March 19, 2020
Grace Reformed Pres. Family,
Hello, this is Pastor Stan. I am writing this on Thursday as I sit at the desk here at church. This is my first written communication as interim pastor. Unfortunately this one may be a little too long. But I must first honestly say…”WOW!!!” What an amazing spring we have before us here in 2020!
The present coronavirus pandemic that we, the nation and the entire world are experiencing is something unlike anything I have seen in my 66 years. Every household in this nation has been impacted. All our normal patterns and routines are put on hold. Only those few people who have memories of World War 2 have been through something like this. And they are now in their 90’s. It is no accident that the president is using the language of warfare in this battle against this pandemic. It is ironic that during one of the most divided times in our nation’s history we are all called upon to unite around this common threat. It is a blessing that in our day we have easily accessible information so that we know what needs to be done to curtail this pandemic being as devastating as some in the past.
I hope you have stayed on top of the health and safety information from reliable sources. I will not repeat what you have been hearing over and over again. If you are like me there is more than enough information. We need to do those simple things…wash your hands, apply social distancing religiously, etc.
During this national crisis the one thing that we need to know is that there is stability in our faith community. Jesus reigns and the church, Grace church, is still His. The gates of hell cannot prevail against Jesus and His people! The good news is still very, very good news!! As people of faith we have the responsibility to respond not as members of the city, the state, the nation, the world. We are ultimately citizens of the kingdom of God. The things we want to begin seeing such as a church evaluation, a solidification of our purposes and mission, a search committee, etc., these are all put on hold for a bit as we seek to be faithful hour by hour, day by day, week to week, to what we already know God has called us to be.
I have only been here as interim pastor for 2 months. I am still getting to know you and vice versa. Yet be assured that I, along with the session and the staff, are aware of your concerns, anxieties, fears, questions. Be assured that I will personally be giving extra focus to the Grace congregation during this season before us…more time and attention than we had anticipated. The staff (Eric, Joan, Bethany and I) and the elders and deacons, want to help Grace church not only get through this great crisis but grow in the many ways that the Lord wants us to grow. Thinking of the need to grow during these days, I have been reflecting upon the Grace mission and vision statement:
Our church exists to help people know God’s Son, fellowship with God’s people, worship in God’s church, grow in God’s grace and serve in God’s world.
I will be coming back to this statement fairly regularly in our encouragements but let me just say a little bit about each portion here and then I will be done for this week:
Our church (Grace RPC) exists…
❖ to help people know God’s Son
This is why we will be encouraging you to connect on Sundays digitally, to have personal devotions of prayer bible reading and worship and to gather as families to worship. Jesus needs to be front and center of our thought and in our hearts these days. We need to help keep one another centered on Him. Family devotions? Maybe that is something you need to start, or restart. I know for us a restart is in order. When our kids got older family table devotions fizzled from our experience. It is time to hit the reset
❖ to fellowship with God’s people
Social distancing cannot mean that we should not at least have contact with the body of Christ. We are privileged to live in a day when it is easy with a smartphone or computer to connect with others we urge you to not be a lone ranger. We need each other now more than ever. Folk get discouraged. Folk go crazy when isolated. (Yes, I do realize that some of you actually love and prefer isolation. But that is a different problem.) We are commanded to encourage one another. Why? Because we all need to be encouraged.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The session has begun to communicate regularly with the congregation more frequently. It is our intention to send 2 midweek emails out. Look for one on Tuesdays and another on Thursdays. We want these to be not only informational but inspirational. Informing you of things you need to know from the church leadership and congregation, and inspiring you that the church, though scattered, is still the church. We strongly encourage you to utilize visual media for prayer meetings, youth group, and other types of gatherings. Social distancing does not mean we can’t connect through digital media. In fact I believe it demands that we do. Let us know of your needs please.
❖ to worship in God’s church
As has been communicated earlier this week we plan to continue with our Lord’s Day worship through the usage of Facebook Live. If you are not online let us know. But the elders and staff are already thinking of alternate ways for you to access the service if you are not digitally connected. We have already begun to use digital platforms for meetings of the session and worship team. The elders and staff have been prepping for this Sunday’s Facebook Live experience. It should hopefully be even better than last Sunday where we understand over 200 people have accessed it. Our plan is that each Thursday you will be sent the bulletin for the next Lord’s Days service in your email inbox.
We are seeking to continue to make Lord’s Day worship a meaningful experience. What we do on Sundays for a while will not be as long as normal and it won’t have as much music as we normally would have. But it will still be the family of GRPC together around our Lord in covenant worship together even if we are not in the same room together. Reminder: When we see the family of God, covenanted together, experiencing together
the things of God in the name of Jesus, you have the church, whether live or virtually through a computer, tablet or smartphone! The church building is where the people of God normally gather. But the building is NOT the “church.”
❖ to grow in God’s grace
We plan to continue looking at the Gospel of John so that we might see Jesus and his comfort for us during troubled times. It is only as we live in grace that we will be able to have patience and compassion for one another during this season. Our theology reminds us that we all have remaining sin in our lives. We, the saints of God, are simply sinners who are saved by grace. As sinners we still can very easily irritate and bother one another. I know that as families spend extraordinary time together there is always the potential for great memories as well as great conflicts. (It is kind of like going away on a vacation.) What is it that makes the memories of time with people pleasant? It is the grace of Jesus in each of our lives. Add to that the financial stress of these days…well, there is potential for great personal conflict. But there is also the potential for God’s grace to shine more brightly!
❖ to serve in God’s world.
During this crisis each one of us needs to see beyond our fence. We need to remember the neighbors around us who have little hope. We will be living reminders of ways that we can connect with the community and friends during this season. The opportunity to let the love of Christ shine has never been greater in my humble opinion.
Well those are my thoughts, Grace RPC. During these very unique days my simple challenge and encouragement is LET US BE THE CHURCH!!!