My dear Siblings in Christ,
I greet you in the name of our loving Father in heaven, our Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ, and our Counselor and Comforter the Holy Spirit! Amen. Roughly one year has passed since the onset of the pandemic. 2020 and 2021 have offered many challenges, uncertainty, and tumult. Amid disease, disaster, death, destruction, and divisions as well as daily dilemmas we faced, God’s light and love was revealed so many times over. We are grateful for His gifts, particularly for the resurrection and life everlasting with Him.
As you well know, we are now living in the period of inoculations, in which those who want to be vaccinated should be protected by May or June, pending sufficient production and rollout of doses. We certainly pray that the covid metrics continue to decrease and the variants do not cause significant spikes as parts of Europe are now experiencing. We pray for our neighbors in Europe, some of whom have been worshipping with us, virtually, during the pandemic, particularly on podcast. Pending the conditions on the ground, we are aiming to phase in more indoor life over the next months to come. Yesterday, at its monthly meeting, the Board of Servant Leaders took action, with my counsel and that of Ken Uffelman, chair of the Return to Church Committee, regarding indoor services:
- Raise the capacity to 75.
- Include congregational spoken liturgy (masked and distanced).
- Lengthen services from its currently shortened version (including more verses in hymns).
- Allow up to 6 singers in the choir loft, unmasked, but distanced. Obviously, the singers would have to be willing to come in and sing, and our organists (Todd Grivetti and substitutes) would have to agree to a group of unmasked singers nearby.
- Include singing by the congregation of the closing hymn on Easter (masked and distanced). Singers and staff who serve at Easter worship would be those who agree to serve in this environment.
The Board decided to hold another discussion/consideration of expanded congregational singing (beyond the closing hymn on Easter Sunday) at a future meeting.
Currently a significant part of our congregation is seeking the outdoor service. Accordingly, we’ve been interchanging indoor and outdoor worship from one week to next, so as to not overburden our staff. But over the months to come, as the conditions hopefully improve, the outdoor service will be phased out and we will be returning to indoor worship every Sunday. Additional increases in capacity, congregational singing, and number of indoor services will also be considered as the next weeks and months arrive. In addition, fellowship events, classes, and other gatherings will be phased in, from those held outside or over the internet. The food pantry will be moved out of the Fellowship Hall and back to its usual location, while we continue to be partners in that endeavor.
Like all of us, the staff, volunteers, and their families are waiting for and/or undergoing vaccinations. As this period proceeds, sooner or later, more of our worship, gatherings, and events will increasingly be held indoors. Weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc., for which many have been waiting in line, will ramp up.
Staff Turnover & Care
The Lord has blessed us with a generous congregation, which has allowed us to add staff during the pandemic, allowing us to expand our offerings and reach out to the unchurched and the lost. Many of you, whose adult children and their families had fallen away from the church-at-large for years, if not decades, have been worshipping with GSLC during the pandemic. Some have even given and served alongside us. I have shared tears with many of you, witnessing the Hand of God at work, during dire times. Thanks be to God!
Throughout this past year, much of the staff has hardly taken any time off. We are tired and do need rest and rejuvenation. As we thank valued staff who will be retiring, while getting acquainted with the wonderful new ones who are reinforcing our congregation’s efforts, please be patient with us. Many of us are planning to take time off after Easter and during the summer. So bear with us as we phase in indoor activities and many ministries.
During the pandemic as well as a year or so prior to it, I reactivated the ministry of elders with the support of our Board, as our congregation experienced much mourning. Due to the lifecycle of our congregation, when it was founded, etc., I anticipate that periods of mourning will be significantly greater than over the past few decades, on an annual basis. Currently, there are 3 elders (Bob Neil, Chris Miller, and Dick Orth), along with Marilyn Voigt, the head of Congregational Care & Nurturing, Pastor James, and I, who attend to the cares of the ill, hurting, and grieving, on a regular basis. I intend to seek, identify, and hopefully appoint more elders in the weeks and months to come. When we are back together in person for an assembly, the formal reinstitution of the ministry of elders will be on the docket for consideration.
Post-Pandemic Life (PPL)
We don’t know exactly what PPL will look like. However, here are some items we will likely see:
- A return to much of pre-pandemic church life.
- The sounds and blur of children running around on our campus.
- Retention and continued use of virtual video ministry in some form.
- Continued use of our podcast ministry.
- Continued use of hybrid ministries (simultaneously in person/online, possibly livestream).
- Upgrade of our projection system in the sanctuary.
- An influx of God’s children among us. Our current Connections Class group is 27. They also number an additional 12 school-aged children + several spouses and extended family. Most of this group have already indicated their intention to join GSLC as members. Thanks be to God.
- More visitors and members among us. We will be organizing another Connections Class in the late spring/early summer to accommodate the many regular visitors among us. The Lord continues to bless us with additional siblings and partners in ministry.
We look forward to a bright future, together, as a congregation, which in the name of the Risen Lord loves, grows, and serves, building up His people through His Word for His world!
Serving with you, I am,