Dear Siblings in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Loving Heavenly Father, from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and from our Comforter and Counselor the Holy Spirit! Amen. Blessed summer to shortly come! As the ongoing production and distribution of vaccines continue, I share with you some considerations of what is before us, with gratitude for blessings received from our Lord.
Build One Another Up
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11). As our vision statement proclaims, we build each other up to build God’s kingdom in the world. Over the past 16 months or so, we’ve built each other up over virtual, hybrid, outdoor, and indoor means.
Summer Worship Plans
Starting this coming Sunday, June 13, we will be holding two in-person worship services every Sunday: one outdoors (in your cars or on lawn chairs) at 8:30 a.m. and indoors at 9:45 a.m. The indoor service @ 9:45 a.m. will also be livestreamed starting on June 13. At this point, slightly more worshippers are joining in the outdoor than the indoor service, here at Good Shepherd, but that will likely change as more of you and your families complete your vaccinations. We will continue with the outdoor service until it’s no longer needed. We thank God for the gift of those who have been serving to support the outdoor, indoor, and virtual services.
You should have received announcements by now about how the Board of Servant Leaders (Board) has lifted many of our indoor restrictions. Please look on our website for the revised guidelines, if you missed them. In the weeks and months to come, the Board and I will continue to adjust guidelines for activities, as our children become increasingly vaccinated and our health situation improves even more. For instance, fellowship with coffee, et al. is returning, VBS will be back, and much more!
As for the livestream service starting next Sunday, on June 13, it will also be taped for those who want to join with us, after the live service is over. Please give us a few months to figure out all of the production and programmatic components. Last year, we kept improving our virtual service format in the first few months, so by the end of the summer or the fall, we’ll be turning out the livestream services in quality style, to assist in your worship. If you are out of town, fall ill, or need to work on a specific Sunday, you can certainly join us either by livestream or participating with the recorded version of the livestream service, which should be “rendered” and ready to go within a few hours after the live version. For this “hybrid” worship service, we’ve mounted multiple cameras in the sanctuary and in the Fellowship Hall and are looking to get our new projection system upgrade in the sanctuary installed within a month or so. Meanwhile, thank you for your patience. How much effort and resources do we put into livestream and virtual ministry into post-pandemic life? That will be a question that we will answer, together.
Next Budget Year
We’ll be discussing the future of our in-person and virtual ministry over the months to come, especially since our next budget year starts in September, as well as considering various plans and alternatives for in-person and virtual ministry in the years ahead. We certainly don’t want to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” so we’ll consider how to wisely deploy our resources for the months and years to come, in order to continue our in-person, hybrid, and virtual ministry and outreach. In fact, those conversations are well under way on the staff and Board as well as on an ad hoc staffing committee I’ve asked the Board to convene.
The past virtual services, Midweek Recharges, and other virtual content and offerings have truly been a blessing to us. God has given us the capacity to share these gifts from distances, just as Jesus ministered to the centurion’s household from a distance, as needed, in a sensible manner, and to prove that his Word, his power, his Holy Spirit is around us and with us, regardless of masking, distance, and time. We thank God for all those who have served: our worship team, staff, volunteers, worship leaders, musicians, and music leaders, and all of you, as you shared our services with your loved ones and those in your network. We thank those around the country and the globe who have participated in our services, sent donations, and supported our mission and community service efforts. I know that many of you have grown attached to these services, with the fine video powered by Brother Matt and the quality audio production led by Brother Dan, the musicians on split screens with the lyrics, all the artistic work, etc. But again, give us a few months, I assure you that you will be blessed by the livestream service, which will also be a great vehicle of ministry…and probably a more relevant and useful medium, now, as we phase into this time of hybrid ministry. You’ll get to see and hear the liturgical responses between pastor or worship leader and the congregation, among many other features of the livestreamed virtual ministry, and you’ll get this iteration of virtual/hybrid ministry live and recorded, giving you options in worship.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been cautious and conservative in our approach, and have also been guided by medical experts in and beyond our congregation. Gratefully, we are not aware that any gathering or activity at Good Shepherd has resulted in passing on the virus. With falling COVID-19 numbers and the go-ahead from government officials, we’re now poised to take additional steps to increasingly fuller congregational life. We hope and pray that the fall or winter does not bring a variant that significantly reduces the efficacy of the inoculations.
Respect for One Another
Some among us enthusiastically welcome a higher “dose” of reopening. By now, many of you have taken appropriate precautions, but have also traversed out of town, driven to work, attended sporting events, enjoyed dinner out, and/or have already returned to in-person worship. Going forward, children and even some vaccinated adults will still choose to wear masks, which we wholeheartedly understand and accept.
Others among us still feel cautious and are thankful for the virtual ministry we’re continuing to provide. I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in each of your hearts as you consider returning to fuller worship and congregational life at Good Shepherd in the summer and/or the fall. As a congregation, we agree not to use the pandemic as an excuse for not building each other up with the Good News of Jesus in response to His love for us, whether in person, by phone, by correspondence, over teleconference, et al.
I remain eternally grateful for so many colleagues on our staff, Board, core ministry leaders, volunteers, and all of you who went above and beyond in so many innovative ways to comfort hearts, feed the hungry, participate in overnight prayer vigils, and share the Gospel. I’m thankful to the Holy Spirit working through your faithfulness in continuing to support our ministry and outreach with your generous and active hands, feet, hearts, and offerings.
Along with Pastor James, our staff, Board, core ministry leaders, and volunteers, I look forward to continuing our journey of faith, together, building each other up to build His kingdom of goodness, mercy, love, and hope in the world!
With a heart full of gratitude and joy, your brother in the ministry of Christ,