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Congregational Worship Services Suspended

Dear God,

     Come on, admit it God.  Haven’t you once, just once, prayed for a “snow day”? 

     Remember when you were a kid (Well, maybe all the human analogies aren’t a one-to-one fit with you).  Anyway, I remember when I was a kid and we prayed for a snow day.  It would begin to flurry and our hearts would beat.  We’d listen to the forecast with hawk-like intensity, listening to the simple words, “There’s a possibility of …”  Then we’d head off to bed, confident that Mom wouldn’t be waking us at our normal time since we’d be snowed in and school would be, without doubt, called off (perhaps for days!?!)…only to hear her call up the stairs, “Kid’s, get moving or you’ll miss the bus!” 

     Truth be told, I’m sure there are at least a few adults who would say that for a Sunday.  Even the most tried and true and faithful church member enjoys sleeping in on a Sunday here or there.

     In January I’ll have been at the helm of a church for 40 years.  I think I can count on both hands how seldom church has been canceled: always for snow or ice.  In Monticello, WI we considered canceling service one week because the farmer across the road (who apparently had an on-going feud with one of the farm families in our church over the price of rented land) would spread liquid manure on his field on Saturday…rendering the church almost uninhabitable for Sunday morning because of the stench.  I can remember more than a couple eye-watering church services where the sermon was shorter than usual.  However, church just doesn’t get canceled very often.

     But here we are.  No Church.  Somebody’s prayers were answered, big time!

     Interestingly, by not meeting for church we are living out the hallmark of our United Church of Christ denomination: the hallmark of Covenant. The UCC isn’t based on legality, it’s based on a choice to be in covenant with one another to experience your love, God, and share that love with the world around us.   We don’t have a ruling body that hands down decrees that must be followed…which sometimes comes with a degree of orderly chaos.  Instead, our Old Stone Church, along with all the other congregations in our great denomination, make a choice to listen for your Living Word among us and stay together, in our sameness and our differences, to serve Jesus Christ as his people.  We don’t Have to…We Choose to.

     That’s what our church is doing right now.  We are making a covenant with our world and country to do all we can to defeat the spread of this COVID-19 virus.  We are choosing not to worship because science would tell us that by not gathering in our customary worship we are, in fact, putting others ahead of what we might want to do individually.  I would rather be in church and see my friends and be inspired, but I’ll set that aside to live in covenant with all people in my country and all others.

     In a strange way, choosing not to worship is a worship-full action in this moment in time.  Our primary covenant is with you, but it’s also with humanity and creation.  I’d rather be in church to listen to the challenges of scripture than be on my own.   However, our church will stand and prosper in and through this crisis if we consider the sacrifices of this day as just one moment in time: a sacrifice we willingly make in order to love your world, Lord.  For this moment in time our covenant is to live for the safety of one another. 

      As always, thanks for listening.  I love you.


Pastoral Pondering #2 April 2020