Once again this week I know this is not all that devotional, but today’s message does address a very important matter in our connection to God and each other: returning to church! As we announced last month we had hoped to offer Sunday services in the building earlier this month, but with rising virus cases we felt this was still too risky. Last night our Governing Board met to resume this conversation. We recognize that many area churches have returned, or have announced plans to return, to services in their buildings. One of the challenges of larger churches, like St. Luke’s, is a higher risk factor in having greater numbers of people together. The other thing we recognize is what the experience of worship will be like. Returning in the near future will still require mask-wearing through the whole service, no choir in the sanctuary and probably reduced music overall, little to no interaction (so no fellowship time) along with other precautions.
That said, we hope to offer services back in the building some time this fall. We are not comfortable yet identifying a date given the Governor’s latest extension of the current return phase and mask mandate, along with the number of continued new cases in Indiana (though the slightly reducing numbers of positive test rate is encouraging). HOWEVER, we did present the plans of our Leadership Team for new gathering opportunities and this was enthusiastically endorsed by the Board. So I am excited to share with you these new upcoming offerings:
Sanctuary Prayer - First, beginning next week, September 2, our Sanctuary will be open each Wednesday, from 11AM – 1PM for a time of quiet prayer and meditation. If you have missed being in this holy space, come any time during those two hours on Wednesdays to sit, pray, listen to music and restore your soul.
Luke’s on the Lot - Then, starting Thursday, September 10, we will hold our first in-person worship service in the parking lot from 6:30 – 7:15PM. Pastor Jevon will be the lead coordinator of this weekly service. There will be a space in the parking lot marked off where you can bring your own lawn chair, wear your mask, and enjoy being near the St. Luke’s community for a 45-minute outdoor service.
Drive-in Communion - And finally, until we are able to offer communion in the building again, we will continue our monthly Drive-in communions with the pastors. The next one is next Sunday, September 6, from 2 – 3PM. Enter through Holliday Drive or the eastern-most entrance on 86th Street and watch for special directions from our parking lot “ushers.”
So, how did this news hit you? Are you sad not to hear of a return that feels closer to life prior to March 15? Understandable. But take heart that it’s a step in that direction! We are moving toward a return. And remember, we might be disconnected from the sanctuary and one another, but we aren’t disconnected from God. As the Psalmist said, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps.139:7). The conclusion made was simply “nowhere!” God is always there. And if you think your pandemic is rough, these words were written when the people were totally isolated—they had been removed 1,000 miles from the temple in Jerusalem to Babylon (about the same distance as our drive to Colorado this summer—never again!). Remember too that prior to this exile the people felt God’s presence was limited only to the temple. To be in captivity that far away was to be removed from God.
With that background, go back and read Psalm 139. Feel the way the writer relates to the spiritual hopelessness of the people, and then how he gives fresh hope that wherever they are, God is there! You might even try this as a prayer: “Remind me, O Lord, that I’m just removed right now from a pew, not from You! Amen.”