Our monthly newsletter, “The Outlook”, has been occasional at best throughout the Pandemic. It’s not that we haven’t been communicating or staying connected, we have just been accessing different formats to do so. Besides virtual Sunday Morning Worship, daily livestreams on Windows Into St. Luke’s Facebook Group and Text in Church have been providing updates, information and connection. This seemed to be a preferable plan as things around us were changing so rapidly going into the Pandemic. In fact, a better name for a newsletter in the early days of the Pandemic might have been “Look Out!” instead of “The Outlook”. We have spent months literally “looking out” for what was coming; “looking out” for the well-being of our family, congregation and community. We have been “looking out” for ways to best fulfill our mission of making God’s abiding presence of love, hope and comfort known. We have kept a keen watch on the ways Covid-19 was impacting our lives, the lives of those we love and those who are unknown to us.
Present conditions suggest it may be time for an update which is focused on the “Outlook” for St. Luke’s. The most asked questions being heard these days has to do with the “Outlook” for when we might resume in-person gathering. Faith gatherings have consistently remained among the high-risk activities during the Pandemic. This is due to the practices traditionally associated with worship. Gathering for extended periods, personal contact of shaking hands or hugs, singing, etc. As ingrained as these practices may be, we at least have some control over them as we begin to think about the safety of re-gathering.
Not so easily influenced is the lingering risk of infection. Experience has proven that
certain protocols, such as social distancing and face masks, have provided increased protection. In recent weeks and months, vaccinations have become available that also offer hope of reducing severity of symptoms of Covid-19. By now, everyone who chooses to receive vaccination for Covid-19 (except children) has had opportunity to do so.
Over the past month, the Church Council has met weekly to discuss the “Outlook” of the possibility of in-person worship. The focus has been on both adapting the practices of worship and how to mitigate the on-going risk of infection. Good progress has been made in what has been open and helpful dialogue in these meeting. It is acknowledged that personal comfort zones differ between individuals. It is also acknowledged pre-existing conditions influence the level of risk that individuals may encounter safely.
The approach has been focused on the meaningful elements of our shared life together and how to practice our faith in the safest way while respecting needs and regards for everyone in the congregation and community. The details of the Covid-19 Protocol for Regathering will be shared as soon as they are compiled, reviewed and approved by the Council.
In general, the “Outlook” is that Sunday Worship Service will continue to be available virtually on Facebook and YouTube even once in-person gathering resumes. This will allow those with concerns as well as those who have become part of the St. Luke’s online community to continue to worship virtually.
It is also to be understood that resuming in-person gathering will continue to be assessed and adapted as the “Outlook” of the Pandemic continues to indicate need for changes. Hopefully, that will be loosening restrictions over time but would also include returning to completely virtual worship if that becomes necessary.
Spiritually speaking, the “Outlook” for St. Luke’s is promising. We are a congregation who has made difficult decisions and cared deeply for one another and have been willing to sacrifice for one another. St. Luke’s has thrived during the difficult days of the Pandemic. Our connection to our faith, to God, and to one another remains strong. Financial support has been generous and consistent, making it possible for our congregation’s mission to faithfully continue. Undoubtedly, we will emerge from the Pandemic a stronger, a more connected and vital congregation.
I want to thank each and every member who has patiently endured the pro-longed and unprecedented challenges we have faced together as a congregation. Covid-19 has presented each of us with unique but equally harsh burdens. Typically, these challenges would have been shared by our gathering together to support one another. We have proven that ours is a bond and connection that reaches across distances. This is a bond we look forward to celebrating again in-person as soon as is possible. I also want to thank the members of the Council who have been focused on the mission and the well-being of our congregation and community. It has been a difficult task but, with the guidance of the Spirit and the support and continued prayer of the congregation, the “Outlook” offers hope and a bright future--