Beloved in Christ,
If you were in worship yesterday, you heard me announce that the suspension of our in-person public worship has been extended until July 1. This comes as a directive from the Bishop of New York, who writes: “[A] new target for re-opening our churches for worship can be no sooner than the end of June. Therefore, with this letter, I am directing that public worship in the Diocese of New York continue in suspension until July 1…We know that the beginning of a return to ordinary life will bring a new surge in cases of the virus, and we must do everything we can not to contribute to that, and everything we can to keep our people safe.”
The full text of his letter to our churches can be found by clicking here.
While I know it’s likely not a surprise to many of you that we’re still a ways away from being able to gather in a large group, I also know this is still hard news. Really hard news. It’s hard for me too. I love and miss all of you–miss seeing your faces, miss being together, miss having our voices join together in prayer and praise to God, miss all that goes along with real embodied fellowship and worship. The pain of separation and waiting can be hard to bear. At times, if I can be this candid, I’m really just sick of it. All that to say, if you’re feeling tired (or anxious or lonely or frustrated or sad), I’m with you.
It’s hard. But we’re in this together.
Let me also say two things going forward. The first, a harder word for some perspective. The second, some encouragement on the road ahead.
First, as much as we’d love for this crisis to be over now, we’re just not there yet. And, in all likelihood, there will be no swift road back. Until there are effective therapies to treat COVID-19, and a vaccine, any return to public worship will likely be staged and take place only under modified conditions. This is true for all churches, but especially true for us, given how small our worship space is. As much as we love our building, it restricts what we are able to do if we want our community to be truly safe. We will have unique challenges for social distancing as we consider our options ahead.
Given this, it’s more important than ever that we continue to follow the good guidelines offered by church and state officials. In the words of the poet Robert Frost, the “best way out is through.” As we find ourselves on the downside of the curve, and as spring starts to blossom outside our doors, we could be tempted to rush back to normalcy more quickly than is prudent. I urge you to fight back against this temptation. There are some aspects of what we face that we simply cannot sidestep. The best way to get us back together is to stay the course, and persevere. As I used to say to my athletes as a coach: “The most important thing is how you finish.” I believe that’s true for us now, as well.
Secondly, and with that said, let me also say this. You inspire me. Truly. I know you’ve heard me say time and time again this past year how lucky I feel to serve this church. I feel that now more than ever. It’s not quite right to describe this pandemic as part of a “honeymoon” experience. At the same time, I’ve never been more excited and energized for ministry, and never more grateful to God to be a small part of this amazing community.
And that’s all because of you. The way this community has rallied together in this time has been nothing short of remarkable. The way you’ve shown up to worship God. The way you’ve shown up to love your neighbor. The way you’ve prayed for each other, met one another’s needs, and given sacrificially for one another. The creativity, the leadership, the organization, the imagination, and the faithfulness with which you’ve faced new challenges. I could keep going like this for a while. Long story short, it’s been incredible to see.
I hope you all know what a gift we have in this place.
Seeing what I’ve seen so far, I have no doubt that we’ll get through this together. And that, when we come to the other side, we’ll be stronger than ever.