Message from Pastor Paul
March 13, 2020
Dear Church Family,
It has been quite a week!
First and foremost, we received the news of the death of Mike Watts in Florida on Tuesday. Mike had a major heart attack several weeks ago and despite wonderful medical care and prayers for healing, he went home to be with the Lord! Keep Nancy, Tom, Ryan, and Erin in your prayers. Plans for a memorial service here in Michigan are pending so we can celebrate Mike’s life and express appreciation for his significant contributions to our life as a faith community.
Then on Thursday, following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency as well as community mitigation recommendations relating to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) emerging outbreak, the Rackham Choir made the decision to postpone their planned Sunday concert as part of Live! At the Lake. Plans regarding a possible rescheduled date and/or ticket refunds are still pending as well. We will pass along more information as we receive it.
Part of the Governor’s statement was a recommendation to consider postponing or cancelling any large group gatherings of 100+ people. Over the past 24-48 hours there has been a cascade of cancellations of a variety of events and activities in the educational, arts, entertainment, and sports arenas out of an abundance of caution. Schools will now be closed for an extended period of time by order of the Governor. Our Presbytery has recommended appropriate caution but left the decision of whether to continue with or cancel different church activities up to individual congregations. This is an extremely fluid situation where new developments are impacting decisions for schools, churches, and other organizations moment by moment.
At this time, after seeking input from members of the Session, we have decided to cancel all Sunday worship and education activities for Sunday March 15th. We are doing this out of an abundance of caution and erring on the side of safety. We have many older members, new cases of the virus are being reported daily, symptoms are often hidden for up to 14 days in someone who is a carrier, and even with precautions in place the only real protection is to limit interactions with larger groups. For us to continue to gather when so many others are choosing to follow the recommendations of health and government officials seems inappropriate and unwise. At this time, other smaller meetings and classes during the week will continue to take place, though the situation will be assessed daily as we go forward and updated as necessary. As of now, the church office will continue to follow normal hours during the week. Decisions about worship in the weeks ahead will be made as we move forward together.
I have asked Jennifer to post a copy of Sunday’s bulletin for anyone to use at home for a time of personal or family worship on Sunday. Linda and I are working to have her message for Sunday recorded and posted to our website and Facebook page so we can continue our Lenten journey of transformation. Many of you have copies of Jean Watson’s book and can continue each day to use these writings for your spiritual journey. Not being together in corporate worship is less than ideal, but given the unprecedented circumstances, we believe this is the best course to follow.
Of course, continue to follow all the precautions which have been widely communicated during this time: self-quarantine if you have symptoms such as fever, coughing, or shortness of breath (and communicate with your doctor about possible testing), wash and sanitize hands frequently, avoid large gatherings as much as possible, and keep apprised of new information and updates about events and activities.
Most of all, remember the most common imperative in the scriptures – “Do not be afraid!” Certainly as human beings we have some normal and natural degree of fear and anxiety when a new and unexpected situation breaks into our lives. But we also know that our God is with us and watching over us. When the disciples were caught in the storm on the Sea of Galilee and feared for their very lives, Jesus challenged them to have faith…to remember the he was with them in the storm-tossed boat…and that he would not leave them or forsake them. So to with us…Jesus is “in the boat” with us as these days unfold…he will not leave us or forsake us…and our prayers should be for our faith to be strong, for God’s presence and peace to be with us, for those who are ill to be healed, and for wisdom and strength and protection to be given to health care workers and those working around the world to control this virus that they might persevere and succeed.
Additionally, we would ask that you continue to offer your tithes and offerings either through the mail or by dropping them off during normal office hours during the week. We continue to appreciate and rely on the faithful giving of our members and friends to continue the ministry of Christ in this place. Also, please pass this information along to anyone you know who may not have access to email or electronic communications so they are aware of our plans at this time.