I was recently reminded of the Dr Seuss movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas as I was reading about Holy week and empty churches, and the sorrow on faces over the loss of the traditional joining of hearts and hands as we proclaim that Christ is alive. Friends, the Grinch didn’t stop Christmas from coming and the Coronavirus can’t stop Easter from coming either! The real reason we celebrate this coming Sunday remains - the tomb is empty and Christ is alive, He is risen… He is risen indeed!
During this time of sheltering in place, it is important to remember that self-denial is a Christian attribute. We are called to care for our neighbors and show Christian love by staying home. We miss our family and friends, we chafe at the loss of our freedom to go places, and for many of us this is indeed a form of self-denial. Here at Christ First we love our church family, we enjoy our gatherings, potlucks, studies, and our worship together as one body in Christ. Be assured that we will do all of those things again in the future! Our first Sunday together in worship will be a glorious homecoming and we will celebrate the resurrection with joy in our hearts! In the meantime, stay home and stay safe.
As a denomination we have listened to the CDC guidelines and I applaud the efforts of our Cabinet, Bishop and District Superintendents to keep our congregations safe by not gathering in any form and encouraging everyone to stay sheltering in place. To that end, WE WILL NOT HAVE DRIVE THROUGH COMMUNION EASTER SUNDAY.
We have learned that the next several weeks will be critical to the safety and well-being of our community, so please be careful and be safe. We will meet using Zoom and not in person for all leadership teams. Please check your email for your invitation to join. If you do not have a computer and are a member of a team, you can join by phone. We will be happy to walk you through the process and are only a phone call away!
I hope you have been able to access our “new and improved” Website and Facebook pages! The way we do business is changing at a rapid pace, and we are learning as we go, it is a work in progress and it is definitely a work of love. Please know that we have heard your suggestions for improving our sites to better serve you. We will be implementing as many new suggestions as possible.
We have been blessed during this time of self-imposed exile through the talents of our church family. Please give a shout-out to Connie and Tony for all of their IT support and creativity. Virtual church has become a reality through the wonders of technology and hopefully has been an exciting and rewarding way for you to connect with our church family during this difficult time. Our musicians have given of themselves to enhance our services and deserve a big “thank-you” for all they do for us. We are blessed with the commitment to do the work of our Lord and Savior by all of our staff – Kim, Charlie, Kenzie, Andy and Steve and also our trustees and laity who have been diligently working to be the hands, face and feet of Christ. All of you rock!
The Upper New York Conference has been diligent about sending out notices and helpful suggestions to the local churches as we face what may be a new normal. One resource sent is a prayer adapted from the Houston, Texas church - St Luke’s UMC that I would like to share with you now. It is entitled A Prayer for a World Facing the Coronavirus, and it speaks to many of the concerns we have:
It seems like lots of uncertainty around us.
So many people who need prayers.
Today, I pray…
For those whose health is compromised by the coronavirus or other health issues.
For those who suffer from the economic impact of the virus, in travel, manufacturing, hospitality, energy or so many other industries.
For healthcare workers and first responders, and other public servants who put themselves in harm’s way for us.
For our leaders of the world, our countries, states and cities, as they seek to help manage this challenge.
God, it can be overwhelming. But you tell us over and over again not to be afraid.
Show me how to trust in you. As I examine my heart this Lenten season, help me to turn away from my concern with self, and turn my heart, hands, and prayers toward the concerns for others.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray.
Friends, lean into the Lord and he will lift you up. Trust in the power of prayer and be at peace.
In Christian love,