As we prepare for our Community Meeting after worship this Sunday, August 9th, we submit the following resources for you to consider, if possible, before Sunday’s meeting, or perhaps during this coming week. I also want to share with you the following ruminations.
The mission of Redeemer, New Paltz, that of “Sharing Christ’s Welcome,” might be described broadly as being carried out in three ways:
- gathering to praise God in worship,
- being built up in our discipleship lives, and
- letting God carry us forth into the world to share the Gospel good news of Jesus’ saving love and mercy with others.
Though this global pandemic has deeply affected most of our individual and collective lives and brought uncertainty and change that we are really only beginning to be able to grasp, we may take comfort that the mission of Redeemer as a congregation within the global Church has not changed. Whether this mission is carried out primarily online or in person, it is the same mission.
This is God’s gospel work of feeding the five thousand, where we look to Jesus for the feeding and by Jesus’ blessing the loaves and fishes of new and abundant and redeemed life are placed in our arms and hearts to be shared, and shared abundantly with others. So though it has not been easy to learn how to be Church during this time, it should be no surprise that we have actually had higher worship attendance during this time and even tried some new worship “stuff,” continued and perhaps even grown our support of Project HOPE and its support of people in need through FAMILY of New Paltz, gathered for Discipleship Small Group Bible Study and other meetings and even embarked on new Justice/Equality efforts through our Anti-racism Task Force.
Thankfully God is big enough to continue to nurture congregations through pandemic times!
When we held a Community Meeting back in May to discuss when we might look towards re-entering God’s House at Redeemer (aka the Building) to worship in person again, there was a strong consensus that people would rather worship all together online rather than piecemeal in person. My heart swelled with this consensus then and I still feel now that this collective agreement reflected a kind of striving spiritual maturity that is willing to acknowledge our human feelings and desires and yet look for the wisdom of God and the collective good of the entire community to be our guide.
Now we have come to another time for prayer and consideration of how to move forward with ministry, specifically considering our timeline and approach to re-entering God’s House at Redeemer for worship and other ministry , as well as how to support Community Partnerships and others who have utilized God’s House at Redeemer as a place to gather in person for AA, Blood Drives, musical endeavors, the gym, voting, and other endeavors. And once again we will want to dig deeply and prayerfully within ourselves, observing and considering our own feelings and lives, as well as getting ready to hear the perspectives of others within the Redeemer community, reading the resources linked here, considering our Community Partners, and most of all, looking for God’s wisdom to be our maturing guide. This is heavy lifting during what, for the world and many of us, is a heavy and challenging time. Yet remembering that God’s mission through Redeemer has not changed, and that it is Jesus’ blessing that multiplies the loaves and fishes not just to be enough, but enough to provide leftovers, we can remain confident that God in Christ is steadfastly leading us on the way forward together in ministry for the world.
The following resources that have been developed/curated by the ELCA and our Synod provide useful information and guidance that is being used by congregations to inform decisions about returning to in-person worship, re-opening buildings for community partner use, etc., and doing in a manner that is safe and protects the public's health.
If you're able, please review these ahead of Sunday's meeting.
- ELCA: Resources For Returning To In-Person Worship
- ELCA: Resuming Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic
- MNYS: Reopening Our Churches: How Do We Begin?
- Comprehensive Reopening Plan for NYS