November 18, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
As many of you are aware, coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in Butler County have risen dramatically over the last ten days. This week, First English’s health and safety committee (Bill Vilcheck, Victor Nieto, M.D., Rose Cooper, R.N., Larry Christy, and Josh Kamerer) unanimously recommended to our church council that we suspend in-person worship and other activities beginning this weekend. Bishop Kurt Kusserow also requested that congregations of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod halt in-person activities for the time being.
Our council met last evening and approved these recommendations. Beginning Sunday, November 22, worship will be offered via Zoom only and indoor in-person activities are suspended. We will resume sending paper bulletins to everyone without an email address. Please note that anyone with a landline can join the service by phone, even without an internet connection.
This decision was both clear and difficult for all involved in making it. The pandemic has already created so many burdens and diminished much of our joy. We want to be open, but our environment has changed in ways that increase our risk–despite our observation of good mitigation protocols. Several congregations in our synod have had to close this week because of exposures or illness. We want to be proactive rather than reactive and conduct ourselves in ways that support the common good, even when that requires setting aside our own desires for a short time.
I trust we will make it through this. During this difficult year, you, the people of God, have shown such care, faithfulness, and generosity of spirit to one another, to our community, and to me. I see in you the spirit of the living God, and I am grateful. As Philippians 1:6 says, “I am confident that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” It can feel as though there is not a lot of goodness in the world right now, but I see God’s goodness at work in you. Let’s keep on keeping on.
Your sister in Christ,