Let me begin by turning to the words of St. Paul as found in his letter to his home congregation, the church at Philippi. As you read these verses you will hear of Paul’s ache for the people from whom he is separated:
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,[a] for all of you share in God’s grace[b] with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.
We have been doing our best to worship as we are now apart. Multiple video recordings each week is a new thing for me and I really do feel a bit “imprisoned,” especially as I preach to a congregation outside the walls of our sanctuary. I eagerly check in to see how many households or individuals have viewed each service on our www.beavervalleylutheran.org website link to YouTube. I listen to some of my sermons and I can tell I miss the interaction with lots of souls listening. Lots of things are just not the same right now, and I need you to know that I know that that is true. Apart feels “less than” to me.
And, of course, we know that being together is best. But before we talk about the dream of full togetherness one day, let me also say that the Holy Spirit is a powerful uniting force that is very much at work in our congregation as I sit distanced from you. St. Paul’s ache for his small, faithful congregation solicited from him words of admiration for and blessing upon the very people that he missed. They were capable of the “good work” to which they were called. I want to say the same to you: grow in your love of the ones close to you. See what help your neighbors need. Pray for me as I pray for you.
Now, together is coming. Twice in the month of May we carefully met outdoors, a “sorta” togetherness that really felt good to many. No shaking hands. No sitting too close. But a chance to wave a hand and see scores of others that hadn’t been seen in a long time.
The Church Council at its May meeting decided to not meet in the sanctuary at least for the month of June. Indoor worship really is posing too many health risks at this time. If we could spread out and keep eight to ten feet away from the next worshipper, we could consider being back indoors, but the architecture of our sanctuary does not allow for that. Which means that weekend worship will continue to be pre-recorded and available online and on Alliance television.
However, the blessing of having built an outdoor Pavilion with our Beaver Valley Alive prayers and commitments is soon to be realized. Beginning on Wednesday evening, June 3, at 7:00 p.m. we will begin our summer worship schedule, together outdoors. This outdoor venue allows us to count on the health benefits of fresh winds blowing and plenty of space for proper distancing.
As well, during all of the Wednesday night services in June, we will celebrate Holy Communion. There are safe ways to self-serve for the comfort of all.
So, here we are, still apart in some very real ways. But, here we are also starting to find ways to be back together to receive the living word; to share in the prayers of the church; to just enjoy the company of others through whom the mutual consolation of the saints has always happened.
Thanking God every time I remember you,
Pastor Greg Johnson
Mid-summer Sunday Morning
The decision was made by the council to keep our mid-summer gathering to something simple this historic summer. So, on Sunday, June 21, AT 10:30 A.M. we will have an outdoor Chapel service back at the Pavilion. After this half hour chapel is over, families can go back to their cars and get their picnic baskets. Since corporate dining/meal serving is of concern to many, we will encourage picnicking this summer. We are on the hunt for some musical entertainment so that we enjoy our music and lunch at the same time. We will eat at our picnic tables and on the blankets that the younger ones will need to bring!