The prophet Isaiah spoke these words from God to the people, from the 58th chapter:
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
God responds through Isaiah to a people who are ‘going through the motions” of worship in excellent style, but who have not allowed worship and praise to seep into their everyday lives. The talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk.
I hope and pray you were able to spend time with the Wednesday devotion recording for June 10, 2020. It features a short sermon (6 minutes) by Rev. Tracy Blackmon from the United Church of Christ. It is an opportunity to listen to an African American preacher speak to the ways for the church to combat racism and other forms of oppression. Please be sure to check it out. It is on our YouTube page and linked in our Friday email, June 12th.
I am working with staff and some of our members to form spiritually rich learning opportunities regarding racism, white privilege and implicit bias. I will be launching a 6 week curriculum entitled Imagine No Racism, which was written for and by our own Upper NY Conference. It is designed to help us learn so that we may act in dismantling racism. I am hoping to hold our first session on June 29th via zoom. There are two books I am inviting us all to engage with over the summer. The first is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. The second is a novel entitled Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Heale Hurston. Some of the discussion groups for these books may come together outdoors, with all wearing masks and six feet apart.
On Saturday, June 6th, Governor Cuomo moved gathering restrictions from 10 people to 25% of the sanctuary capacity for churches. This is a hopeful sign and I know some of you are eager to be in our beloved sanctuary for worship. What wasn’t clear in the governor’s announcement was the 10 pages of state government requirements and recommended best practices that all churches must comply with, and the required submission of a safety plan to the state. Latest research indicates that the highest risk is person-to-person contact for 20 minutes or longer. This does not mean that it isn’t possible to catch the virus in shorter contact or from surfaces, just that the greatest risk is spending time with another person—which is what we do in worship. We spend an hour in a room, next to others; sitting…singing. Singing poses a huge risk. We have an excellent team working to bring us together slowly with the least amount of risk possible.
Our first opportunity to come into our beloved sanctuary for worship will be short Communion services of approximately 20 minutes for 10 people at a time. These services will be by reservation, and we will have the registration form in next week’s email, and on our website. We will offer 2 services on Sunday afternoon, June 21st, 2 on that Monday, and 2 on Wednesday. Pastor Debbie and I will take turns leading the service. All Communion elements are prepackaged and sealed—juice and wafer. We will be sharing all details very soon, including a little video on what to expect. Those who do not feel they can attend at this time may request blessed Communion elements, to be picked up on the parsonage porch or dropped off at your home, if possible. The blessed elements will come with a worship card to guide you in creating a worship experience in your home.
We long to be together in body as well as spirit, but we must make sure we do so in ways that protect, love and care for one another. This means we must wear masks correctly at all times in the building. We must maintain the six feet social distancing in all directions, and we must wash and sanitize our hands. This is what it means in our current reality to be ‘a compassionate community led and transformed by the Spirit.’
Let us hold our staff and church leaders in prayer as they attend to all the details needed to bring us safely together.
Grace and peace be with you all!