Sunday, March 15, 2020

How to Be Church Without Going to Church (Pastoral Letter for Coronavirus)

(Note: This is adapted from the email I sent to my congregation announcing our decision to cancel worship.)

On Friday evening, my church decided that we will cancel all church events, including worship, for two weeks in response to the coronavirus. We hope to reopen on March 29, but that will depend on what happens in those two weeks.

I slept in my office during a Saturday blizzard once to ensure I wouldn't have to cancel worship, so know that canceling worship is not something I take lightly. My natural inclination is to let my Scandinavian stubbornness say, "We're not going to let a virus tell us what to do." But stubbornness and strength are not the same as wisdom. When we look at how this virus has (or has not) spread in other areas around the world, it is clear that limiting social gatherings has an impact in slowing the spread and reducing stress on hospitals. I don't want our church to be a place that increases infections. That is not "Sharing the Love of Jesus Christ with All People," as our mission states.

BUT, not meeting in person does not mean we don't have church. Church is not a building. You are the Church, dear siblings, and this is a time the world needs us more than ever. We can still "Share the Love of Jesus Christ with All People." We just need to be a little creative.

So, what are we doing?
  • I will be using our facebook page ( to share resources and ideas and avoid flooding our email boxes. (If anyone has a good sharing app, please let me know.)
  • We will be creating a plan to have worship available by streaming or online for Sunday morning. Details will be on our facebook page.
  • We will be putting together a plan for caring for our homebound and vulnerable members. If you are interested in being part of a calling team, let me know. If you or someone you know needs pastoral care, please let me know. Don't assume someone else has told me.
  • Isolation can be very hard, and the community of support we have at MLC is one of the most valued things people name. I encourage you to call or text someone from church once a day. We can maintain friendships and care for one another this way. If you can, please reach out to members you haven't seen in a while.
  • Do the same for friends and neighbors outside MLC. "You are the light of the world" -Matt. 5:14
  • We are putting together a system to care for physical needs of people, too. If you depend on food banks for food or other items, please email me and we'll connect you with someone to arrange delivery. Your request will be held in confidence by our small team.
  • If you are someone whose mental health or addiction suffers from isolation, please find someone to do regular wellness checks on you. Remember, you are loved and not alone.
  • I'm planning to have regular conversations in our facebook group so we can continue to learn and grow together. If you have ideas for distance activities we can do, please let me know.

We have not experienced a pandemic like this in our lifetimes. We know it is serious, but not how disruptive it will ultimately be. Hopefully we will look back and say it was not as bad as we feared. 

Whatever happens, the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is as true now as always. God promises new life and resurrection, God meets us in our places of fear and death, and God's grace is greater and more permanent than any evil in this world.

We may not be going to church for a few weeks, but we can still BE the church. You are the living stones of God's temple (1 Peter 2:5). Do not be afraid, dear Church, God is with you.

From the Gray,
Pastor Ari

“I can’t change what can’t be changed, but I’m still gonna try.” -Garrison Starr, “To Garrison, On Her 29th Birthday”

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