Musing 6.12.20

PASTOR JOHN’S MUSING 6.12.20

“I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house.’”

Psalm 122:1

During this stay-at-home time one of the most anticipated events in my life has been the lunch packing for the Open Shelter.  On three nights each month we make a total of 800 sack lunches containing a bologna and cheese sandwich, a package of cracker and cheese sandwiches, and a granola bar. I look forward to Tessa Carrel bringing the ingredients in the afternoon, Jack Rensch setting up the bags, and the crew of 8-10 assembling the sacks.  We wear masks and gloves.  It usually takes 45 minutes.  Another highlight is Trena Brown and Shawn Compton coming the next day to deliver the lunches to the shelter.

I have come to value the sense of community and presence we have on these nights.  What I look forward to are the people.  It is just good to be together physically.  The conversation is not profoundly spiritual, theological, or political.  It is generally updating on work, family, and Netflix.  It is just the enjoyment of real life, honest-to-God people.

When the staff began conversations about re-opening for worship, we certainly desired to ensure safety guidelines and protocols.  We wanted to model what a healthy gathering would look like.  We understood that meeting those standards would alter worship as usual.  Singing would be curtailed, seating would be separate, ushers would seat worshipers, offering plates would not be passed, children’s activities would not be offered, and speaker and singers would be behind a plexiglass panel.

So why re-open with these restrictions?  My thoughts kept returning to the pleasure of 10 people making bologna and cheese sandwiches three nights a month.   I wish I had a more profound rationale for re-opening, but I don’t.  I just missed you.  While Zoom has its benefits, it is not the real thing.  While my having the weekends off these past 12 weeks has been wonderful, it is not a satisfactory substitute for being present.

I know that many of our members are not ready to return.  Probably the majority of you don’t plan on coming back soon.  If you don’t feel safe yet, please do not come. No problem.  This is not a spiritual competition.  A fair number have told me that they intend to wait a few weeks or more;  that is fine.  King Avenue has always tried to present options for people in order to reach more.   Re-opening in this manner is simply an option for those who feel they are ready to come back. 

Recently I had a conversation with a young father in the neighborhood.  He told me that he, his wife, and young son were thinking of coming to King Avenue for worship.  They like the banner.  I inwardly groaned and listed the ways they would not experience the “real” King Avenue.  I stopped when I realized what a lousy evangelist I was.  Then I realized that whether one worships in person or online, one experiences the real King Avenue for it is the people who make it real.  Thank you for being you.