I am about to do a new thing…I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19
When the COVID-19 pandemic started all of us faced the challenges. As Christians we reflected on the story of the Exodus. We know that God was with the people for forty years as they journeyed to the land of promise – surely God would be with us now. Reflecting on both God’s faithfulness and the strength of our community, we called this time “Finding our way through the wilderness…together.”
I am happy to report that you, the people of Redeemer, have been faithful – to God and to each other – and we have been finding our way, step by step and day by day. We learned how to worship online, sharing communion weekly. We reached out to each other through email, telephone, and the post office. We were faithful to our pledges and gave generous tithes and offerings. We took advantage of educational opportunities including a rich adult forum series and Vacation Bible School – all offered online. We reached out to our most vulnerable neighbors with food and meal drives and even a take home LWR school kit making event.
We remain committed to offering live streaming worship at 10AM on Sundays and will continue to offer gatherings online for the duration of this crisis.
Though no COVID vaccine is yet available, experts have more ways to treat the disease and more knowledge about how it is spread. Redeemer’s Reopening Task Force has worked to find safer ways for us to meet. We started outdoor worship in July and hosted in-person special events like baptisms, funerals, and a confirmation. I am elated to say that because you have adhered so well to the guidelines our task force has set we have had no transmissions of COVID at Redeemer!
As the weather turns and safer outdoor worship and gathering becomes impossible, we are ready for indoor gatherings at Redeemer. We will require mask wearing, we will mark spaces to ensure physical distancing, provide hand sanitizer, clean regularly, create contact tracing lists, and open doors and windows to increase airflow when possible. Staring in September in-person worship will be offered every Sunday at 8:30AM and Wednesday at 7PM, outdoors when possible, indoors when not. Sunday School, confirmation, AA, and quilters (among others) are using the Reopening Redeemer guidelines to resume meeting as well.
Of course none of this will look exactly like what we’ve done before. Until there is a vaccine or effective treatment, out gatherings will be shorter and contactless. There will not be in-person group singing. But there will be good things too.
We have found that online services and studies allow us to include people who couldn’t attend Redeemer before. We have marveled at the way God has worked through us to be a more public church, preaching on street corners (literally) and even getting our neighbors to join in service projects. While we hope and pray for the day when we will be together, sharing the peace, chatting over coffee hour and singing loud and proud, we also know that even now God is doing a new thing. God is making a way in this wilderness – and we are part of it.
Thanks be to God!
Pr. Katie Hines-Shah