We are living in trying times. The way we respond, or fail to respond, as the Body of Christ will be a testimony of who we are as the Church and of the love of Jesus. Currently, we are at the beginning of a pandemic. More so, as I write this letter, I am aware that in a week it takes to mail, the situation will have changed – most likely for the worse. And yet, I believe we are in God’s hands, that we are called to faithful representation of Jesus, and that we are to commit ourselves to helping the most vulnerable – and in doing so witness God’s love and a Savior that overcame death on our behalf. If you are struggling for a response to COVID19, I suggest you read the Gospel of Luke (who according to church lore was a physician) and look towards the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus as well as the witness of the disciples.
I encourage you also to look into the Antonine Plague (185AD) and the Plague of Cyprian (250AD) which were devastating for the people of their day; it also was a time when the Christian Church spoke the gospel and the resurrection, and lived it in the way that they cared for the sick and the dying. When everyone else was panicking, Christians steeled themselves with the gospel and responded. They became the church Jesus calls us to be. Therefore, in response to COVID19, and as a church of Jesus Christ, we are adopting five key commitments as we live out the gospel: caring for our communities and neighbors, caring for our caregivers, caring for our church members, caring for the sick and grieving, and praising God through all things.
- Caring for our communities and neighbors is essential to the ministry of Jesus Christ. James 2:14-19 directs the church to not only pray for people’s daily needs but to respond. As a church leader, I believe in “boulders” and “backpacks.” In life, we each have a backpack. These are the responsibilities and financial obligations we are to shoulder ourselves. We carry these ourselves. There are also boulders in life, things that are way bigger than us and beyond our control. COVID19 is a boulder. We are already hearing of hardworking folks being laid-off or working reduced hours.
We are therefore using our Helping Hands Fund according to the Helping Hand’s Fund Guidelines to assist anyone in financial need at this time. More so, council and I have passed a motion to use offerings for the next month towards Helping Hands if needed. We have a scriptural obligation to be a church that prays as well as tangibly cares for our neighbor. If you know anyone who has been laid-off or could use the help, we as a church are committed to being church for you.
More so, we are recruiting volunteers from our church who are willing to run errands (groceries, meds, and basic needs) for those who are most at-risk from COVID19 for anyone in our communities. If you would be willing, call the church office. We are also calling on our church family to double down our efforts to help the Food Bank especially since they have been slammed lately. Liquid soap, and dried or canned fruit, but also anything you can purchase/spare. Drop items off in the Narthex and we will get them to the community Food Banks.
- We will care for and support our caregivers including healthcare workers. Currently we are making prayer cards for our caregivers and our medical staff so that when the going gets rough, they have a tangible reminder that God is with them. Long hours may await them and as a church we are committed to walking with them and praying for them. We are therefore forming a dedicated prayer team that prays for our caregivers by name daily. If would be willing to pray for medical staff through this crisis, we are forming a team. Contact the church office.
We are also encouraging our church to drop-off brownies or popcorn or other goodies to the hospital every Wednesday to show that we as a church are behind them. Leave a note from your friends at North Branch that we are behind them! If they need anything from a catered meal to childcare, we will find ways to support them! Sign-up for a particular Wednesday by contacting the church office, or just surprise them.
- We will continue to care for our church members. One of the hardest pieces for us as a church community is the separation and isolation that we can be feeling; especially for those who are isolated alone. We are therefore starting a new “Passing-of-the-Peace Plan” This Sunday, (March 29) after you watch worship, please call or text the person directly below you in the church directory. Send them greetings and just check in on them. On Monday, if you haven’t heard from the person who was supposed to reach out to you, call them to check on them. The next Sunday, we will do two down, and then the next Sunday, three down, and so on. This way, we get to call or text one to two families every week to care for them. Again, start this plan Sunday, March 29th, or as soon as you read this.
More so, we are pairing our shut-ins with a church friend who will regularly check in on them from a distance. If you would be willing to make a regular phone call for one of our elders, please reach out to the church office. In this time of anxiety and disruption, I am willing to meet anyone for pastoral care out on the church lawn. We have placed two lawn chairs six feet apart for face-to-face conversation. As always, I can be reached at 269-4180. We can also talk “face-to-face” over the web.
- We are committing ourselves to caring for the sick and the grieving. Currently, we are putting together quarantine kits for those of us who will have to separate and isolate as this virus spreads. If you would be willing to help assemble them, or have items that could bring comfort or stave off boredom for families that have to isolate, please reach out to the church office. This could also look like get-well cards made by our little ones if you are looking for an at-home project.
We are also putting together a dedicated prayer team for those who are diagnosed or who are living in fear of COVID19. Additionally, we are looking for people willing to run errands should an entire family have to be isolated. Lastly, I recognize that sometimes it is a comfort to have someone come and pray with you when you are sick. We are looking into ways that I might be able to make Pastoral Visits that respect CDC guidelines if you are diagnosed. Sometimes it’s just good to have someone come pray!
- We will praise God in and through all things! We are the church together even when we can’t gather in the same building, we get to pray and to praise God in all things. As a church we are offering worship each Sunday and Wednesday online, and the videos can be found on our Facebook website. We are exploring alternative ways to offer worship including exploring radio broadcasting so that we can host a drive-in-movie-theater style worship with everyone safely in their own vehicles. We are looking into our ability to prerecord services and mail them out by DVD. We are finding a way to do communion together, because especially now, we could use Christ tangible touchable presence with us.
We are considering online Bible Studies and I have had a few recommended to me so that we can continue to grow in faith. We will resume our regular Tuesday night Bible study after Easter at 7pm and find a way to host it over the web. If you would like to join that group for Bible Study, be sure to reach out to the church office.
More so, consider giving generously if you are in a position to do so. We are adamant about first helping those who are in crisis because of COVID19 and the only reason we are able to do so is because of the generosity and foresight of those who established the emergency fund and our endowment fund. If you would like to make a large gift to our endowment fund, please reach out to the church office. This is a way to give praise to God and to support the ministry of this church for generations to come. It also is the reason that we can care for our neighbors in these hard times. How we respond to this crisis is a testament to who we are as the church of Jesus.
Some of these may speak to you more than others – pick one or two that fit your gifts and your heart and call the office or sign-up on the Google doc on our Facebook page. (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gsfG6C_tM7Y91oOLDoDUVk8_0r3DWe1jN9zhAaDzx9M/edit?usp=sharing)
We are the church together. We have a call and a mission. How we respond or fail to respond to this pandemic will be how Christ’s church is seen by generations to come. May Jesus be your example in this time of scarcity and fear; may the Holy Spirit be your guide to be abundant and compassionate; and may the Father Almighty watch over you and keep you safe!
Yours in Christ,
-Pastor David Buco
- If you need a church directory for the passing of the peace, please reach out to Barb Hillman who is still faithfully holding down the church office (275-3300).