Last Monday, I put on my mask before picking up my lunch from Berryfield’s. One of my favorite salads is their chicken almond salad with poppy seed dressing. I have trouble trying their other items because I love that dish so much. I ordered online and thought I could have it delivered, I figured I’d go inside and be tempted by their deserts. I looked around and realized what Phase 2 looks like. There are signs on various tables that people can’t sit there to ensure proper social distancing. They were doing good business. People probably miss eating out so much. What surprised me were who were there: a good amount were seemingly older people. High risk folks with no masks. I worried for them, but realized it was their prerogative to risk a deadly virus for the simple luxury of sitting in that place.
As a pastor, I feel the weight of this pandemic on my people. A number of our folks are in the high risk category. Am I willing to sacrifice even one person for the sake of returning to normal? Absolutely not! I need each and everyone of you alive and healthy. Frankly, I cannot bear the guilt of anyone getting sick by participating in one of our services.
Each local church will draft a phased re-opening of the building guideline to be approved by our District Superintendent. A committee will be formed soon to address this. The church phases are determined by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, not by the government. For example, Lewis County is in phase 2, but church-wise we are still in phase 1.
The guidelines are fairly strict: High Risk populations are to stay home until phase 4, no singing indoors, everyone is to wear a mask, temporary removal of hymnbooks, etc. We do this out of an overabundance of love and caution. We are guided by John Wesley’s rules: Do No Harm. Do Good. Stay in Love with God.
Though we are on this unintended fast of in-person worship and our building, God is doing something amazing! God is moving us to be more visible and missional. Because of online worship, many who wouldn’t normally come on Sunday morning can join in. I’m considering parking lot worship after this month, which means our whole neighborhood would see and hear us. As I said in the sermon on May 24, I see the Holy Spirit inviting us to go deeper and to go broader.
Our God is not limited! Jesus walks through walls. The Church is not a building, the church is the people. In the face of all this crumbling that the Pandemic brings, the Holy Spirit is inspiring us with creativity as we are reminded of who we are as Centralia First United Methodist Church.
We are not alone about being latent and extra cautious concerning in-person meetings. Embody Centralia is a fabulous yoga studio in our downtown community. The owner said in a recent video that they will not re-open the studio downtown until phase 4. In Phase 3, they will host some yoga classes outside on the owner’s 2 acre field. How beautiful! In the past 2 months, they moved all their courses up online. It brought them to a new level of visibility and accessibility. Hmm, seems familiar.
We’ve weathered some stuff before, church. We are growing in resilience, and growing in love! Where is God leading us? Are you ready? Let’s go!
Go deeper. Go Broader.
Centralia First United Methodist Church 506 S Washington Ave 98531 360-736-7311