These past several weeks have been very difficult for many of us. It has been trying, hard, but I do want you to hear that we have not stopped being the church. Period. The church of Jesus Christ is stronger than any pandemic, any separation, or any difficulty that may occur. We are stronger. With the question I hear often, “When is Second Ave. Church opening up?” Well, the good news I have an answer Ad Council voted to resume in person worship on July 5. Please know that many but not all events and gatherings locally during the month of June have been postponed or cancelled. The decision had many factors, but one of the main factors was that Second Ave. United Methodist has many people and all those people are their personal health vary greatly. In our church there are many people who are healthy and if they were to have an illness passed to them or they would get sick they would recover quickly. However, there are many vulnerable, elderly, those with compromised immune systems, those receiving treatment for a variety of health issues: cancer, heart concerns, those who have loved ones with compromised immune systems, and other health concerns. As leaders in the church it was our desire to show everyone the care and intentionality of opening Second Ave. Church in a safe way that allows people who are healthy and those who have health concerns to worship without fear. I know the decision is frustrating for some, a relief for others, and some don’t know how to feel, it is my prayer that you see this decision was met with so much prayer, thought, and I will firmly admit there is not a perfect date to open up, but leadership feels confident that our reopening will be a great celebration! In the mean time it is my encouragement to you as your pastor to connect with people over the phone, connect with people virtually, since we are in the green in Blair county as of tomorrow if you feel comfortable connect with small groups of people in person, pray deeply during these days, and there will be an opportunity in the upcoming weeks for you to connect with me in person about Second Ave. Church’s Covid-19 response I want to hear you, I want to pray with you, I want to dream what the church can be with you, I want to mourn with you, and I want to celebrate with you. Thank-you for understanding.
As some of you read that, I’m sure there are feelings of relief, some feelings of anger, some feelings of concern, and some feelings that are all over the place. Here is the explanation for the date: based on the guidance of the Bishop and cabinet of our annual conference we still even in the green phase need to abide by guidelines from the CDC. There is an enormous amount of work to do from now until 7/5, some of that includes having a detailed seating plan, having enough supplies to properly clean the church after each worship gathering, properly communicating what is asked of each person during a worship experience, acquiring volunteers to usher people into their seats before and after a worship experience, communicating to families with children what they can expect as they come to a worship experience on a Sunday morning, opening up the wall and providing additional seating in the Elevation Room, and more. As your Pastor, I deeply miss you, I desire to be in person with you so badly, and I know that in terms of answers for how to respond to COVID-19. It is very hard to determine the when of opening but Ad Council we were very focused on the how we opened up. The Church council would like to open up in a safe, well-communicated way, that allows all people to worship without any fear.
During the survey that was sent out last month in terms of Second Ave.’s Covid-19, the survey results were fairly varied. Some were all on board with opening immediately and others were more cautious, with that being said a few things were fairly consistent: people were almost unanimously on board with doing what is asked of them in worship, people were very pleased with the steps leadership has taken during the pandemic as of 5/20. So, I want to say thank you for being the church, thank you for being patient, thank you for not stopping ministry, and thank you for understanding the level of difficulty and complexity of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic in a safe, responsible way.
This decision and conversation was met with great prayer, understanding, it was my intention to for Ad Council to see this through a theological lens. Theologically Jesus cared for all people, He loved all people. He loved people in disagreement. He loved all people, and His ministry was a transformative one that made people better. Jesus especially cared for the vulnerable in His society and continues to care about the vulnerable ones in our society today. Those vulnerable in our society today are the people with compromised immune systems, the elderly, the sick, and the young in our society and especially in our church. We are called to care for them, about them, and care for their well-being. Part of John Wesley’s three rules is: Do No Harm. Our goal is to make sure our re-opening is well executed, well communicated, follows the guidelines from the Bishop and Cabinet, and does no harm.
I know you have read a lot of information, but I do want to share some first guidelines with you in this letter. The plan is to communicate the full plan by email, Facebook, and postal mail within the week. I do plan to have two times to meet with people to answer questions, share concerns, spend time in prayer, and provided guidance. I do want you to know this will not be forever, once the situation with COVID-19 becomes clearer the conversation will be had about which restrictions can be loosened and when. It is my desire to have that conversation during the early part of August. Here are some things you can begin to expect:
1) For the time being you will be asked to wear a mask to enter and leave the building. If you feel comfortable removing your mask once you are at your seat that is your decision.
2) For the time being you will be asked to refrain from hugs and handshakes, please greet one another verbally, please send cards, please call one another on the phone, but for the time being please refrain from greeting one another with hugs and handshakes.
3) Both services: will be blessed with wonderfully beautiful music. It is my desire to showcase the gifts and talents of our wonderfully blessed music community. Due to numerous studies and guidance from the Bishop and Cabinet singing for the time being in a church setting has been discouraged. Please sing at home. Please sing in the car, please sing outdoors, but due to guidance of the Bishop and Cabinet we are discouraging singing just for the time being.
Thank you for being the church. Thank you for loving Jesus. Get ready. Be prepared we are coming back! Our brothers and sisters at Juniata United Methodist Church will be coming back for in person worship as well on 7/5/2020. Please stay tuned for more information as we move closer to the time. It is my desire that we can incorporate many people to serve as we desire to open up in a safe, effective way.
It is with great joy that I do want to share that Rise Up Sports Camp will be occurring this summer. The camp will be held from 7/20-7/24 at a local park in the area. Stay tuned for more information. A sign up sheet for the church picnic will be going around here soon, the church picnic will be held on Saturday July 25. The Corn Boil is a go for this summer! It will be held on Saturday August 8. The Food bank, Hope Chest, and Soup and Sandwich Luncheon will be all be operating this summer, and my prayer is that you would consider being a part of these life giving ministries.