Dear St. Peter’s Family,
It’s hard to believe that more than 5 months have passed since I sent out the email on March 14 informing you that we were canceling in-person worship on the 15th out of “an abundance of love” and taking everything online. I remember being so torn about what to do that weekend, what conflicting information to pay attention to, who to listen to when everyone seemed completely taken off guard and uncertain about how to respond.
However, when I thought about it from that frame of love, the decision became clear. By canceling, we were loving each other by protecting each other out of an abundance of love, particularly those most vulnerable among us, and doing our part to help “flatten the curve.”
Who knew then what was to come in the days ahead? Thousands of deaths, staggering job loss, hospitals like war zones, the socio-economic disparities becoming that much more apparent, boundaries between work, school and home disappearing, navigating life transitions like marriages, births, deaths, graduations, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the aftermath, the world waking up in a new way to the realities of racism and white supremacy.
Grief, loss, fear, anger have not been the only realities. There has also been surprising grace. Solidarity with our black brothers and sisters around the globe. Gratitude for those we took for granted previously, clapping and cheering our thanks every night at 7 pm. Sacrifice and courage, supporting each other, whether through prayer, food, practical support, grieving our losses and celebrating new life together. Connections made online that might never have happened otherwise. Even times of laughter, beauty and joy.
The crisis is far from over. The realities I’ve named here are still realities. The future is still uncertain. But one thing is clear: no matter what happens, we are better off when we do things out of an abundance of love rather than out of fear and anxiety.
For this reason, we have decided to continue with Morning Prayer online for our Sunday services this fall. While not ideal, we’ve created something special online. Our primary worship gathering is something that we can all participate in together. It is difficult to imagine splitting our beloved little community up right now between those who can meet in person and those who can’t. There is a sense of solidarity when we are all online together.
Additionally, our new Interim Operations Manager, Brenna Case, is convening a task force that is looking at what it would take to reopen our buildings safely for in-person gathering. The virus is not going away anytime soon. We are in this for the long haul. An abundance of love calls for taking care rather than rushing back before we are ready.
Timelines are arbitrary at this point but we are keeping the beginning of the church calendar, which starts on November 29, the first week of Advent, as a potential marker for holding in person services. We hold all of this loosely depending on what unfolds in the weeks and months ahead. We will experiment with a few in person opportunities which we’ll let you know about soon as we finalize the schedule for the fall.
It has been a challenging season but mostly I am so thankful for how God’s grace has sustained us these past 5 months and for all of you. I have been buoyed by your commitment, your prayers, your generosity, your vulnerability, your encouragement, your humor. When I arrived at St. Peter’s on October 1 last year with Lisha and the crew from All Angels’, I would have never dreamed of something like this happening our first year, and that the number of months we’ve been together online would extend longer than the time we’ve had together in person.
Seeing Norma and hearing that familiar voice sing “There's a Voice Crying in the Wilderness”
during one of our early livestreams lifted our spirits!
That first month, I preached from Matthew 14, the story of Peter stepping out of the boat to be with Jesus on the water. I said back then that this was a guiding narrative for us as a church in this new season together. That is just as true today as it was then. These are unchartered waters that our world is navigating. The wind and the waves are real and it’s frightening.
That is why now more than ever, this is a time collectively to fix our eyes on Jesus, to reach out our hand to him, to each other and to our hurting world, especially when we are afraid and overwhelmed, and know that it is his power and love that will uphold us and sustain us in the storm. God is with us. We are resilient. We have never stopped being the church and we remain prayerful, hopeful, connected.
My love and prayers are with you.