Pastor sits down at his computer on Wednesday afternoon, March 10.
Oh look, my article for the Forest Lake Times is due by Friday. I’ll write another article about the coronavirus from the church’s perspective! Everyone, please wash your hands, stop shaking hands, and use lots of hand sanitizer. This will change some of our habits at church. We won’t pass the offering plate and communion will be done with more precautions to minimize contamination.
Six hours later, while listening to the radio and picking up my daughter from dance, the changes started fast and furious.
The president has just announced a travel ban from Europe! Just 30 minutes later a Utah Jazz basketball player tested positive and the NBA postponed their season. Wait for it … Then every sport and concert were postponed. And finally, baseball.
I go back to edit my article, adding that people in high-risk categories should please stay home on Sunday.
On Thursday, March 11, following a press conference by Governor Tim Walz announcing groups of 250 or more should refrain from gathering and begin social distancing, we realized we have more than 250 attend worship and can’t enforce people to sit 6 feet from each other. Is it time to cancel worship?
The next day, more recommendations come from the CDC and other large churches announce plans to close their building and only broadcast worship
Pastor re-reads article. CNTL+A (select all), CNTL+X (delete). New plan. No live worship, we’ll only Livestream and be on the radio.
We send an email to the congregation telling them to stay home. Nobody responds with anger or frustration. One member sends a thank you and tells me “we are Easter people. We will rise together.”
My heart needed that affirmation. So that’s what I preached. It’s what I will be preaching for a while, as we no longer gather in person.
Sunday afternoon, Mar 15. Receives phone call from local reporter and Faith member, John Wagner about preaching in front of an empty sanctuary.
Yes, that was weird. It reminded me of my senior preaching class at seminary when we had to do an imaginary wedding sermon and a peer put up two cardboard cut-outs of the couple while she preached. But, we had over 235 unique devices on March 15th and over 350 devices on March 22nd tuned into our Livestream worship and many more on our radio, at 9 am on channel 95.9 FM.
Things keep changing each day. Here’s what I’m learning: More and more cases are reported. We need to stay home. Keep our physical distance. We need to flatten the curve. As Governor Walz has said, “Stay home, Minnesota.” By doing this, we won’t overburden our health care system.
I will remind my church and remind you, as our community, that we are in this together. We can do this, even though it hurts. It’s disruptive. It weighs heavily on my heart to see people in my community and church being furloughed, cut back, and laid off. We struggle together, but we also lift each other up.
I’m also seeing our community stepping up to support each other. People asking to help deliver food, medicine, or run errands for others. Restaurants are getting online orders and take-out because we want them to know that we support them. People are sharing toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other essential items with others that need them. People are calling to check in on each other.
These stories warm my heart and give me hope.
And honestly, isn’t our shared hope the most important way for us to get through this, together?
Waits by the television as another press conference comes on.
Hold on… another important announcement is coming on. I have to watch so I know what I should write my article about.