THE RECTOR'S MESSAGE Tuesday, 5 May 2020
Included NEW in today's update: A Message from Father Keith, More Lessons Learned, Invitation to Help Healthcare Workers, Voting Information and more...
FROM THE RECTOR
Fourth Week in Easter Season
Tuesday, 5 May 2020
To all the teachers among you - both active and retired:
HAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK!
And to all the parents out there who are serving in that teaching capacity in these days of home schooling, I am sure you have a whole new appreciation for the teachers in your children's lives, Especially when you consider how difficult it can be when you have only one or two students, while they deal with thirty at a time! Whew! I heard a parent comment that in their home school, both of the students had been expelled for rowdy and disruptive behavior, and the one teacher had been fired for drinking on the job!
Sadly, but not surprisingly, I received word this week that the COVID-19 virus has now reached the first members of our Messiah community. Please remember Bette and Jack Higgins, two longtime members of the parish, in your prayers and pray for a swift and complete recovery for both of them.
Hopefully, you received a letter from me in the past few days with some important information - the anticipated resumption of Sunday worship services! In communication from Bishop Gutierrez, parish clergy have been instructed to begin preparing to begin in-person worship on Sunday, the 14th of June. Please note, however, that this is a 'soft' date, as there are still many determining factors that have not, indeed cannot, be solidified just yet; therefore, this date may shift as more data and information, directives and guidelines from various health, civic and religious authorities become available. The Bishop also comments that not all churches may be able to reopen on the same date, with smaller churches perhaps opening before larger churches are allowed to do so. Stay tuned as we continue to develop our plans for Messiah's resumption of Sunday services.
In the name of our Savior Jesus Christ,
and our God who wants only health and wholeness for his children,
I send you blessings, peace and grace in these uncertain, confusing and anxious times.
MORE LESSONS LEARNED
Here are a few more responses from my request to pass along "lessons learned" from our experience of this unprecedented time:
A lesson I have learned is that physical touch is the very best followed by vocal touch.
Our granddaughter told me the other day that we have been through much worse things than this pandemic. That is probably true, but amnesia sets in after awhile, and some of the pain disappears. I can't imagine how hard it is for families who have lost their livelihood, loved ones to the virus and the general upheaval of the economic situation. The depression was terrible and there seemed to be no hope that it would get better. This is different because there is hope that economically we will recover. Life will be different, but the nation will prevail. As far as God is concerned, he has dragged me back to sanity more than once. Without faith I couldn't exist. I always look for the best in hard times: a thriving, happy family. Another great grandchild expected any day. I could go on and on but this enough to lay on you in the midst of this daily chaos. Thanks for listening.
The first is that I am not afraid to adjust to a 'new normal'- no matter what that means. Now perhaps that is because of my age which could let me off the hook in a few years. But I ask myself what must it have been like in the time of Abraham. Would I have adjusted to the new location? Or the time of Moses - would I follow the new set of rules he promulgated? Or how about the return from Babylon to Jerusalem. Surely that involved a "new normal" and adjustment. And the Renaissance and the reformation of the church - would I not have made the necessary adjustments to those conditions? I believe I would have adapted - and well. ... Probably the most significant realization has been how much I love my wife, Jean. How much I depend on her to keep me going. How tolerant of my impatience she is. How blessed I am to have been linked with her all these years (62). I thrill each time I reminisce about various incidents in our married life (and even before ). Someday I'll tell you the "Tuffy" story. It's a beaut - and funny. ... I am finding that now I have more time to think and reflect on life. Not since my seminary days have I done so. As lonely and as busy as I was as rector and vicar of congregations, both here and in North Carolina, once I left the General I spent less and less time in these pursuits. I just did what needed to be done. Even in 'retired life' I sought to 'do' rather than to 'be', quiet in myself, reflecting on my life and God's wonderful and exciting promises for his children. But the children of Israel "erred and strayed like lost sheep" and God in God's patience and love sent judges and prophets to guide them along the right ways. I would suggest God may be doing that very thing to me and to his people right now in 2020. ... I am discovering how much I had become de-sensitized to the sadness and difficulty of so many people and others. Last night I was struck in my heart when an ad for the ASPCA came on the TV. It showed me a series of abused animals, shaking with fright as they sat in their crusty cages awaiting rescue by some humans - the same kind of humans that had beaten and abused them. A horse that could hardly stand, whose legs buckled each time it attempted to take a step. A dog who limped because of a broken front leg. My breath caught in my throat - and I cried. I experienced the same response when I saw a report on the extremely high incidence of Covid 19 discovered in our prison population. Oh, those poor souls! I went to Graterford Prison while in seminary and my response then was fear. I went only once but that was enough. As we walked along the corridor with the guard to get to the chapel, men in every cell looked out at us with their arms hanging out through the bars. None said a word. My reaction was fear, and relief that it was not I in one of those awful cubes. Covid 19 has given me an appreciation for what it means to be isolated, to be cooped up, to lose my freedom to travel, to escape. Oh, those poor souls! I pray for them now with some understanding of their boredom, frustration and pain. I see them in their cages as I see those SPCA dogs and horses. Can we not find a better way to 'respect the dignity of every (human) being'? ... I also have hard time not crying when I think of the families and friends of those who have died of the scourge. I do so not in some lofty cerebral way but in a down deep-in-my-gut way. I can't imagine my dear Jean dying of the disease and then we, her family, not being able to celebrate her life and her being part of our lives with a funeral mass. To gather and reflect, to be comforted by the hymns she selected, to express the peace that passes all our understanding with each other, to sense the presence of Jesus in the breaking of bread, together. I have a new appreciation for the Office of the Burial of the Dead.
AN INVITATION TO HELP PROVIDE HEALTH CARE WORKERS
WITH NEEDED MASKS & HAIR COVERINGS
Health care workers battling the COVID-19 outbreak on the frontlines in hospitals, nursing homes and other care centers continue to be in desperate need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Your fellow congregation members, Rebecca and Sean Flowers, are participating in an initiative to provide fabric face masks and head coverings for nurses, technicians and others. Messiah seamstresses are invited to contact Rebecca and Sean for patterns and assembly information. Other Messiah members are invited to speak with them to learn of other ways you can support this important project.
Please call or email Rebecca and Sean and join with them to provide these needed items: 407-760-0526; firstname.lastname@example.org
FACE MASKS FOR CHILDREN & ADULTS
With the mandatory wearing of face masks required in so many locations, you may have need for smaller masks to fit your younger children. One of our parishioners, Nancy Sisson, has constructed scaled-down masks and is making a supply of these available to anyone who has need for these smaller masks. We also have a supply of adult-sized masks still available here in the church office. If you are in need of masks, please stop by the church office (9-1, Mon-Thur) or call the Rector (215-699-9204).
Thank you to Nancy and the many other seamstresses who have kept us supplied. I haven't kept track of how many masks we have distributed, but it has to be at least 100!
PA PRIMARY VOTING INFORMATION
To safeguard both our health and our vote, the date for the PA primary election has been moved to JUNE 2, 2020. And ALL residents of the Commonwealth can now apply for a mail-in ballot, eliminating the need to gather at the polls and enabling you to vote from the comfort of your home. Go to VotesPA.com/MailBallot or call 1-877-VOTESPA.
Important dates and deadlines:
May 18: last day to update voter registration
May 26: last day to apply for mail-in ballot
June 2, 8:00pm: deadline to return completed mail-in ballot
SUNDAY WORSHIP CONTINUES ON THE WEBSITE
Videos of Sunday worship services will continue to be posted to the parish website for the duration of the suspension of church services. Each Saturday, you will receive the psalm and words of the responses and other communal parts of the service, allowing you to fully participate and interact in the worship service.
So get that second cup of coffee, still in your pajamas and bathrobe, and gather together in front of the computer or iPad or other other device . . . Then join with me and other members of Messiah as we worship together virtually, until we can once again worship together in person.
PRAYER REQUESTS & PRAYER SHAWLS
I have not received notification that any member of the Messiah community has contracted the coronavirus, required hospitalization due to infection or any other reason, or has suffered the loss of a loved one during this time. And for that we must all be exceedingly grateful and offer a prayer of thanksgiving, for that is truly Good News!
However, if you do have prayer requests - due to the virus outbreak, or for whatever reason - please be sure to pass them along to me so these can be named in my own personal daily prayers, as well as added to the parish prayer chain. And prayer shawls can still be obtained. If you know someone who would benefit from receiving one of these shawls, please contact me and we can make arrangements for you to pick one up from the church office.
PLEASE KEEP YOUR PLEDGE UP TO DATE
Please help Messiah to remain financially solvent and secure through the continued regular payment of your pledge. Payments should be mailed to: Church of the Messiah, 1001 Dekalb Pike, Lower Gwynedd, PA 19002-1941.
Many thanks to all who have submitted pledge payments - and even additional financial donations, or advance payments of pledges. Your faithfulness is greatly appreciated and has been a great help over the past weeks. Thank you!
A PRAYER & PSALM FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept the sufferings of the present time, confident in the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer
God is our refuge and strength, *
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved, *
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam, *
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
The Lord of hosts is with us; *
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, *
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be overthrown; *
God shall help her at the break of day.
The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken; *
God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come now and look upon the works of the Lord; *
what awesome things he has done on the earth.
It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; *
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; and burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God! *
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.