And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
(1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)
It is May 1st. A new month begins as our state and community explore ways to ‘reopen.’
In the past two months, we have grown in gratitude for those who work to care for the sick, clean the spaces we share and stock the shelves with the food we need. We have learned how to Zoom and we have endured a severe reduction in hugs, handshakes and physical gatherings. The crafty and the quilters among us have learned to make face masks and many of us have gotten far better at washing our hands. It has been a journey that has demanded our courage and called us to greater creativity. We have worked to ease suffering and we have prayed for healing and strength.
I have never been more proud of the staff, the lay leadership, or the community of University. By God’s grace and your engagement, prayer, worship, and hope has never closed. We are still building bridges to Christ, compassion and community.
We are working on procedures and a plan to properly steward the physical return of people to the church building. We remain in conversation with health professionals, community leaders, and other churches. The size and scope of our church creates great opportunities for mission and ministry. We also face unique challenges for wisely gathering people together to worship in this season. It will take some time to acquire supplies, prepare the spaces and train our teams but the people of University are up for this challenge.
Live stream worship is worship and will remain a central part of what we do and who we are. Even after the return of some to be physically in the building for worship, live stream will remain the best choice for vulnerable individuals and all who feel more comfortable doing so for as long as it takes.
Our tentative (could change, not certain, may need to be altered :)) plan is to build up our capacity and procedures to be open for physical worship on Pentecost Sunday, May the 31st. In the weeks to come, we will communicate how that will happen and what it will look like to physically worship together with distancing procedures in place. Even on the 31st, while some may be physically back in the building, we won’t be back to ‘normal’ for some time. But God is good.
God is not stopped by strange days. No valley is deep enough to bury hope. The mission of Christ is not denied by distance or stopped by disease or death. We will continue to worship, work and pray because we never stopped. We will proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ because it was never, and never will be canceled.
It’s May 1st. I invite you to 30 days of prayer. Pray that God would guide us in truth and wisdom. Pray that God would prepare our hearts for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit this Pentecost. Pray that the people of University would be fertile soil for the power and presence of God.