Newsletter March, 2021- First Presbyterian Ridgewood, NJ
It was two days before our regularly scheduled Sunday, March 15, 2020 worship service. Reports were beginning to surface that Bergen County residents were contracting the highly transmissible coronavirus, and local hospitals were beginning to admit very sick COVID-19 patients. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, a decision was made that for the sake of the health and safety of First Pres members and friends, we would cancel worship in the sanctuary on March 15 and provide the service online. And that’s what we did.
One year later, that’s what we’re still doing; although now a limited number of worshipers are permitted in the sanctuary, and we wear masks and practice social distancing in order to keep each other safe.
During the past year, I have learned a great deal. I suspect all of us have. Most of all, as 500,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives as a result of what has become a pandemic, I have come to a more profound realization that each day is a gift from God, not to be taken for granted. Furthermore, I have drawn encouragement and strength from the words of the prophet Isaiah:
But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31] And I have placed great faith in the hope-filled words of the psalmist, who wrote: Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. [Psalm 30:5b]
What follows are a few more things I’ve learned, or observations I’ve made, during the 12 months since the onset of the pandemic:
We are still the church. In spite of recent challenges, we can still share the love of Christ with each other as well as with neighbors, locally and globally. In fact, the challenges caused by the virus have made it all the more crucial that we share the love of Christ with others.
People are generous. Members and friends have been generous to the church. And the church has been generous to those in need.
Living with gratitude, living with a focus on the blessings which remain, helps me compensate for the losses. Helps me keep life in perspective. I’m grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to have purpose, to be employed. I’m grateful for my family, friends and church family.
Part of loving one’s neighbor is to practice social distancing and wear a mask. This prevents me from infecting another person with the coronavirus in the event that I am infected myself.
It would be wonderful to visit in person with loved ones and friends as well as church members. Yet, because I love them, I can wait until we’ve been vaccinated.
More time at home has meant more time to read for spiritual formation as well as enjoyment.
The church has been extremely versatile, adapting quickly to the need to move to an online worship service, hold meetings virtually, and harness the love and compassion of members to minister to each other one-on-one during this season of isolation.
With good planning, outdoor congregational gatherings can continue safely. Examples include the Pizza and Pop Tailgate, an outdoor worship service, the Celebration of Light and the upcoming OGHS Fish & Chips event.
The Produce Mission was able to thrive during the summer and fall in spite of the restrictions caused by the pandemic. Thanks be to God and all the volunteers!
Excellent leadership by members of Session and the Board of Deacons, as well as staff and many volunteers, has enabled the church to thrive and not simply survive during the pandemic.
Everyday goes better when I begin the day with prayer, scripture reading and/or meditation.
Gardening is therapeutic. So are long walks.
Forward in faith,