A letter to the PCF congregation

Dear PCF,

I hope that at some point in the past week, each of you found a sign in your front yard like the one pictured above (if you didn’t get one, we’re sorry we missed you – please contact me and we’ll make sure you get one). It’s yours to keep as our small way of communicating to you that we miss you very much and consider you an important part of our church family.

COVID-19 and the many associated disruptions to our lives continue on, and we don’t know when it will end (or what things will look like when it does). For many of us, it’s a wearying, troubling, isolating, lonely, and difficult time. But we also know that God is on the move, doing good things – some of which we can see already, and many which we don’t yet glimpse. I encourage us to continue to trust in our sovereign Lord for the perseverance, comfort, and peace we each need and desire.

This coming Sunday in our Scripture reading, we’ll hear the words of Hebrews 10.24-25: ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ I’d like to apply this passage to two groups of people in our congregation in order to encourage and spur us on.

Those for whom it’s wisest not to be present in person on Sunday mornings

For many in our congregation, it continues to be wisest not to attend our gathered services in person on Sunday mornings. The State of Massachusetts’ ‘Safer-at-Home Advisory’ says: ‘People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs.’

Although it’s painful for us as the PCF Elders to advise those in these groups not to attend in person on Sundays, we continue to believe it’s the wisest and best course of action. As you heed the direction of our state government and the counsel of the PCF Elders, you are honoring God. And it’s important for you to know that you can still fulfill the spirit and intent of the Hebrews 10 passage quoted above. You can still consider how to spur on your brothers and sisters at PCF to love and good deeds. You can still make a rock-solid commitment to be with us over the livestream on Sunday mornings (and to be sending cards, making phone calls, doing Zoom meetings with a small group of fellow believers during the week). You can still encourage the rest of our church body. In fact, you are urged to do so in the Hebrews passage. Will you do it, for your good, our good, and God’s glory?

We’re so excited about the day when you’re able to be back with us in person. Until then, please stay connected with us in every way you know how, and please encourage us. We are praying for you, and we need you.

Those who are now able to be present with us in person on Sunday mornings

There are lots of good reasons you may not be able to return to gathered worship now or for a while; age, health conditions, little children who can’t sit through a service or keep social distance, etc. Each of us will be processing events and concerns differently, and we’re called to extend lots of grace to one another during this time.

That said, there is a reason to stay away from church that’s not a good one: convenience. I have to say that there were some Sunday-morning conveniences for me in the early days of COVID-19. I could sleep in a bit later than normal. I could walk down the stairs to my study, fire up my computer, and livestream the service from there. Yes, I wore a collared shirt – but I could also wear jeans if I wanted to! After the service ended, I was home already. How convenient.

But I said something very important to our congregation early on in the pandemic: we’re providing the livestream not as a convenience but as a necessary, second-best option for those who can’t be with us in person. That’s still true. I read a writer who said this week, ‘As we emerge from the restrictions of Covid-19, let’s not go from being people who can’t go to church to people who won’t go to church. There’s too much to miss out on.’ Amen! Please hear and heed this exhortation. If you can come back in person, please do. Don’t let the comfort and convenience of your couch or home prevent you from responding to God’s call to assemble regularly with other believers. At this point, we still have extra seats available in our services every Sunday and we’d love you to join us.

For all of us

Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians, ‘we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith’ (1 Thessalonians 3.10). Please hear Paul’s passion! He prays frequently and earnestly to see his fellow Christians in person. Let’s each make that our prayer, too, whether or not we’re currently able to return in person. Let’s earnestly, regularly ask God to make it possible for us to see one another face to face.

With you for your joy,

Pastor Stephen

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