Saturday, March 22

Dear church,

Thank God for technology and for the easy connections that make this “quarantine” situation much more manageable! And that is true even for the vast majority of our elderly population! (Young people, they are much more on-line than you think!) I hear daily from people who connect with these messages in one way or another. Yesterday I received two nice emails from former parishioners, both living alone now, both very social people who have stayed in touch with our church. Since at least some of you will remember them, I am going to share their “life signs” here because it refreshes our sense of community beyond the “membership rolls” and opens a window into their experiences. The first one is from Ruth H. who was with us for a number of years, living in Lansdale. At that time her husband Bill was still alive but already very frail. Ruth was part of our first Stephen Ministry Training group. Her father had been a Lutheran pastor and church has always held a special place in her life. Shortly before Bill’s death, they moved again to be closer to their two sons. Ruth writes:

Dear Pastor,

Your messages DO help!  Thank you! I live alone at Rydal Park in a tiny 3 room apt. and it gets lonely.  All programs here have been cancelled and this week they also closed the dining room.  We may go down and bring food back with us or they will deliver it.  No one is allowed in except residents and the help.  I kind of feel like I am in jail.  Ha!  I am a people person and really miss the personal contact.  But . . . this is necessary to protect us, and this too will pass.  I am blessed.  I have a comfortable home, plenty of food & clothes, and friends I can email and hopefully will call me.  God is good.

I pray for the medical help, first responders, those affected by the virus personally or by the restrictions (being out of work, trying to work from home with children underfoot, etc.), and I pray that it will go away quickly worldwide.  But I wonder . . . is this pandemic here to help turn us back to God? ? ?  So many have drifted away, and adversity does make us rely on The Great Physician!  I pray this will turn the tide in that direction. Stay well!  Ruth.

I pray for the medical help, first responders, those affected by the virus personally or by the restrictions (being out of work, trying to work from home with children underfoot, etc.), and I pray that it will go away quickly worldwide.  But I wonder . . . is this pandemic here to help turn us back to God? ? ?  So many have drifted away, and adversity does make us rely on The Great Physician!  I pray this will turn the tide in that direction. Stay well!  Ruth Herbert” 

All of our long-time members know who Joan G. is because in her day she was very involved in church and ministry. A thought leader, she did things like prison ministry, writing and newsletter editing; she served on the North Penn School Board for some time. She was also part of the call team that interviewed me in 2007. About ten years ago she and her husband Rich moved to North Carolina where three of their four children live – and naturally also their grandchildren and, I am sure, great-grandchildren. It was a sensible move, but not an easy one. Having grown up in the Reading area, they had spent all their lives in PA and made many, many connections and friends. Rich died last year at a ripe old age. Joan misses him terribly and this is what she wrote:  

“Thanks, Pastor Wagner for reaching out to so many in this time. I am particularly touched by Judy J.’s  comments, as they mirror mine exactly. Having lived with someone for so long, their dying doesn’t mean they go away. I’m experiencing the same thing as Judy. I think Rich will be coming home soon or walking into the room soon or I’m trying to be quiet because he’s sleeping. There are things I want to tell him when he comes home…I’m particularly lonely in the evenings. It’s very different to lose that part of me that was there for 62+ years. I know what Judy is feeling and saying…”  (Joan G.)

Churches in our area are fast adapting to the temporary new normal. I am in touch with our interfaith group, as well as with my Lutheran colleagues in the Lower Montgomery conference. Many of them use Zoom conferencing calls. Some of them have established phone trees and buddy systems, people calling one another. I know we have some groups within our church that do the same thing, for instance, the Stephen Ministers and the “On Leave” choir members and some other groups as well. Since I expect, unfortunately, that our “quarantine” will be extended by the powers that try to keep us safe, we will think about some additional means of communication.  My wife mentioned yesterday it would be cool for some of the singles and people living by themselves to have a “Google Meet-up” coffee gathering. Not all ideas will work or immediately work, but ideas are welcome!

For today I would like you to think about one other group that is at home in our church building.  How are the AA groups faring? We have five groups that meet at our church from Tuesday through Saturday. How do they cope with this? Normally, when our church has a function and we can’t host them, there are alternative meeting spaces in the community and it’s an easy switch. Not at this time! They too have adapted to Zoom video meetings. I wonder whether it reaches all of their regulars or maybe not… Recovery work doesn’t stop during this time, even though the PA Liquor and Wine stores are officially closed. The conversations they have, the shared experiences of life, of failing and succeeding, of struggling and healing, the wisdom and no-nonsense of older recoverees, all those things are a lifeline for many of them. I’d like to ask you today to pray for them and to pray especially for my friend Bill O. He has been a member and attendee of AA for decades, and he gave me full permission to share that. In fact, knowing Bill, he really doesn’t care. These days he is very comfortable with who he is, including the scars that he carries from the darker times of his life. I think the only thing he is not comfortable with is the scars he inflicted on others in those days.  But that’s a burden he’s accepted to bear. About ten years ago I officiated at the wedding of Bill and his wife Lesley at St. Peter’s. It was through the process of the wedding preparation that I got to know and respect him. Once a fiery red-head, now bald and soft-spoken, he has really developed his spiritual side, and it has helped him (along with the AA community) through times of depression, despair and doubt.  A few years ago he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, which has been treated with different kinds of drugs and experimental treatments. He doesn’t pity himself. He knows that he has been blessed with undeserved new life, that these things are not in his hands, that living longer may just be the icing on the cake. In other words: he is at peace. Bill also taught me that for people like himself the anxiety of their loved ones is more difficult to handle. His wife is terribly concerned. Today, please pray for Bill and Lesley and all our anonymous friends who usually drink coffee in our Fellowship Hall and hold their meetings. They need our support and prayer!

Last, but not least:  you will receive once again worship resources in the form of the gospel reading, the sermon and prayers via email tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m.

At 10:00 a.m. we will live stream a brief service via Facebook Live. Join us on St. Peter’s Facebook page!

And finally, finally: we rejoice with Dave S. and his wife Linda. David had a suspicious tumor removed from his neck this week. It was not cancer!

By the way, all these daily emails are being uploaded to my blog on the website, but without last names, addresses and phone numbers or in some cases pictures.

Be blessed and be safe and enjoy this day! Pastor Andreas Wagner

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