“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:25b, 27
As followers of Jesus, we are called to love our neighbors. This means we love people we see and people we don’t see. Especially in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are to promote the health of other people by maintaining a physical distance. Loving people from afar may seem counter-intuitive. Yet I see God enabling us to love people in new and profound ways. We don’t always understand God’s ways, and there is much unknown ahead of us. Take heart, dear friends: the Holy Spirit will guide us in creative new ways to reach out with the love of God.
Per Bishop Elaine Stanovsky’s directive, all of the Greater Northwest United Methodist Churches are to suspend in-person services and meetings through April 30, 2020. Palm Sunday, any Holy Week activities, and even Easter will be held online. Community dinners are suspended.
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky also gives this directive concerning building use and entrance: “All United Methodist church buildings and other facilities are to be closed, effective March 28 to all but essential services and only to the extent allowed by state and local government restrictions or advice.” Because Governor Inslee already gave the “shelter at home” order, this is effective immediately.
In other words: The church has left the building!
The church is not a building/ the church is not a steeple/ the church is not a resting place/ the church is a people… (“We are the Church”, United Methodist Hymnal 558).
Our first online church service had 772 views the last time I looked. Though we are broken and spilled out and our interactions have changed, our usual 40 people on Sunday morning have increased exponentially. Imagine all those bodies in our pews after this pandemic!
Being thrust into technological connections has its up and downs. We have had and will likely have some flubs. Let’s give ourselves grace and permission as we figure this out.
One of the downsides is that not everyone has access to a computer or the internet. These folks may need some extra care in reaching out. Let us make an extra effort in reaching out to these folks. Hard copies of my sermon will be available Mondays in the manila envelope at the door on Washington street.
How are we going to participate in Holy Communion physically apart? How are we to wave our palms on Palm Sunday while apart? How are we to do Easter? Unprecedented times means we do things in unprecedented, creative ways. I am open to ideas.
There is a lot which you cannot do. Yet there is much you CAN do!
*Pray. Pray for each other. Pray for those on the front lines of this pandemic. Pray for wisdom for your leaders.
*Reach out. Call each other, especially those who may be more isolated.
*Read. Read scripture, of course. Maybe also pick up a piece of fiction to keep your mind active.
*Give. It’s no secret our finances have been in decline for maintaining our church. Please continue to send in tithes and offerings. Also:
*Little Free Pantry is a lovely box at the edge of our parking lot facing Oak street. Most who receive it’s goods are folks we don’t see. Put extra love into it this season! We are looking for non-perishable food items as well as hygiene products. You can also donate financially to the Little Free Pantry. Just designate it so on the memo line.
What other ideas might there be in what we can do?
I miss seeing your faces already. I hold each of you in my heart. If you need something, please let myself or someone know. We are in this together….apart.
Centralia First United Methodist Church 506 S Washington Ave 98531 360-736-7311