Dear Friends in Christ,
The last few days of the coronavirus outbreak have offered our world and nation unprecedented challenges. I know that many of you are feeling bewildered as we experience interruptions in our normal rhythms of life. Some of us have been afraid and angry and wonder what is going to happen.
Here is what is going to happen at your church. Following the best advice from our state and national government, First English will suspend worship and all in-person gatherings through the rest of March. That may be extended as circumstances warrant. Please check our website, Facebook page, call the church phone number (724-283-2378) or tune into WISR AM 680 for updates.
Our council did not make this decision with joy. Gathering in person—congregating—is the heart of Christian community. But God commands us to preserve life, love our neighbors, and seek the welfare of our community. Staying home is the way to do that right now.
Still, God is always at work among us and we will continue to worship and live as God’s people. As we prepare this mailing, some dedicated church members are making calls with the congregation to gather information about how best to communicate with you. Here are ways that you can connect with your church family:
- Sunday Worship. Each week a bulletin with a service you can pray at home will be mailed or emailed to you. This order of worship will also be offered online (see below). Whether you can tune in or not, please pray the service at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
- Online Worship. We are going to do something new and worship via ZOOM Sundays at 10 a.m., with the same order of service sent in the bulletin. If we have your email address, instructions for connecting will be emailed to you each week. The link will also be available on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/firstenglishbutler.
- Radio. The pastors of Butler Area Lutheran Ministries (BALM) are at work to secure a radio spot on WISR to broadcast a worship service. More information about that will be communicated as we have it.
- Pastoral Care. I am available by phone for pastoral care. Please note that Butler Hospital has prohibited clergy visitation except for pastoral visits to the dying and their families.
- Building up the Body of Christ. As the situation continues, we will develop a plan to keep in touch with one another. Please consider being someone who can send cards or make phone calls to fellow church members. Let me know by phone or email if you would be willing to do this.
- Care for Butler. We are in conversation with other community dinner coordinators throughout the city about how best to serve the hungriest in Butler at this time.
- Generosity. Please continue to send offerings so that we can continue our ministry. We will also have online giving up and running soon.
In making these plans, I was reminded of the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. John of Patmos, Revelation’s author, could not worship with his congregations. He was in prison on an island, alone. He declared, however, that “he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” (1:10) even if he could not be at worship with others in person. He communicated the word of God to others by sending letters, and the Holy Spirit has used his words to speak God’s word to succeeding generations of Christians. Alone in body but not in spirit, he praised Christ and affirmed God’s call to the church:
“To him who loved us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1:7).”
As we face a time of social distance of our own, I find this comforting. I believe the Christ has made us at First English to be such a kingdom. I believe that we will get through this time together and have stories of grace to share.
Your sister in Christ,