Dear Friends in Christ,

“When are we going to return?” I’ve heard that question plenty. And the honest answer is: I don’t know.

I know what we want is for things to return to normal—to worship in a familiar place and recover that comfort of community that we use to sustain us when everything else around us seems broken. It’s a cruel irony of this time that the place we use for support in grief and change and transition is unavailable.

Having said that, the reality is that even a premature “return” to church wouldn’t feel like church at all. Recommendations published by denominational and public health officials include cautions about what in-person worship would look like: no congregational singing or collective spoken liturgy as, even with everyone masked, those things have the potential to spread disease; no passing of the peace or holding hands; no greeting or coffee hour (how could we all be six feet apart in the commons?). Can you even imagine a social distancing children’s sermon? Were we to return too soon, would it be like worship at all?

I want you to know, then, that the session is taking these concerns seriously, balancing our witness and mission as a church with the best public health advice we have received. To that end, we cannot say when things will return to normal. But let me share some good news.

The good news is that, despite the fear and frustration, our church has faced this before. We have the witness of countless generations to show that God always makes a way: that God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death.

The good news is that we are able to worship over our Facebook livestream, witnessing our faith and celebrating God’s goodness together, even when we’re apart. The good news is that our Missions Team is hard at work identifying the best stewardship of our collective resources and, to date, our church had donated over forty thousand dollars to local organizations and denominational mission efforts to support victims of COVID-19 and local

The good news is that we still gather in prayer and study, eager to learn what we can of a God who never lets us go, but goes to the cross rather than abandoning us.

In these past days I have been comforted by words from the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who reminds us that we cannot take for granted the experience of living around other Christians—that the church is “visible grace” anticipating the kingdom of God. We may not always have the opportunity to be together. What has felt normal for so long may only be a provisional glimpse of what God has in store for us. But it’s a promise—that no matter how distant we feel, in Jesus Christ, we are together.

Please know that your session is praying for you. I am praying for you. And, above all, Jesus
Christ is praying for you.