Dear Members and Friends of First Presbyterian Church,
Our Session met yesterday evening to discuss the most prudent way to lead our congregation through the current corona virus crisis.
In a faithful and caring manner, the Elders struggled with their desire, on the one hand, to keep the church open at a time when we very much want to worship, and their wisdom, on the other hand, to follow the cautious public health guidelines now in effect. With prayer and loving hearts drawn closer together, wisdom yielded to desire, and the Session has decided to cancel all worship services and other activities (youth meetings, Sunday School, choir practice, etc.) for the near future. The Session will reconvene on March 31st to assess where things stand with the pandemic at that time.
What struck me so movingly about the discussion I was privileged to witness was that as the Elders sought to make careful and wise decisions about the welfare of our congregation, at no time did I witness fear or panic. One among us reminded the Session that for over 175 years FPC has survived Indian raids, the Spanish flu, two world wars, and more recently, Hurricane Harvey. Ours is a big God, and we have total confidence that, with God’s help, we shall make it through this crisis as well.
By the time the Session reached its unanimous decision to temporarily suspend our public worship activities, we had determined we would also commit ourselves to finding new, perhaps novel ways to draw together our congregation and community. Thus, we see a silver lining in the opportunity to connect with the congregation by email, telephone calls, and weekly (or more frequent) devotionals on our website. Our Session’s goal is for all of us to draw together and to love one another and our neighbors as we have been taught by the One who loves us so much that he sent his Son to be our Savior.
Please watch for future announcements (like this one), and by all means, now is the time to explore or re-explore our church’s website (www.fpcofvictoria.org) for future devotionals, prayers, and news about developments at our church. Also, we shall keep the church office open during our regular hours (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday). The Pastor, together with our Choirmaster and Office Administrator, will continue to develop worship materials to be communicated to the congregation.
Likewise, on a personal note, your Pastor is available for phone calls, emails, office visits, or home visits. Contact me, and I will be here for you. Whatever your concerns may be, to me they are never small or trivial. All of us can use a cheerful and encouraging word from time to time. It never hurts to share a prayer. In this crisis, let us use our time to draw even closer to God.
Finally, the picture that appears at the top of this notice is copied from the notice that was sent around by the leaders of Kids for Christ with their announcement that our youth will not meet until further notice. What a strong message of encouragement! What confidence we are to have in the Lord our God! If the youth have such faith, how can we not be likewise?! And, to that end, the prayer which follows this notice is taken from The Presbyterian Outlook. Written by Jeffrey Myers, a Presbyterian Pastor currently serving in Frankfurt, Germany, it too contains a message of courage and a reminder of the source of all our healing and hope. As you read it, be encouraged. As the Session was reminded last night, “We shall make it through this crisis together!”
Peace, love, and mercy be with all,
God our Creator, who calls the stars by name and sets the fireflies dancing, who makes the mountains burst into song and emboldens the purple crocus pushing up through the snow, we pause to give deep thanks for the beauty which surrounds us always and for the promise that life goes on.
Set in our hearts a hope more resilient than the coronavirus, and assure us of your power to bring good even out of the most formidable diseases.
God of healing and hope, we pray that you would cool the fevered brow of the sick and speak of love stronger than death to those who lay dying. Give healing compassion to all who care for the sick, and encourage those facing isolation with your peace-giving presence.
We pray that coronavirus would move us to reflect upon our responsibility, individually and together, in caring for creation. Let your righteous anger spur us to make the long-overdue changes, so that all of creation might have room to breathe.
Rein in fear, we pray, before it becomes contagious, and nurture trust to form the basis of our dealings with one another. Let the tireless efforts of those on the frontiers of research lead to new and effective treatments, and guide those in positions of power by principles of truth and integrity.
God of tender mercies, we ask humbly that the painful awareness of our own vulnerability lead not to greater fear, but to deeper faith – a faith that nothing in all of creation can separate us from your love – neither today, nor tomorrow. Amen.