I think this is the last Fear Not I’ll be sending. (I know, never say never!)
I said I would write until we were re-gathered for worship. And hoping there’s no more lockdowns or need for any more of the extreme COVID precautions, we are now offering in-person worship each Sunday at 9 am (albeit masked, socially distanced and outdoors).There’s also online worship at 11 am.
One of you said you were disappointed that I wasn’t continuing…. That I should keep them coming until we are back in the Sanctuary together. If I had another couple of hours in every day, and more imagination!, I might keep writing them. I have enjoyed the opportunities to reflect daily. And I have been honored by how many of you kept up with them.
It wasn’t always easy coming up with a Fear Not. Sometimes our situations felt so scary, I wasn’t sure what to offer. But that push to find encouragement for our daily lives always felt right and good. Hopefully helpful too. I also liked the more frequent messaging (and readership) that allowed me to add pastoral notes of concern in the P.S.es.
So, leaving off penning the Fear Nots, I am going back to writing a weekly devotional piece in each Friday’s E-pistle. And trying now to catch up on in-person pastoral calls that I can make in most cases now.
But I want to ask for everyone’s help replacing a daily word from church…
Right now, we are about equal parts in-person and online (total attendance last week was about 100 — big for summertime — with a slight edge to the online crowd). It was only the first week, so I’m not sure how this will work out. But it seems we have some folks who are more interested right now in remaining online.
As I said in both worship services last week — in this part of our journey, where there’s some risk we end up more like two congregations — sticking together is going to take some intentionality and commitment. We already had the “see if you can see who you don’t see at church” tradition in online worship. Now we have a bigger mission field to “see who we can’t see.”
Think about who you aren’t seeing (even if they are worshiping each week in the other venue) and then reach out and get in contact with them… It doesn’t need to be a 45 minute conversation. For many, a quick text to make sure they are ok is all they need. I’m talking about replacing the 300+ recipients of the Fear Not with as many individual contacts! Sort of like companionship groups, but one on one!
One of the most incredible aspects of Old First’s COVID experience has been the deepening and multiplications of close relationships in our midst. I think that is going to turn out to be the long term reward we find in our sojourn apart / life together online. And I think we are going to have to figure out how to prompt, support and maintain that kind of closeness and intimacy.
But during that whole time, my Fear Not was also intended to make sure people at home felt touched, remembered, ministered to by the church. Now that I’m not sending them, could you all fill in any void left by no more Fear Nots? It’s just a call or a note, checking in, checking on folks…
Last week, our beloved Jim D. had disappeared. His sister in North Carolina called and asked me to go down to his house and make sure he wasn’t there in distress. He wasn’t. But later in the day, she called back. He turned up later over at Methodist Hospital. They were checking him out at 5 pm. She asked, could I pick him up and save the cost of an ambulette? It felt like a good pastoral use of time.
Checking on Jackie later (she was also in the hospital that week), I caught her up on Jim D. She responded, “We need someone to check in on certain folks each day.” That would be a great ministry actually. (If you are interested, let me know…) But we could head a good distance in that direction if we just reached out to one another more often. It’s especially necessary when we’re two worshiping congregations that can’t talk to each other (because in-person we limit interactions and because the two services don’t allow people to see those in the other service (although a handful of people actually went to church twice last Sunday!)
P.S. A flower from a cottage garden down the street from where I was staying in Northampton, MA. I liked the Dr. Seuss quality of the flower — all “Horton Hears a Who!” More importantly, I actually got four days off — my first real break in 16 months! Now I’m hungry for more!