May 21, 2020 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Greetings St. Paulians friends and family! Grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you! Thank you for joining me in our weekly update on the state of things with regard to our beloved church home and family.
In the letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, the author proclaims:
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
(and then continues speaking of gifts in verse 11)
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
“But each of us was given grace.” Each of us were given abundant gifts, abundant grace, unique and needed in the Body of Christ.
St. Paul’s is so blessed to have so many, many different gifts embodied in the diverse family of God that calls St. Paul’s home. As we seek to live into this new reality together, we need those wondrous gifts each of you holds more than ever. The planning team, meeting regularly and working diligently to guide us as a community, is seeking to create new ways for us to engage in ministry and mission together. Many times the administrative needs of the church take precedence over the ministry work because of the time table with administrative work—bills to pay, building needs to address. In this time of being church in new ways, it is imperative that our work of mission and ministry be our top priority. Therefore, we are developing clearly focused working teams to creatively dream, plan and implement adaptations to important ministries and to create new ministries.
These cooperative, action-oriented teams will seek ways to be in ministry utilizing the guidelines for safety and protection created by annual conferences, such as the Baltimore-Washington Conference and our own Upper New York Conference. The small planning team will oversee the formation and structure of our work together, but we will need all the wondrous gifts of our beloved church family to create community, engagement and ministry through these new avenues of grace. We will need people called to ministry in such ways as: worship-with music and technology and liturgy, with connections and engagement with children and youth, small groups and families, large events (carefully planned), with generosity, pastoral care and support ministries. And I’m sure as we work together, led and transformed by the Spirit, more creative ways to be a compassionate community will emerge. We need small, focused teams that can be nimble and adaptable in this ever-changing environment. One of the blessings of ministry in this time is that we can work from home, no commutes, and we can use many ways of communication—email, text, apps, phone calls, and online meetings. We will be sharing ways for you to participate within the next week.
Our wonderful chairperson of Trustees, Cynthia Lunine, has been working diligently over the last 6 weeks or so to research and compile information and resources. She is reaching out and calling together a building reopening team that will process all the guidelines and new requirements to create as safe a space as possible. As I noted last week, many churches, like our beloved church home, are older buildings with older ventilation systems, so we must be diligent. However, we are blessed with a large, wide-open sanctuary with several balconies, that will be a strength as we move toward larger gatherings. It will allow us to social distance for more people.
In yesterday’s daily briefing, Governor Cuomo did state that he was allowing church gatherings of ten or fewer people, with all the safety regulations in place. The planning team will look into outdoor opportunities for small groups in our next meeting, but at this time the building is not ready to safely welcome our wonderful family. Though we have sanitation stations in place, and more coming, masks and other supplies are slow to arrive and questions concerning proper ventilation for areas such as bathrooms have not been answered.
Even as we plan and prepare for in-person ministries, we will continue our online ministries, especially our live stream worship services. The church is entering quickly a new era where digital and in-person ministries are married together. Each week we are seeing several hundred logins for worship on our live stream, as well as many people joining through Facebook Live. St. Paul’s is truly drawing the circle wide, and wider still!