My wife and I enjoy the sport of scuba diving. We have been divers since the second year of our marriage, so it has been a while. If you are going to dive safely, you have to adhere to certain procedures. Otherwise, you can develop very dangerous conditions in a big hurry because nitrogen begins to build up in your blood stream. When you are ascending you always rise at a rate slower than your exhaust bubbles, and you always spend the last five minutes of your dive at 15’ below the surface to make sure that your nitrogen levels have an opportunity to return to normal and you can safely exit the water. Those are just two of the basic rules that help to ensure a safe dive. Now, I’m not interested in talking about diving particularly, but the illustration serves well in our current situation with the Coronavirus restrictions.
As we come into the month of May, some of the restrictions we have been living under will be lifted. The government is going to try to ease us back to a place of normal routine over an undetermined amount of time. There is plenty of other stuff being written about that elsewhere so I’ll leave that for now and focus on our situation as a church in particular. We are anxious to get back together for worship and small group and other activities. We are going to have to phase into those things as the restrictions are slowly lifted. It appears that we will be able to return to having folks in worship together in the coming weeks, but that will be limited by numbers. As we went into this thing, we went from 250 to 50 to 10 very quickly. I’m guessing we’ll step back up through those same kinds of numbers on the way out. So, how do we do worship when they say we can have a gathering of 50? Who gets to come to worship and who stays home? When will we start back with Sunday school? Those are all questions the Session needs to address. Keep in mind too, that as the restart begins and we are allowed to gather in larger numbers, we are still going to have to maintain social distancing. Given the way our pews are situated, that means we are going to have to work out a plan to spread people out. Children are a big factor in all of this as well, because they are not terribly proficient at social distancing, nor are they really apt to understand. So, there is a whole other layer of concern that needs to be addressed.
Please understand this, the Session wants nothing more than to return to business as usual in our church function of worship, fellowship, and outreach. We want to see our nursery and Sunday school classes full of our children and our adults sitting under solid teaching together and talking around the coffee urn, etc.. However, we also want to see that happen as safely as we can so that, to the best of our ability, no one is put in harm’s way. I say that understanding full well that every breath and heart beat is a gift of God and there is no guarantee that the next one will come. Our God is a good and sovereign God and His providence is perfect. We are never completely safe from the ravages of this fallen world, but we are completely safe in Christ. As Luther so aptly put it in his most famous hymn, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever!” What he is saying in his musical adaption of Psalm 46 is that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. We are not to be looking for our safety and reward in this fleeting earthly life, we are to look for it in our eternal life in the New Heavens and the New Earth. I cannot tell you what tomorrow will bring, but I can say that as God gives us opportunity, we will move forward to return to normal function within our congregation as quickly as possible all the while seeking to be wise in how we do that. Please stay connected to us through our social media and other communications. We will try to be as forthcoming with information and instructions as we can. Please continue praying for safety and health as well as a return to normal function. I look forward to seeing you all again as soon as the Lord allows.