Thursday, March 19

Dear congregation,

It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago I was still taking in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, aware of, but still pretty undisturbed by the fast-spreading news about the coronavirus in China, in Korea and in Italy.  Some images of the mountain panorama still reverberate in my mind, which is the wonderful thing about those special vacation times – the feelings and mental images can linger and sustain us for some time. Of course, very often in our culture we come back from vacation and are greeted by piles of work and unanswered emails. Too often, I fear, we just move a page, forget about the things we just enjoyed, and say, “Back to reality!” As if the time you spent in another place to give your body and soul some rest and restoration was not reality! As you are “quarantined” right now and if you have a little bit of time, maybe think consciously about some of those experiences that have given you joy and sustained your desire for beauty and the world that God created. Or take a walk in your neighborhood and notice the slow changing of our native vegetation. The crocuses in my front yard have been very happy – undisturbed by the virus. The hyacinths are just now developing their beautiful blue heads into full splendor – undisturbed by humanity’s worries. My dog Winter is very happy (see attached pic). She is always happy when we are all at home, so what’s not to enjoy? And on top of that, she is getting more and longer walks. Heck, she loves this quarantine! (Who knows, maybe she is praying that it lasts longer. Don’t, Winter!)             

As a pastor, I am doing a lot of phone calls these days and sometimes also phone prayers. I am probably talking to 10-15 of our parishioners and families every day.  One group within our church family I ‘d like to draw your attention to this morning are parents with young children. For the Wagner family, it’s nice to be together. Sarah is home from college. Her semester at Kenyon has been canceled, just like in so many other colleges. She is 19 now.  Sam and Peter are turning 18 and 15 respectively in April. Family life is pretty nice, other than having to pull Peter from his computer and put him to work every once in a while (he’s been helpful). But think of the parents with young children. Very often they are both working fulltime. The daycares are closed now. And even their ultimate support system – the grandparents – may not be readily available at this time. Remember, we are asked to practice “social distancing” (the un-word of 2020).  And these days, most of them work at home. Can you picture it? Toys strewn all over the floor, babies crying, you hear the outside door and wonder where they are going; in the meantime, you try to get some work done. Not easy!!!  Think of Kelly and Mike have six children.  Wait, let me see if I can recall all of their names in order… There is Mason, Bailey, Avery, Rider, Hudson, and Remington. I believe that’s right… Kelly is a nurse and she actually told me she has two jobs right now. Mike works with Kelly’s dad, Scott L.  How in the world are they managing? Kelly didn’t give me an answer, they are just muddling through it all. At one point I wanted to ask a silly question: “Do you get enough sleep?” and I stopped myself, thinking, “What a stupid question! Of course, she’s not!”  I spoke to Lauren H. They have three children. How does she do it with her job and all? Her husband Bobby works on construction and renovation projects and is out most of the day. “I do a lot of bribing,” she says.  The oldest, Austin, is promised $10 at the end of the week if he keeps an eye on his younger siblings. God, I wish $10 would do as much in my household! And so they muddle through and do the best they can. I am asking you today to pray for our parents with young children, all of them, and especially those you know personally. We are fortunate to have many of them in our congregation: the Staudts, the Hills, the Morrows, the Kratzs, the Charles’, the Hains, the Ouellette’s., the Bergers, the Wunders, etc. Please say a prayer for those young and overwhelmed parents raising kids and taking care of them at this time. Thank you!       

On that note:  church is NOT CLOSED.  We are just being church in different ways at the moment. One of the joyful things I experienced recently is Amanda Garcia-Gallagher coming to me with the idea of running music classes for toddlers. She and her husband Shane have a baby named Divo. As soon as we can safely be together in person again, we will revisit this great idea.  Church is NOT CLOSED.  I spoke to our friend Jose M. in Puerto Rico the other day. They are still planning to come in late July to do ministry work with us in Philadelphia. They have a contract with American Airlines. They can cancel their flight arrangements free of charge by early June if that should be necessary due to the virus scare. Church is NOT CLOSED.  We are gathering today via teleconference for our second Bible Study session. You can call in at noon today.  The material was attached to yesterday’s email.  I look forward to our conversation! Church is NOT CLOSED.  We are collecting non-perishable food items for Manna to support our neediest community members during this time. You can bring bags of food and drop them off in front of the church on Friday (tomorrow) between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. You don’t need to come in. Church is NOT CLOSED. We are working on the Sunday service. I will again provide worship resources and a sermon via email at 8:30 a.m. and we will gather in a small group at 10:00 a.m. for a brief service to be streamed via Facebook Live.  Church is NOT CLOSED. Stay tuned!

One other thing:     Absentee and mail-in ballot applications for the April 28, 2020, primary election must be received by your  by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Apply Online at VotesPA.com

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