This a letter I wrote to my church, to help us frame what’s coming our way…
Hello RC Family,
In light of all that is happening with the COVID-19 situation, I’m writing to loop everyone into what Redemption Church is doing to adjust. It’s a strange reality to acknowledge, but it seems likely the coming days will involve difficulty and challenge for our society and church. Our strength will be tested, but I have every confidence in the goodness of our ragamuffin church. We are going to stick together and look out for each other. We are also going to do everything we can do to care for our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. As I try to anticipate what’s headed our way I find that I am, as ever, overwhelmed with gratitude to be connected to such a deep source of friendship and support as Redemption Church. I love you guys, and I am so grateful to get to be your pastor. We can do this.
First and foremost, let us be reminded that neighboring is an essential aspect of the gospel. Part of what it means to be a Christian is to be a people who love our neighbors as ourselves. During this season we all need to be looking for ways to leverage our own strengths to help those around us who might be in need. Now is the time to be creative with our friendships. You might want to reach out to your neighbors. Maybe you could create a group text with folks on your block or apartment building, so you can stay in touch, communicate needs, and just encourage each other.
Also, you’re going to need your sense of humor. Don’t forget to feed joy and hope and laughter, and refuse to feed anxiety and fear and frustration. As Christians, we have access to a peace that defies circumstance, and its our gift to be able to share that with the world. I cannot imagine gearing up to go through this without Redemption Church. It has to be so scary to feel alone at a time like this. We all need to be looking for ways to extend our peace to others, and humor is a powerful way to to that. So, dust off your funniest memes, your encouraging words, your dad jokes, and and get ready to make people smile through the difficulties.
Of course, good neighboring means we want to find a way to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. At the same time, we want to balance this commitment to neighboring with our deep reverence for God, and for the centrality of the rhythms of Christian worship and mission. So, as long as health officials are not asking us to refrain, we still plan to gather for worship, to be reminded that life is more powerful than death, that love casts out fear, and that God will never leave us or forsake us. We hope to continue to engage with the marginalized in our community through our regular acts of mercy and justice. We want to balance our personal responsibility and neighboring, with our disciplines of weekly worship and mission. It is possible that we will have to suspend at some point, but for now we are going to keep meeting.
Toward that goal RC put a response plan in place a few weeks ago (read it here). We’ve been making adjustments as the situation develops, but for now our plan involves 3 levels of increasing concern, and our response to each eventuality. The first level has been triggered in the past 24 hours, as more cases have been reported in JoCo, and as public health officials are asking us to make concrete adjustments to the way we meet, in order to help combat the spread of the virus. The practical steps we all need to take will involve 1) taking personal responsibility for ourselves and 2) making important adjustments to our social practices when we gather. Relevant details include:
Public health officials are asking us to do some intentional social distancing, which is a way of “good neighboring” during a viral epidemic. The CDC website has good information about the virus, how it spreads, and what we can do to be responsible. They recommend:
- Washing hands often
- Avoiding close contact in public spaces
- Staying home if you are sick
- Covering coughs & sneezes
- Wearing a facemask if you are sick
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- Following the “when sick” CDC guidelines if you think you might be sick
RC Church Responses
Again, we’re trying to balance the need for social distancing, with our commitment to gather for worship and mission. So, we will need to make some adjustments to the way we gather:
- If you are sick or think you may be exposed to the virus, please stay home.
- If you are at risk or just feel uncomfortable attending, stay home & feel no guilt.
- Don’t shake hands; put a hand over your heart or touch elbows instead.
- We’ll put a little more distance in between chairs in our worship space.
- We’ll limit the number of toys in CM & disinfect thru the morning.
- We’ll disinfect surfaces & door handles thru the morning & the week.
- We’ll make hand sanitizer stations available throughout the building.
- Communion will be optional, and nobody should feel bad about refraining.
- Join our Private Facebook Group so we can share with each other confidentially.
- Send us your input & ideas so we can adjust our plans in the coming weeks.
Last thing. I know we talk about this all the time at RC, but it bears repeating. That the cross stands at the center of our faith, tells us that pain and suffering are not without meaning. In fact, we believe that they can serve a redemptive purpose. Not that we go looking for pain and suffering, it’s just that we don’t need to be afraid when pain and suffering come looking for us.
One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, termed this approach the stewardship of pain. I think that’s what we’re after. Often, when I find myself bristling against the bridle of pain, I remember of the words of one of my other favorite writers, Barbara Brown Taylor. She said, “Not to accept suffering as a normal, inevitable part of being alive seems like a big mistake, and finding ways to cover it up seems like choosing anesthesia. There is a sense in which …if I will trust that what comes to me in my life is for me and not against me… what I find is that it breaks my idols, that it breaks my isolation, that it challenges my sense of independence, it does all kinds of things for me that I would not willingly do that are for me, that are for my health.”
I hope we can all approach this next season with her words in mind. I pray that God will find us wise stewards of pain, and that the Spirit of God will guide us in that endeavor. I love you guys. I’m so glad to get to be your pastor.
Peace of Christ,
Tim Suttle – Redemption Church