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photo: Martha G. Brady

Photo: Martha G, Brady

Yesterday was a delightful day of worship for our church. We have been meeting inside with masks. But we haven’t had a nursery or Sunday School (only online) for kids. For that reason, many of our younger families haven’t been able to get to church or the couples have been taking turns coming. Attendance has been very small. Many older people or those with health issues haven’t been out because of real fear of catching COVID. But we have also had online church to help.

Our church recently took a short poll to find out how to help us most. Of course, everyone has missed the worship services as well as simply seeing one another. So yesterday was our first outdoor service. It was also online. It was so great to drive up and see so many cars in the lot.

Today we met outside for church. It felt good for so many to show up!

We were told to bring our own chairs, umbrellas or even cars if we wanted to sit in them. A small platform was there in the shade where the musicians could stand as well as the speaker. I don’t know the final count, but i’m guessing there were a few hundred people spread out on the grass with their families. Some were on blankets. Others on chairs. Some under umbrellas. The little ones had space to move around.

Almost everyone had shorts on. Lately our weather has been oppressively humid. But we were especially blessed today. Our pastor was so excited as he went around to greet everyone in person. He has missed everyone too! He knows all the names!

It was cooler and much less humid than it has been. There was a nice breeze and lots of shade. The cicadas were making a racket that definitely interfered with the sound at times. But for the most part, it worked great. It was wonderful to actually see one another for the first time in months! We actually felt like the family we are.

We had communion together as well. Since COVID, we have been using those disposable communion things. I’ll know we are back to normal when we are back to using bread and wine again. The “bread” in those things seems like paper! It’s just another inconvenience for the sake of safety for all of us. But I’ll be glad when it is over.

The sense that we are together as a family was great! Some of us were older, others babies…and everything in between!

At any rate, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have the feel of real church again. It was wonderful. After all, the reality of church is that it is the people that make it our church, isn’t it?

And that is the series we will be doing this Fall in a sermon series as well as in our small groups. It will be titled “Be the Church.” If there is one thing that causes us to rethink what makes the church, it is something like COVID, isn’t it?

We know our purpose as a specific church. Over the last couple of years, our leaders have been hashing that out. It is written and spelled out clearly. But how it plays out in a time like this and what it looks like is a question of tweaking.

  • What do we use our buildings for?
  • How careful do we need to be?
  • What do we emphasize?
  • How do we minister better to our community?
  • How do we use our resources well to minister to our members, encourage one another and reach out to our community?
  • These are just a few of the questions our leadership is dealing with.
  • How do we minister to the needs of all our members, especially those who are struggling in different areas.

So these next months will be filled with growing and learning how to help and love one another better.

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.
Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace,
which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Acts 20:27-32 ESV

Imagine how Paul must have felt as he said good-bye to this church where he spent 3 years. How could anyone else care for them like he did? But ultimately, he knew GOD was the one who would grow these people in their faith along with His Word! It wasn’t the presence or absence of Paul!

This is a portion of Paul’s good-bye talk to the Ephesian church after spending three years with them. He knew he might never see them again on this earth as he said good-bye. It must have been very difficult. The number of resources for Christian growth back then were much less than what we have now, but Paul knew that GOD and His Word and the Church were enough to continue growing His people there. That is still true today.

Pastors come and go. So do some of our favorite leaders in the church. But GOD and His Word are still there. He is faithful. We just completed a series on Who GOD Is. It is good for us to remember who He is when we face these challenges in our lives like COVID as well as other challenges in our nation and communities that seem difficult. GOD is still at work. He is in control and He is guiding our leaders as we pray for them and encourage them and one another.