I was grateful to hear the news this week that the US is “out of the pandemic phase.” Public health and infectious disease experts have downgraded Covid-19 in the US basically from “full-blown pandemic” to “controlled pandemic.” There are fewer infections each day, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer deaths. This is good news - great news!
At the same time, in the past 24 hours, I have communicated with three members of our congregation who have either just tested positive for or are recovering from Covid-19. Their symptoms are relatively mild, but Covid is still not a walk in the park. Even though things are looking better, it’s clear that we aren’t completely out of the woods.
I know that everyone is ready to just move on from Covid-19. The very idea of even hearing about Covid-19 makes some people roll their eyes. But I do not want to let this “end of pandemic phase” end without saying a few things about how the pandemic impacted BPC and the ways we weathered the pandemic with help from the Holy Spirit.
Way back in March of 2020, when the Session voted to close the church building for public safety reasons, it was clear that something big was taking place in the life of the world - bigger than just about anything any of us had ever lived through. We received news fairly early on of several parents and grandparents of our members dying from Covid-19 and heard news of overrun hospitals and refrigerator trucks filled with bodies. Nobody was sure exactly what to do when it came to wearing masks or buying toilet paper. BPC’s newly-appointed Covid-19 Task Force (Fran Bader, Jill Pennington, Susan Reese, Matt Studham, and Andrew Wu) helped to put safe practices in place for use of the building, using the most up-to-date data and recommended procedures. Marcia Morgan, Mark Murai, and Michael Chen spearheaded getting our services online (with help from others). Members of our Deacons reached out to people in our church family - delivering palm branches for that first Palm Sunday of the pandemic and staying connected. The church committees, our Sunday School, and other groups discovered how to use Zoom and YouTube for meetings, discussions, and educational opportunities. And then we settled in for the long haul.
Thankfully, in the spring of 2021, we were able to welcome small numbers of people back into the sanctuary (remember signing up online to attend worship?). In the summer of 2021, we welcomed everyone back with a masking requirement and physical distancing (remember those taped-off pews?). In the fall, the Session voted to fully open the church building for meetings and worship, but still require masks.
All in all, throughout the pandemic, the leaders of our congregation sought to walk the difficult line between cautious and welcoming. We did not always get everything right, but feel that we had the overall well-being of our church family at the forefront of our minds. I believe that this firm, but moderate approach to the pandemic helped to keep us healthier as a church - maybe even saving some lives in the process.
When I left on my Sabbatical back in January, the Omicron variant was causing a surge in cases across the country and around the world. My family and I spent a week and a half at home with Covid-19 back in February (we think our son may have brought it home from preschool). Thankfully, our Covid-19 battle was far easier than it has been for other people. Being fully vaccinated and boosted AND recovering from Covid-19 made both my wife and I a little less anxious about the pandemic, but we still didn’t want to be reckless. When we returned to BPC at the end of March, the Session had already made the decision to relax the masking requirement in the building. I must admit that it felt strange to not wear a mask at church after all that time, but it sure was good to see people’s faces.
Through the whole pandemic, your Elders and Deacons, your Clerk of Session, the Covid-19 Task Force, our technical volunteers, and the church staff (Michelle Jones, Barb Flocco, Beth Evarts, and Kenny Gardner) have provided excellent leadership and continuity. I am so proud of all of them and so thankful for all of them. Also, our Stewardship and Finance Committee led us through two very successful stewardship campaigns which have put us on firm financial footing, thanks to your generosity.
We would not be where we are as a church because of the Holy Spirit’s work through so many of you and I could not be more thankful! Remember, though: we are not out of the woods yet! Some members of our church family are - for good reason - still being very cautious when it comes to gathering with other people (wearing masks in church, staying home and watching our services online, etc.). I want to make sure that we are still being sensitive to their needs and continuing to work so that we can welcome all people to fully take part in church life.
Where do we go from here? In the coming months, we will be spending some time as a congregation talking about our vision for the future, doing some surveys of our membership and the surrounding community, and the Session will be prioritizing areas of focus when it comes to our educational and missional life.
The Spirit is on the move here at BPC and it is important for us to pay attention, but I wanted to take a moment to look back. Sometimes it is hard to see God at work in the moment, but when we look back, we see Holy fingerprints all over everything we’ve been through. I am thankful to be a witness to the Holy at work in and through each of you.
See you in church!
Grace and Peace,
Prepare for Worship
This Week: “Seeing the Light (One Damascus Road Moment at a Time)”
- Read Acts 9:1-20
- Read Psalm 30
- Read or sing Hymn # 252 - "Day of Arising"