09 Jul Weekly Pastor Letter | July 9, 2020
Dear siblings in Christ at Good Shepherd,
Thank you for attending our first, and hopefully only, virtual Town Hall Meeting on June 28. I was so humbled by the stories that were shared and the videos that showed just a small slice of the life of our church at work outside the buildings! We are truly a community that has never closed and the vision and mission we have been given by God continues to flourish and grow today!
Here is an update on all that has happened in the 10 days or so since that meeting:
First, despite our care and adherence to social distancing, and strict limits on who is present in the worship center, one of the participants in the online meeting tested positive for COVID-19 later that week. This led to testing for the rest of the people who were in the room that day and took a swath of our staff out of commission into quarantine. Thanks be to God that no other staff tested positive and the person who did is on their way to recovery. It has, however, even further heightened my awareness and caution regarding this disease and how fragile our operating structure is if even one person gets sick.
Second, Dane County Public Health issued a new order restricting indoor and outdoor gatherings as well as a requirement for face masks while indoors. This order includes religious institutions such as Good Shepherd. With a deadly virus that transfers via touch, breath or song, and its effects particularly on the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, it is hard for me to come up with a conscientious reason why we would object to that order.
However, it still is incumbent on us to begin to plan new ways to come together online or in-person in the days and weeks to come. The conversations that I am a part of in the wider church have begun to focus on the reality that there may not be a return to “normal” for quite some time. Therefore, we must begin to speak not of ministry “until” but ministry “during”. The ways that we operate as a church community must be resilient in any time and place but even more so in this time of great displacement and societal change.
Your Good Shepherd Directors and Pastors met on Wednesday to start mapping out our next steps together. We spent the morning moving through all the areas of our church life and the possibilities for coming together in the days and weeks to come. This includes Outreach (like the Food Pantry and Clothes Closet), Children, Youth and Families, Adult Faith Formation, Verona Renewal, Facilities and Worship.
These recommendations will be put into a document that is easy for you and our church leadership to understand and follow, featuring pages of notes underneath for our own planning purposes. These recommendations will then go to our COVID-19 Task Force on Sunday for further recommendations and conversation, then to the Church Executive Committee for discussion and a vote. If approved, the plan will then go to the Reopening Task Force to live and breathe while we navigate our way through this constantly changing environment with our committees and staff.
Each step of the way we will reserve discretion and use our best judgment to make changes to the plan based on the facts on the ground. We are striving to balance the desire for our church to be with each other, the health and well-being of our members and neighbors, and the care and stewardship of our wonderful staff and pastors. I am grateful for the grace you have all shown us in this time and pray we can continue to exhibit the truly Christian virtues of grace, humility, and forbearance with and for each other. Believe me, every person I speak to shares your desire to be “back” at church.
Finally, as I never tire of saying, “Thank You!” Thank you for your continued prayers, your generous support, and the many messages of love and gratitude you send our way each week. We will continue to walk with each other into God’s promised future.