August 24, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the coming months our worship will follow the story of the people of Israel in the book of Exodus. Although they came to Egypt for refuge from a famine, Israel was enslaved, far from home, unable to realize the promise that God had given them a home, a future, and a charge to be a blessing to the nations of the world.
It may seem appropriate to read Israel’s story as we continue to struggle with the challenges that constrain our mission at First Presbyterian Church. A normal year would find us blessing backpacks in person, collecting school supplies for our neighbors at Blue Ridge, and preparing classrooms and training teachers for Rally Day. The choir would be back practicing. The doors of the church would be open for community events. We would be worshipping, studying, and serving together.
Instead, like Israel, we might wonder if God hears our prayers. The answer: God does hear our prayers; but our way to freedom isn’t just going back to the way things were before. We may have to wander in the wilderness for a little while longer.
You may be wondering, then: when will things change? When can things get back to normal? When can we worship again together? The session has met to consider these questions; and while we are encouraged that the number of cases of COVID-19 in our community seem to be declining, they are not at a point where we feel comfortable encouraging members to return to in-person worship for now.
Having said that, we are considering ways that we can safely gather outside of the worship hour. Session teams will be meeting this fall to consider ways that our ministries can continue and grow in light of these restraints. If you are a member of any of our teams, please lend your voice and your creativity as we think about ways to remain together.
In the meantime, the session has authorized that the church celebrate communion on Sunday, September 6 as a part of our regular worship. Following our livestream service, we will provide communion outside of the church. The Worship Team will meet next week to organize and plan so that we can do this safely and as a meaningful expression of worship that celebrates God’s real presence with us through the gathered community of faith, even when the community cannot gather in the way it is accustomed to doing.
As we loosen our restrictions somewhat, too, I will be available to meet with anyone—in the church, in a park, at home—for “porch visits” on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings through the Fall. Call or write the church office—I would love the chance to catch up with each of you face to face!
Remember that no matter how long this continues, or how hard this will be, the promise of God sustains us: “Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:7-8).