March 11, 2021
I remember, as well as you, these days of a year ago. Ken and I were all packed and ready to fly on a trip to Indonesia and Thailand with Global Ministries. The trip was canceled on March 1st, the day prior to our flights.
On March 5, the Governor of Maryland declared a state of catastrophic health emergency. At that time, there were to be no public gatherings of 250 or more. But it did not pertain to religious gatherings. So we planned to hold services on the 15th acknowledging the state of emergency our safety protocols.
In my Thursday Thoughts on March 12th, I wrote, “ We know, that the church community is a place of encouragement and refuge. When there are so many things in the world causing concern and anxiety, the church is the place where many of us come to find meaning and understanding.” I followed those words and information about our cleaning practices with words we have repeated over and over in this past year, “With all that being said, please use your judgment as to whether you feel comfortable coming to worship. Remember that you can watch the service online.”
I remember three days of sleepless nights, agonizing over whether we really could be open or not. Other congregations were closing and it seemed imminent that increased limitations for gatherings would soon be imposed.
March 15th, about 40 of us gathered in the sanctuary for what we knew would be our last in-person service for a while. Several members were interviewed by the Frederick Newspost that day. Colleen Baldree commented, “There’s so much chaos and concern and fear that has just bene growing and growing that I needed a grounding experience. We needed to show support for one another but also just to be able to be reminded to not give in to the fear but to be reminded to rely on God and that we will be taken care of.” Jenna Duranko commented, “In this time of chaos, honestly, church is definitely one of those places where people find comfort.”
As I look back on the past year, we, as a congregation, made a commitment to be the church. Being the church did not rest solely on our ability to worship in the sanctuary or being physically present with each other in Bible study, Sunday School, and fellowship times. We have been reminded over this past year that we are the church, no matter where we are.
Like many of you, I am still processing what we have experienced and learned over the past year. Not just with the pandemic but also the other forces in our society that have shaped our lives – a volatile political climate and a renewed awareness of how many black people are killed on our streets and too often at the hands of those who have promised to protect us.
Yet, as Colleen and Jenna said, our faith and the church commuhnit6y has provided us with a grounding for dealing with the chaos of these days. And the church will be there in the days ahead.
P.S. Here’s a great article from The Atlantic that Jacqueline Messner shared with me that captures the essence of the grief we have experienced in the past year.
Worship Notes: Fourth Sunday in Lent One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday
Isaiah 49:8–12 articulates a stunning vision for a world of justice and equity; a world where everyone has enough, and all live in safety and abundance. It is also a vision for a world of interconnectedness. In this vision, what is good for you is also good for your neighbor; what is good for one country is good for the whole world; and what harms any one of us harms us all.
This morning we will be receiving our One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
Food for Thought:
“As it turns out, lines on a map don’t stop the spread of disease; a pandemic does not recognize human-made boundaries. Whether we like it or not, our lives are deeply intertwined. Our well-being is bound, inextricably, to that of neighbors close to home, and those halfway around the world.” (From the One Great Hour of Sharing resources material.)
Rev. Dr. Barbara Kershner Daniel, Senior Pastor
Evangelical Reformed Church, United Church of Christ
15 West Church Street, Frederick, MD 21701