COVID-19 Email Update #7

Special Announcement #7 Regarding COVID-19 for 3/20/2020

Good morning friends! It’s almost 5:30 in the morning and yes, I’m getting an early start on the day by sending out this update. I will have detailed information for you this evening about worship this Sunday, how to tune in, where to find supplementary materials, different ways you can stay current with your giving, and (hopefully) a GPS for the week. So watch for that email later today. I will also post that information on our Facebook page.

But for this morning, I thought you might like to hear part of what was shared yesterday with us by the leaders of the Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Church in America, The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and The Episcopal Church denominations here in Arizona. Here is what they shared:

Church is not cancelled!!!

But in-person worship is. As leaders of our respective Christian denominations, we have all had to instruct our congregations to cease in person worship and meetings.

And yet, church is not cancelled. How is that so?

Church is not a building, and church is not just worship. Church is the gathering of faithful people through prayer, through love, and through caring for the vulnerable. Church is taking on new forms in light of COVID-19. Many congregations are worshiping via live-stream, or by other electronic means. They are using old fashioned phone calls to talk to members, meetings and Bible study are taking place over Zoom. Food pantries are distributing food as cars drive by, homeless dinner programs are offering meals to go, and the prayers of the faithful ascend to a loving God whose arms bind us together even when we cannot be face to face. Since we cannot be WITH one another, let us nonetheless be FOR each other.

These are faithful decisions, made out of our understanding of the great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. In this present moment, among other things, loving our neighbor means not being physically present with our neighbors, to protect them and us from potential infection.

It is more challenging to be church in a time such as this. Our pastors and leaders are having to develop new skills, and our members are having to extend more effort to stay connected. There are financial implications of not gathering in person, and as long as this continues it will grow ever harder to continue our basic outreach ministries caring to the poor, the sick, migrants, and the elderly.

The word “quarantine” comes from “quaresima,” the Italian word for Lent. Ships were “quarantined” for 40 days in port before they were able to dock and unload people and supplies. So of all seasons of the year to be experiencing quarantines, this present season of Lent is very appropriate. Just as Lent ends with Easter, so this season of quarantine will end with renewed faith in our Risen Lord—though it will likely not happen by April 12, 2020. Over the next few weeks, as the situation develops, we will discern what the right way to observe calendar Easter is; and what the right way to observe our eventual return to in-person congregational life, proclaiming “Alleluia” with shouts of joy. That day will be an Easter Day indeed, celebrating the restoration of new life, having passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

We, the leaders of our respective Christian denominations, hold you in prayer just as we ask you to hold us in prayer in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

As we, the members and friends of Song of Life UMC continue through “quaresima,” also known as “Lent,” let us remember that church is more than just worship. It’s caring about others – our members, friends, and folks in the community who are in need…and those numbers are only going to increase. In the coming days (yes days, because this situation is changing by the minute) we will explore ways we can help each other and help members of the community who will need our help. We will weather this storm, because we follow a Savior who taught us how to weather storms even worse than this one. We also rely on the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote:

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

This must be our motto in the coming days and weeks. Let’s remember, God tells us to “fear not” over and over and over again. Let us face the future without fear, my friends.

More to come later today…God bless.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jody