30 Jun A Letter to Our Churches: The Essential Nature of Our Churches
Siblings in Christ,
As most of you are now aware, the President of the United States on Friday declared that all houses of worship are “essential” and that Governors of all the States need to allow them to open, right now, for this Sunday (tomorrow). The President is correct that houses of worship are an “essential” fabric of our society. What he got wrong is that I know of no churches that have been closed during this difficult time in our nation’s history.
We may not be coming together physically in buildings to worship our God, but that has not dissuaded us from coming together……over the past 70 plus days, we have gathered and heard the Word proclaimed, participated in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and raised our voices in prayer and song…..albeit virtually. The two of us have participated in more worship services on a Sunday morning than we have ever done before, joining with our siblings in the Presbytery of Santa Fe as they have hosted a Presbytery-wide Sunday morning service of worship, worshipping with other congregations throughout the Synod and occasionally outside of our Synod, on that same day as well. And I am sure, many of you have done the same.
Others have found ways to take everyday experiences and use them as a time to commune with God….gardening, visiting our cabins in the woods, caring for our ill and compromised loved ones.
This is a church that is open!!!!!
We have continued to serve our neighbors and each other with love and compassion. We’ve seen churches in Grand Canyon Presbytery come together and deliver 500 boxes of food and supplies (with each box containing enough sustenance for a month for the recipient families) to our siblings in the Navajo Nation….within their church, in the surrounding community and beyond and we’ve experienced the call from the Presbytery of Santa Fe to raise funds as they seek to serve those financially affected by the “stay in place” orders through its Family-to-family Fund. These funds have been and are being used to assist with rent, bill payments and other essential necessities as families find themselves in difficult circumstances as a result of loss of jobs. We have heard of our siblings on the Navajo Nation, the location in the United States most impacted by the pandemic, making masks for those in their communities who do not have access to either the end product or the materials necessary to produce them. And these are just a few instances of a church that is alive and well and fully engaged in service to those within and outside of our individual faith communities.
This is a church that is doing God’s work!!!!
We have learned new and creative ways of providing a worship experience, a Bible study opportunity, even fellowship gatherings, virtually, which I hope will lead us into the future with similar ways of being the church at worship and prayer and in community. This is particularly true for our siblings who have often been forgotten on Sunday mornings when the rest of us were in our church building. Let this be a lesson learned and carried forward.
Ultimately, government can limit our physical gatherings because of the pandemic, but it is the responsibility and role of our individual sessions to decide when and how those gatherings will take place. No government has the power to close our churches and our witness throughout the pandemic testifies to that fact. I pray that our sessions, in faithful and prayerful discernment, will consider how and when we can physically gather together safely, keeping in mind that we are tasked to serve one another and particularly those most susceptible to this horrific disease in ways that honor our God and care for all God’s children.
Our prayers are with you.
Conrad & Sharon