The stories in the Gospel and New Testament that the lectionary* leads us to after Easter are full of gatherings. Immediately after Easter we hear of the Disciples gathered together, locked in a room because they are scared. In this story, Jesus shows up among them. As we look toward Pentecost, we hear of people gathered in Jerusalem, with the Holy Spirit is present with them. The confusing and scary outpouring is foundational to our faith. Throughout Acts (which we have been spending time with between Easter and Pentecost) we hear of early Christ following communities coming together, sharing resources, and being strengthened and encouraged.
The common thread of all of the gatherings is Jesus.
I like to think that over the last 14 or so months it has been our love of Jesus that has kept us physically apart from one another. Love of Jesus undergirds our desire to care for our community, especially the most vulnerable members of it, and so we have chosen to be conservative in our gathering and reopening plans. We have taken our statement of inclusion seriously, knowing that if all people cannot worship safely in person, we will worship remotely.
We are pleased to be working towards a gradual return to in person, indoor worship. On Pentecost Sunday, May 23rd, we will have both our outdoor worship service at 8:30 a.m., and an indoor, in person worship service that happens as we live stream. We will require registration for both indoor and outdoor worship. Indoor worship will not be able to accommodate everyone who is ready and able to be back in the worship center. There will still be COVID19 precautions in place (see the latest reopening update) for all worship services in person.
First, we humbly ask that you continue offering the grace and patience you have displayed over the last year. Your pastors and staff are not perfect, and we will not perfectly execute our plans, or plans may need to evolve as they are lived into. Safety is our number one goal. We also ask that you are patient if you cannot be accommodated for indoor worship. Certainly, we have all experienced loss, frustration, grief, and sadness during the course of the pandemic, but there are many who experienced extreme isolation as well. For those who are unable to utilize technology, isolation from family, friends, and faith community was especially challenging. We ask that in the first few weeks of in person, indoor worship you make space for those who may have a greater need for indoor worship. Our outdoor service, while simpler, is a great opportunity for you to enjoy worship, a bit of fellowship, and God’s creation!
Secondly, we ask that you be attentive to your own Spirit. Gatherings come with emotions (as we read above reflecting on scriptures). I’ll just claim that the first time my family went out to dinner, I was both excited and anxious. Things that once felt normal feel normal no longer. Even when we reenter practices that were once routine, the precautions put in place can cause layered feelings. For example: I was grateful for the plexiglass divider between booths, but I was sad that the restaurant we loved (and frequented) was less than half-full and, I imagine, struggling to keep business up. Whatever you are feeling, even if that feeling is that you are not ready yet to return to in person worship, honor your feelings. If your pastors can help you process, please do not hesitate to reach out to us!
* The Lectionary is a set a list or book of portions of the Bible appointed to be read at a church service. Most often we at Linworth follow the Revised Common Lectionary, though sometimes we wade into the Narrative Lectionary, and sometimes we stray away from the Lectionary altogether.