As many of you know, following my retirement I spent six months as an interim staff member at Second Presbyterian in Little Rock. The pastor, Steve Hancock, and I have much in common. In fact, our theological training parallels in remarkable ways, though we come from different traditions. I found Steve to be insightful and a really good pastor… of a really good church. You’ve been hearing from me about our current situation, but I thought it might be helpful to listen to another pastor’s perspective. This is from the church’s latest newsletter, with just a few edits…
By my count, we are in the midst of week 10 from when we suspended in-person activities, gatherings, and events at church because of the coronavirus. This coming Sunday will be our tenth online worship service.
Governor Asa Hutchinson issued guidelines on May 4 that allow churches to resume in-person worship services. But there’s an old saying, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” I have appointed a “Re-opening the Church Task Force” made up of Second Presbyterian Church members that will provide recommendations to the Session about when we resume Sunday morning services and what protocols need to be in place when we do so. Recommendations of the task force will be guided by a primary concern for safety for worship participants and leaders, and we will proceed with an abundance of caution.
In the meantime, there are plenty of question marks.
- When will we be able to open the church building? We don’t know.
- When will we get back to in-person worship? We don’t know.
- When will we be able to have weddings and memorial services? We don’t know.
God’s people have lived with uncertainty for as long as there have been God’s people–perhaps not always to this degree, but this time reminds us that we never really know what the future holds, and we trust God to guide us. Abraham didn’t know what lay before him and Sarah, but he trusted God and followed. The people of Israel had no idea what they were in for when God led them out of Egypt and into the wilderness, but they followed (they grumbled and rebelled at points, but they followed). When God’s people were taken into exile in Babylon, the future seemed bleak and unknown. The disciples didn’t know what the future held when they dropped everything and followed Jesus. Jesus’ followers didn’t know what lay ahead for them after he ascended into heaven and sent them into the world to carry on his work, but they carried his Word into the world anyway.
In the midst of uncertainty, here’s what we DO know:
- We continue to worship together.
- We continue to join in fellowship through various Zoom gatherings.
- We continue to care for one another through many, many check-in phone calls and in praying for one another.
- We continue to study scripture together.
- We continue to feed people at Stewpot, Our House, the Grace Food Pantry, and with our international mission partners in the Presbyterian Church of Honduras.
In other words, we continue to be the church. As one church sign says, “Love is never canceled.”