19 Nov Light in Our Darkness
Dear Sisters, Brothers, and Friends in Christ,
This is a difficult time. The pandemic is surging in unprecedented ways. Within our county. Our state. And our Country. Concern is rising. And, as of 12:01 A.M. November 20, Tier 3 mitigations will go into effect in all 11 Illinois regions. These mitigations aim primarily (but not exclusively) to limit gatherings and to encourage people to stay home to the greatest extent possible while permitting some industries to remain open at significantly reduced capacities with proper safety measures in place.
There is not a person who doesn’t wish that things were different. But, things aren’t different. And, as much as both the pandemic and the science-based responses to the pandemic might stir deep emotions for all of us and inspire our wishful thinking, it’s clear that wishful thinking will not tamp out this global health crisis.
Action will. Prayerful, practical, concrete, consistent, and collective action that empowers us to care. Both for ourselves. And for those around us. Be they fellow citizens whom we may never meet, or our closest kith and kin.
And, so we respond.
And we keep responding. As concerned citizens, yes. But, even more, as people of faith. As people whose spirituality and love of God and neighbor knows no nationality, no region, no zip code, no border, no limit. We respond in a way that both acknowledges the need to change our habits and practices for as long as it takes (within our church, our homes, our places of work, and the public domain); and, at the very same time, that draws upon the power of our Three-in-One and One-in-Three God to guide and sustain us in the face any challenge, any threat. Including the coronavirus.
From this pandemic’s very beginning, our church and its members have responded admirably. With pronounced conscience and care, we defined clear-cut safety protocols based upon science and public-health best practices. We have adapted and observed these protocols in reflexive response to the facts as they are (not as we might naturally wish they were, but as they are). And that’s precisely what we’ll keep doing. As concerned citizens, yes. But, even more deeply, as church. As part of Christ’s broader body. And as part of the broader human communion into which each of us is lovingly and inseparably woven by God’s very hand.
So as to do our part, our Sunday services and Spiritual Enrichment will remain virtual for the foreseeable future. We’ve suspended our “live”, in-person Wednesday Evening Worship until further notice. For now, we’ve moved all youth programming to a virtual mode. Our annual Christmas tree lighting (on November 29) will now be a “livestream” event rather than a large, in-person gathering. Our 105th Christmas Pageant will be virtual (yet utterly undimmed in its joy). And Christmas Eve worship will also be virtual (but rest assured that we are pulling out all the stops to ensure this service still “feels like Christmas” and that we still feel connected to tradition and to one another).
There is not one of us who does not wish that we could be together in person for these and innumerable other events and activities. But, right now—we know. We know that as much as our wishes might speak to our heart’s deep desires and our love of one another and of our congregation—our wishes are not enough. We must act. To act in a way that surely feels less familiar, less comforting, less exciting, less normal; and, yet, in a way that does not diminish one iota who we are at our core, both individually and collectively.
Right now, we may be “not church as usual”. But We. Are. Still. Church! And, nothing—not even this wretched pandemic and all that it’s requiring of us—can ever change that.
I can think of no time, no circumstances, no challenge when the blessing of being church and the power of Advent’s message (which is the heart-lifting reminder that God enters boldly into even our darkest moments) is more timely, more needed, more precious.
Even as so much remains changed and restricted around us… even as we pine for more normal routines and times… may we ground ourselves in what being church truly means. Namely, that we are forever bonded in the Spirit. That God’s love is greater than any human trial. And that the living Word of God is forever by our side.
God’s Peace to one and all. And, on behalf of all our church’s lay leadership and staff, I thank you. For the power of your witness in these trying times. And, for the spiritual perseverance with which you enable us, together, to be… “Not church as usual”.
Yours in Christ,
Winnetka Congregational Church
Click here for the official Tier 3 announcement and details: