Dear members and friends of St. Paul’s:
Sometimes God puts things on our hearts. It’s been on my heart recently to try some new ways of reaching out to you.
During these days of the (ongoing) pandemic I’ve been putting lots of effort into writing and circulating sermons that I hope will bolster faith and teach the scriptures. I’ve also worked with church leadership to implement necessary changes and policies and made myself available for people in their time of need.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to maintain good contact with most of you through conversations at church, phone calls or email correspondence. Together we’ve been able to support and encourage one another through difficult days and carry on the work of God’s calling as we are able.
At the same time, my contact with some of you has been greatly diminished, since I don’t see you at worship or online, and because the pandemic has upset our normal rhythms and connections. This is concerning to me as your pastor and no doubt the reason God has been pushing me to reach out in new ways.
As a first effort, I am planning to contact, via email or phone, those I haven’t spoken to in a while. It is my hope that these contacts will lead to good conversations where we can catch up and talk about better ways of keeping connected. I assume (and in some cases know for sure) that some of you are not comfortable attending in-person services in the manner we are holding them. I’m guessing that others of you, however, have simply gotten out of the habit of worship or are perhaps questioning your continued involvement with us. Regardless of where you’re at, I hope to encourage you, hear your concerns, and work with you in finding good solutions for your spiritual needs. I ask that you please be open to my contact.
At our most recent Council meeting, I shared my plans for reaching out in this way. The members were very supportive and echoed my concerns. Together we talked about the sadness of knowing that the plans we have made these past months were seemingly not meeting everyone’s needs. The Council gave its blessing to this note and offered prayers for my efforts.
As for updates about the congregation, our weekly email announcements certainly tell part of the story and I ask that you read these each week. But there are other things to be aware of also. For instance, attendance at Sunday services is by no means what it was before Covid, but it has been increasing through the summer and seems to currently be at about 75% of previous levels. I am happy to report, as well, that we have welcomed and received a number of new members in the past year, including some through baptism. Our financial giving has been stable throughout this time and volunteers are stepping up to lead our ministry efforts. At the staffing level, we are saddened by the retirement of our dear Pastor Lehrer. But we are thankful for God’s provision through our other staff members – all of whom have made extra efforts to adapt and extend themselves since the Covid days began.
This fall, we will continue to hold worship services as we’ve been doing this summer – keeping the same times and safety protocols. And we will continue to livestream and record the 10:30 service. The Sunday School will meet every week starting Sept. 12, still outdoors for the time being. And we will add an adult
Bible Class on site during that time too (9:45-10:15). We are not currently making plans for an online study or fellowship time. But should enough people have a desire for one we could arrange it. Let us know if you’re interested.
I’d like to close this note by offering some words of encouragement to each of you, and I will do so by sharing words from St. Pauls’ first letter to the Thessalonians that have always spoken strongly to me.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 ESV)
Thank you for reading. And thank you for all the encouragement you’ve given me in these uncertain times. I ask that you continue to pray for my shepherding efforts and for the whole congregation as we live out our Gospel calling.
Yours in Christ,