November 24, 2020

My Beloved Ones in the Lord,

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

This week many of us are in the midst of preparations, yet these preparations likely are very different from what we thought we would be making several months ago. Perhaps some of you have canceled travel plans or have shifted to a small intimate dinner rather than one with friends and neighbors. Perhaps we are even sad over what the coming weeks may bring and how even more plans may need to be changed, canceled or adjusted. I know. It just isn’t the same. It isn’t what we expected. It isn’t what we want. Yet, Thanksgiving itself still is. And we have choices about how it is that we will observe and even celebrate this blessed day in the midst of the pandemic of a century.

As St. Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, “In all things give thanks.” As you taste some roast turkey, pour some gravy on mashed potatoes, add some extra whipped cream to your pumpkin pie or twirling your fork around some spaghetti noodles, I pray that in each taste you will experience the goodness of God and feel strengthened to serve God and God’s people.

You may be wondering what the coming weeks will hold for us as long held traditions must give way to the realities of our community’s health. Our family and friends and neighbors and community wonder the same. It will come as no surprise to you that, as I write this, the severity of the corona virus is increasing in Polk County as it is across the United States. We all are concerned and want to do what we can to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe. So, please wash your hands, keep your distance, and wear your mask!

For Thanksgiving, we will have a hymn sing and brief worship available at our website. There will be hymns for you to sing along with. I will offer a brief meditation. We will share a time of prayer. This will be available at 10:00 am on Thursday on the website under Live Streams, and afterward for later viewing..

In the coming weeks of Advent, we will focus on the theme – WATCH + WAIT + WONDER + WORSHIP. Again we will observe Thursday Evening Prayer on December 3rd, 10th and 17th with reflections and hymns around this theme. For your home use, you will receive a devotion guide for the lighting of your family Advent wreath as well as a daily Advent Calendar with Scriptures that reflect the weekly theme. My plan is to have a reflection each day on the “word of the day.” This will be most readily available on the church’s Facebook page.

Advent will begin on November 29th, with a pre-recorded Sunday worship service, rather than a live breezeway service, will be available for viewing on our website. Also, that Sunday, several of us will gather in Fellowship Hall to receive further gifts for Cops ‘N Kids and also to assemble home Advent wreaths for our homebound members. Please join us if you would like to help with the assembly or delivery. This is a very meaningful way for us to stay connected with each other in careful consideration of the other precautions distance we are called to observe. Other Sunday morning services are still to be determined as the pandemic risks and our response is carefully considered.

As to Christmas, I know that there are traditions much cherished over the years that are very meaningful to all of us at Grace. We will need to make adjustments to these while remembering the love at the heart of all of these which is still at the center of who we are together. We are working on figuring out the logistics for a Candlelight Service, perhaps on December 20th. This either would be pre-recorded or would be a Zoom service. There are benefits to either method. On Christmas Eve, I will host a time of Evening Prayer on Facebook Live from my home. In addition we are planning a Christmas Carol sing-a-long for some time during the Twelve Days of Christmas.

There is much ahead in the coming weeks. There are many details to which we must attend. If you think there is a way in which you may assist or if there is an idea you have that we haven’t thought of or if there is any way you may wonder if you may help, please do let me know. We are in this together! Thanks be to God!
So, my dear ones, as we enter this cherished time of the year, a time of memories and hope, a time of wondering and anticipation, please be of good hope. In a spirit of thanksgiving, waiting and wonder, we enter into the Holy Ground of the coming holy days, together.

In Christ’s love,
Pastor Pam

PS: As I finished writing this, I received word from a friend of our congregation asking for prayer as she is a nurse on a covid unit at a major hospital in the Mid-Atlantic area. She writes: “We just got 2 more. I have all 4 coming at once. So I’m full but I have 12 covid patients now, 3 in respiratory failure. Surge isn’t the word.” May God have mercy.