracking instructions from health experts and government authorities to think about how we physically gather as part of our way of connecting as a church. So far, it does not appear most of our church events automatically fall under guidelines for events that should be cancelled, but that may change and we'll keep people informed as those decisions are made together with myself and event leaders. We are especially mindful of there being a lot of people in our church who have personal reasons to be more careful about public exposure, and the emphasis on encourage their choices for their safety is the highest priority.

We are staying in communication with all of our building partners about sharing strategies and information so our space is hospitable for everyone under these circumstances. We will keep you informed on anything relevant that comes from them, and please let our office know if you have news about exposure that we should pass on to our partners.

Some Thoughts About Living Our Faith Practically and Relationally

Circumstances like these can remind us that being a church is about more than just a building, a time slot, and certain events - and we should be proactive about living that out. Most of us know it's true that "church" is not really our physical space, or just the time of our worship service, but it can be easy to slip into operating mainly that way because that's our most common rhythm. God's spirit amongst us calling to be a particular type of people living new lives, and our relationships together helping each other live those lives out are really what make the church. We are working on putting together a number of resources to help us embody this in our practices and relationships whether our building and worship times are the best thing to connect everyone for awhile or not. This includes:

  • Our website, will have sermons, updates about meetings, maybe even some full service videos, and other ways to share in our spiritual lives together.
  • I'll be starting some threads on our facebook page asking where people can converse online about bible passages we have scheduled, songs we're singing, spiritual practices we can do together, etc. I encourage others of you to post there with ideas for things we can do together and interact about during this time as well.
  • I will also be prepared to livestream worship services on facebook live if needed.  If you want help figuring out how to take advantage of this, know someone who would need help, or feel capable of helping people get set up for using this if it's new to them, please contact me.
  • I'll be setting up a conference call line anyone can use to conduct church meetings as needed. Talk to me if this would be useful to you.

There are other very negative things that become contagious during times like these, and our faith has a legacy of working against that as well that we should seek God's guidance and empowerment to be a part of in our time. Things like misinformation, xenophobia, blaming and stigmatization, hoarding, panic, isolation, and despair can all come along with these types of outbreaks, and can do a lot of extra harm. Jesus consistently models a response to disease or other suffering that speaks against that and gives another path forward. (I consider passages like Matthew 8:1-3, Matthew 15:1-28, Luke 13:1-8, and John 9:1-34 especially enlightening about this) It is a great expression of our faith to do things like check the source of things we're reading - especially before we share the info with others as reliable... check our hearts against negative reactions against people with connections to other parts of the world, ask God's help to be gracious, and encourage others to do the same... resist buying things we don't need so there's supplies left for people who really need it... and seeking to stay connected in some way to people who could end up isolated right now.

These types of events tend to disproportionately impact the poor and vulnerable, and God models for us and calls us to join in making sure such folks are accounted for when they might be overlooked. If you have the capacity, we might have partners like GRIN or other community organization looking for more help to make sure people get food and other resources they need even if they can't get out. If you know someone uninsured who's afraid to get tested or treated, or has some other special financial need because of this - that's exactly the type of thing our Pastor's Discretionary Fund should be for. Let's work together to keep the most vulnerable in mind and make sure we loop each other in to keep them connected and covered for what they need. Childcare may be a really significant concern for many families when schools are effected. If you have people in your extended circles (especially who might be in healthcare professions but needing to find safe options for their kids to do their important work), see how you can be a solution or help find a solution.

The model of Jesus and the legacy of Christian faith is prioritizing taking steps to ensure connection between people - including when it's difficult or even dangerous. Jesus repeatedly touched people his society deemed untouchable because of status or health risk. Early Christians had some of their most early impact in the Roman Empire by caring for people impacted by plagues and pandemics when no one else would. It may not be best for some of us to put our own health at risk to exactly copy that, but we can make it a special priority to initiate human care and connection during this time. We can all take some time to at least call people who might be staying home more. We can try to share remote large group conversations and encouragements on the church facebook page. If we are not at significant risk, we can offer to do some things for those who are. We can show extra thankfulness for those who's jobs play this role in our society, and react with encouragement instead of fear if we have loved ones who feel called to do something radically helpful, even if it's risky.

Lastly, I want you to know that Sunday Worship Service will be held every week unless a general quarantine is issued. It may only be me (or someone I ask to cover if I get sick) sitting in the building alone livestreaming on facebook for people to follow with as they desire, but we'll be available.  This really doesn't mean anyone should feel obligated to come, but at times like these sometimes people living in fear or despair look for a place to make sense of what's happening, and church buildings and church services are a common thing to seek out. On the chance that even one person needs that one Sunday, even if almost our whole church needs to be home to be wise, healthy, and safe, I want to make sure someone's here to be a support and help them connect with God together.

If you have any questions, needs for help, prayer requests, and/or ideas for how to best be the church during this time, please send them my way and I'll make sure they get addressed as best as possible. - (Office) 614-471-2168 - (Cell) 614-383-9783