Dear St. John’s,
I want to start by saying how much I love and care for you all. Over the past seven years that I have been blessed to serve as your pastor, we have shared moments of great joy and deep sorrow. Through them all, I have seen you to be a thoughtful, loving church family, caring for those both in the church and in the community around us. You have found ways to support and sustain one another, and I do not expect this moment in our life together to be any different. In fact, I would dare to say that this is not even the hardest thing that we have faced over the past seven years together. It is simply a new challenge that requires a loving response.
As you may have heard, TE School District has closed all schools in the district starting today through Thursday, March 26. We have always followed the district’s closing schedule, which means that the church office will be closed through at least March 26. Ridgley, Lara, and I will still be working and available to you by phone and email. We are working on having all calls to the church office forwarded directly to us. Unfortunately, this does mean that all meetings and events scheduled to take place at the church through March 26 are cancelled. This includes movie night tonight, the Women’s Fellowship LIFT Event on Sunday, the Case for Smiles sewing event on Monday, all Bible studies and prayer groups, exercise classes, all choir rehearsals, and the remaining two weeks of dinner and classes at Supper at St. John’s. All events are cancelled, and the building will be closed.
After much discussion with the leadership of the church over the past 24 hours, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel worship on Sunday, March 15 and Sunday, March 22. We are going to explore ways to provide some sort of worship or prayers online, as many other churches are doing now. We will provide more information about this as it becomes available.
We are such a close-knit church family. We like seeing one another and spending time together. We depend on one another for fellowship and support. Because of this, I am mindful that the next few weeks of “quarantine” stand to be very isolating and lonely for many of us. Please know that you are not alone. Pick up the phone and call a friend. Check in on someone who lives alone. See if they need anything. If you are not able to provide for them, let me know, and we will mobilize help through the church, as best we are able. If you are lonely, call someone. If you don’t have anyone to call, call me or Ridgley. Do not worry about “being a burden” or “bothering” anyone. You won’t be. Your church family loves you, and while there is a certain sense in which we need to be apart right now, there is another, deeper sense in which we need to draw closer together.
I am mindful of Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 14 when he had to be apart from them. “I will not leave you alone…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” God has not left us alone to live life by ourselves. Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we are connected to God and to each other by bonds that no measure of time or distance can break. Let us lean on those bonds over the coming weeks, finding comfort and peace in the love that God has given us to share.
Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. And do not hesitate to reach out if you are in need.
Grace and peace,