Worship is vital and important for our lives and our souls. As a church who is forming Christian community it is important that we join in worship together (whether in the building or online). We should never want to miss worship but sometimes life events and schedules impact our ability to do so. And there are times where it is easier than others to miss out and stillbe able to feel connected to what is going on. With our current sermon series, keeping up with the messages is going to be more vital. As I have been preparing for this Sunday, this is one you really need to try to find some time to enter into and truly listen. In the sanctuary is the best, joining the livestream as it is happening on Facebook or Youtube comes in a close second, then there is catching up later some point on Sunday, and if you have to watch it later in the week. As I prepare for the message this Sunday it just feels like one of those worship services where you are going to want to know what I shared or you might feel lost. And the point is not just to be in worship and to hear the message but to actually take the time to think about what it means for you and your faith journey. This should be true almost every time but friends we need to come awake to what God has for us! All of us need to breath new life into our Christian walk or else we are just dead bones walking around under the false belief that we are alive in Christ. The communities and world around us and the next generation, are depending on us to breath new life into these dry bones. I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to shape the sermon, and then opens our hearts and ears, in such a way that it begins to breathe new life into us and restore in us the joy of our salvation! Don't say I didn't warn you...
Well, onto the nitty gritty of some details about worship, the life of our church, and our not so good friend COVID. We have tried to make common sense decisions on COVID precautions knowing that it will never be perfect. Some churches have chosen the most cautious approach to assure that no one gets COVID from their church, and some have thrown caution to the wind and decided that God will protect, or not protect, them and they will deal with what comes. We have tried to look at the science and the current data, and to limit risks, but not eliminate risks. And let me tell you, it is more of an art than a science to figure out what to do. My goal has always to be able to explain why we have chosen to make the choices we have made. You may not agree with, or like, some choices made but at least you know that there was thought and prayer in each and every decision. We have lived with Omicron for long enough now that we have more information that proves that Omicron is more contagious but far less deadly. That was the original belief but now we have lots of data proving that to be the case. In addition, many people in our church have tested positive for Omicron and thus they have increased their natural immunity, and for many that was in addition to the protection that the vaccine provided them. To be clear, people are still dying of Omicron and it is a more serious threat the less vaccinated you are. We are making the following decisions based on the fact that COVID is going to be with us for some time to come and we feel it is time to lift some of the restrictions we have implemented.
1. This Sunday the choir will be singing in worship at 8am and the praise team at 10:30am. They will be staying on the altar area BUT they will not be wearing masks. Those in these groups know the risk they are taking and they are far back from the front pew. It is only fair to share that ahead of time since it is not the safest of the choicest we could choose. We know that some of you might not want to be in the sanctuary if you know that this is going to happen OR you might choose to sit in a seat farther away from altar. The assumption is that if this is a concern to you that you probably would not be coming to in person worship at this time anyway. Once again, this is finding a balance and our robust online live-streaming options makes me feel ok about this decision. And thank you to those who are worried about their health and continue to be in community with us from home.
2. Starting next Sunday, February 13th, we will once again be offering Fellowship Time downstairs. There is some inherent additional risk of contracting COVID with opening this up again. The numbers say that it is a safer time for us to again offer it for those that want to have some additional fellowship. We will be trying to go to a simpler food/beverage offering with many less choices. Remember it is about the fellowship and not about the food!!
3. As long as positivity rates continue to fall this coming week we will be changing the policy to masks recommended starting on Sunday, February 13th. The current policy is masks are required which was implemented by Frederick County at the beginning of the year when the positivity rates were soaring and the severity of the Omicron virus was less known. Many counties in Maryland have already started to remove the mask mandate for public spaces and I believe it will be coming in Frederick if the numbers keep coming down. That being said as a matter of pastoral guidance and care, if you have not yet been vaccinated and have no medical reason why you cannot get vaccinated , please go and get vaccinated. If you have not yet, received the booster and it is available to you, please go get the booster. As the masks mandate goes away, the potential for serious life threatening consequences for those not fully vaccinated actually increases. And if me asking you to do that upsets you, know I only say it because I care about you. Don't let it get you angry or push you away, I just want you to know what I believe in case that would be the extra push you need to get vaccinated. And if you are not vaccinated I still care for you and still want to be your Pastor!
4. This Sunday is a communion Sunday. We will be offering communion elements in many ways depending on your level comfort. I will be giving out bread directly from the common loaf to those that want it but a bagged piece will be available on the communion table. The common cup will be on the table for you to dip your bread into but there will be individual cups available on the communion table. Our communion side offering is going to the 24/7 prayer room of Frederick that Pastor Sarah has shared about with us in the past. They have been open and reaching people with the Gospel by offering prayer in Fredrick for over 2 years now. More information is in this months newsletter about the 24/7 prayer room and it is open to you to go anytime!
The bulletin for this Sunday is attached for you to look at. We currently don't have all the offering numbers from last week but they will be in the printed version. Remember that in the bulletin we have announcements, a prayer list, church attendance, the amount of offering that has come in that support our ministries, along with the outline of the service. We attach it weekly so that those of who can't be with us can keep up with the church and more fully join in worship online. We appreciate everyone who continues to worship and be a part of our community even if they can not come to the church building. While we always prefer to see people in person, we also love those who join us from afar and we are blessed to have you as part of our worshipping community!!
We are live-streaming on our Facebook page or our YouTube channel. For those that are watching when we live-stream we do have a person that can see the comments posted if there are sound issues. While we don't want to fixate on every little sound issue we do want to know when something is way off and affects your ability to be able to enter into worship. I will warn those watch on Facebook they sometimes mute the video clips I use after the livestream. Unless you are watching worship when it is live I would recommend watching on the YouTube channel because the quality is MUCH better.
We are not passing offering plates so the wooden boxes are available to put your offering in. The 2022 offering envelopes are in church mailboxes for those that continue to use them for their offering. Of course you can also give online, use text to give (844-406-0358), or mail the offering to church. The new offering envelopes have some envelopes that have Capital Campaign printed on them and the purpose is to increase the amount of money we have to keep the building in good shape in the years to come. Most of the funds will be invested as part of the Jimmy Hill Enduring Legacy Fund so that we are prepared for the future!
We will be collecting prayers in the prayer box on the table in the parlor. Also, if you have announcement that you need to be shared please write them down and give them to me before the service. This will be an ongoing practice for prayers and announcements to help ensure that they are heard and understood by all (especially those worshipping with us virtually).
If your bones were not dry before, they might be after reading this really long blog! And really for many of us we may not know it but we have let our bones become dry and God wants to breathe new life into us. In order to breathe new life into these dry bones it will take opening yourself up in ways that you may have never before or maybe haven't for a long time. God longs to breathe new life and joy into you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit upon our lives and really our souls!