You, as I, may have begun to see other churches “opening” again in our area. While the natural human inclination as we see this happening might be to wonder if Redeemer should also “open.” So, we wanted to share some thoughts of encouragement and reminders in support of us all:
- Sometimes it can be harder to stick to a decision and stay clear about why we are sticking to that decision, than to make the decision in the first place. While each of us may find it hard or less hard to worship virtually and not to worship in person, the longer we wait to worship in person (according to the ELCA, MNYS Synod, county, and state guidelines), the more we contribute to helping the public as a whole (not just Redeemer, New Paltz), to stay healthy. We tentatively set September (perhaps with an outdoor Blessing of the Animals) as our goal for worshipping in person. And meanwhile (how beautiful is this?) the consensus we came to at our Community Meeting in May was that we would rather worship all together virtually than piecemeal in person.
- Meanwhile, while other churches are spending a whole lot of time organizing a host of mini-worship services and even lotteries to decide who can attend worship when, Redeemer is devoting our energy to the gospel work to which God in Christ has always been calling us. Hopefully we will all remember that Redeemer has never been closed! While the physical building has been only minimally used for sharing worship and basic office functions that have to happen in the office, the people of God at Redeemer (both staff and lay leaders) have embraced this virtual world, so abruptly thrust upon us, with vigor, finding ways to bring:
- Worship Services online.
- Discipleship Small Group (Bible Study) online.
- Community Fun Night online.
- The Two by Two Ministry in place to encourage relationships and a way to foster relationships and encourage each other during this pandemic time.
- Project H.O.P.E. to gather needed food items to support those in need through FAMILY of New Paltz as part of our focus area of Homelessness/Hunger.
- Working with Phillies Bridge Farm towards a partnership with them and the YMCA to build backyard raised beds and teach people how to grow vegetables, again as part of our focus areas of Homelessness/Hunger.
- Pastoral visits and even Pre-marital counseling.
- Increased virtual presence through inspirational messages developed and shared on Youtube and Facebook, as well as a pilot episode of a Christian variety show in progress.
- Community Meetings to organize during this Pandemic and now to Rise Up Against Racism, with Rising Up Against Racism part of our focus areas of Equality/Justice.
Hopefully as you read this list you are praising God alongside the rest of us because not only has Redeemer not been closed, but by the grace of God and our collective striving, there is much, much good afoot! So maybe as we hear of other churches “opening” we can lift up a robust prayer for their safety and our safety – and then another big prayer of thanksgiving that God has and will continue to guide Redeemer; asking that God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit help us to continue with patience the race of life and ministry, and with clarity our decision-making, and with joy our praising of God. Perhaps even especially giving thanks that not only are all of these wonderful things happening in virtual realms, but because of our decision to worship all together virtually rather than piecemeal in person, we are better concentrating our collective ministry efforts.