A Fireside Chat …And November Worship Plans

When I was five, my Dad and two siblings stayed in Minnesota an extra night while on summer vacation, and my mom and I came back to our house in Wisconsin together.  We hadn’t had as much time alone and my mom really wanted the time to be special for us. 

We were the two people in the family that liked trying food that others balked at, like seafood and cuisine from overseas.  We also really loved lamb with mint jelly.  So on our way back home, before crossing the Mississippi River into Wisconsin, we stopped at a grocery store and got lamb chops to cook as a special treat.  We were really excited for the feast we would share, just mom and I!  But the storm clouds that had been gathering that day turned into a vicious thunderstorm and while the lamb chops were in the oven the power went out.  My mom and I had to go into the old musty basement where our family would listen to the radio and ride out bad storms.  …But we grabbed the lamb chops and mint jelly on the way down. 

My mom and I sat in that basement and listened to old shows and music on the radio and had great conversations, while we feasted on this special food in a setting that neither of us expected.  It is one of my mom’s and my favorite memories of our time together.  During times of disagreement and frustration with each other as I grew into a teenager and young adult, thinking of that basement feast, helped me remember what I love about my mom and shook the branches of negativity before the roots took hold.  To this day I can’t eat a lamb chop without smiling and remembering our feast in the musty basement.

Why am I telling this story?

We are going through a storm right now as a church and a society as we learn to be church in settings and ways that we are not used to.  It doesn’t feel right.  It’s not what we planned.  “It sucks” as I found myself blurting out at the council meeting last night.  The leadership knows that no one will be completely satisfied with any option, or choices between safety and a desire for normalcy.  But as we have thought about the questions about how we live as church during this time—and as we had this conversation on Zoom, connecting all our homes and lives in a way none of us expected to be doing a year ago— I started imagining all of us gathered in a basement together like my mom and I were, doing this work and making memories we can recall and hopefully laugh about in the future.   

I hope you can draw on stories and experiences you’ve had when plans have been changed.  I bet when you think of some of the most important and meaningful moments of your life, it is the love that has been shared during tough times, during adjustments to the plans and routines where the best memories are made.  Times when you needed help and your normal schedule was interrupted.  My favorite Christmas was the one where we decided not to buy a tree because we didn’t have much money, and my Dad drew a Christmas Tree on a piece of Styrofoam.  The love was still there even if the symbols we were used to were not.

On Wednesday, we discussed ways of doing church that aren’t what we expected, but we are looking at them because we value every member of this church and want to do everything we can to keep more members from getting sick by being good examples for each other and our community.  Worshipping in our church is particularly risky without a means of air-intake from outside or air filtration system and during the current spike in Covid-19 cases, our bishop has asked churches to suspend activity indoors.

So in the next month we will worship in some new ways, but ways that we hope can make some new memories the help us remember what it really means to be church in the future when we may have other challenges. 

–This Sunday, November 1st we will celebrate All Saints Sunday in recorded service with me officiating and lighting candles of remembrance from the sanctuary and Joy Dowd serving as reader and deacon from her home via zoom.

On Sunday, November 8th, we will be celebrating Stewardship Sunday with a special live Zoom worship service including a slideshow video of images from our year of ministry as we look forward to supporting ministry and God’s mission for First in 2021.  We hope that Lori Marquez our Stewardship Chair will have recovered from Covid-19 in time to share a message with us as we enjoy a live church experience, where we can see each other’s faces.  The Service will be followed by a virtual coffee hour.  If you don’t have zoom you will be able to call in too.  We will send out information next week about how to join!

–And finally our big news is that we have been talking with our friends at Luther Memorial Church at 2840 South 84th Street in West Allis, and they are generously offering their parking lot and radio transmitter so we can worship safely in our cars, on November 15th and 22nd during this spike in covid-19 cases.  You will receive a bulletin and communion kits when you drive in the parking lot and tune your car to a radio station, like at a Drive-in Movie and you will hear Gary’s Prelude and Pastor Josh lead worship from a small stage in the parking lot.  I think this way of worshipping is safe and is a memorable way to celebrate church in a new way, that others can be invited into safely.

I know this way of doing church is different than what we are used to, but please give them a chance and don’t let negativity and frustration with this situation lead to anger and non-participation.  We miss you and we want to be together in whatever ways we can, while we continue to assess the risks of gathering.   Currently, if there is a gathering of 25 people in Milwaukee County there is a 64% that someone in that group will have Covid and it is going up during our current spike in cases, so leadership is taking that risk seriously and finding ways to safely be church as we face this current storm surge in our community and country.  One Council member is recovering from Covid and another is currently battling Covid.  We ask for your prayers.

Thank you for being a part of the First Family during this storm.  We miss you and we love you and we are grateful for desire to worship and your patience and positive attitudes toward your church’s leaders as we navigate a trying time.

–Pastor Josh