As we start a new year and prepare for our first Virtual Annual Meeting in February, I’m grateful and proud as I think of everyone in this congregation. Seriously. We have been on a journey together that none of us could have predicted. I can’t believe that I started this call right before the pandemic closed the doors of our church, as well as churches throughout our community and country. What a strange time to address and get through as a community, but now almost a year later I am reflecting on this time we have spent together.
There is plenty that we can be frustrated with and disappointed with and this pandemic has created real issues in our lives and in our communities that shouldn’t be overlooked. I am so grateful that while many church members have battled through being sick with covid or the fears and sadness of loved ones getting covid, none of our members have succumbed to this illness, though I know it has had a huge effect on each of our lives. But as I reflect on getting to this point and my first year of ministry with the people of First, I am proud and grateful.
We have addressed the things we can together with grace and wisdom. We’ve needed to be creative and nimble as we have made so many adjustments in this year. We’ve worshiped in many different ways and places. We’ve met online instead of in person. And while each step has had difficulties, and sadly not everyone can or is willing to participate, I know we are being good stewards of the church through this moment. We are caring for each other, and sacrificing in ways that may be difficult but that have gotten us safely to this point. And we are learning lessons that will help us in the future to be creative and nimble, as we bring God’s mission into our neighborhoods and world in new ways.
As we await vaccines and hope for a return to normalcy in this next year, I can’t wait to spend more time with each of you in person. Please do everything you can to stay healthy in the coming months and continue to take this virus and the new variants that are spreading seriously.
I am grateful to God for helping us get to this point. I am grateful to the doctors, nurses and medical staffs that have learned to treat this illness and who are currently fighting back another surge of cases and hospitalizations. I lament the sickness and loss of life, our communities and nations have experienced.
There are things I know we regret or wish we could change about how this crisis was handled in the last year, but we have made it to this point. And I long for the time when being together is not just a limited number or a virtual experience, but a time when we all can be together again safely. Thank you for all the moments where you could have lost patience or treated someone else with frustration because of all you are going through, but chose to show patience and love. We do need to speak into this world in the ways we can and for those of you who need some help and prayers to help you do that, I want to share two prayers that I shared with our church council after our meeting last night.
The first one is known as the Serenity Prayer written by one of my great-grandfather’s seminary classmates, Reinhold Niebuhr, a leader who called Christians to act with passion and wisdom, with peace in their hearts. It is a prayer that is often used by those in AA and Recovery.
me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.
Each of us can only do so much but together we can help each other continue on this unexpected journey through a crisis and a pandemic. Your voice is important and you have value. And the choices you make in how you interact with others, respond to challenges, and reflect God’s love and care for his children also have an impact. I’m grateful for the grace, care, and love that people in this community have shown me, whether through a card or a positive comment. Thank you all and please keep lifting others up so we can get through this and carry on in hope, together.
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.