Sunday, March 22, 2020

When You Can't Come to Church

It's been an, uh, interesting Birth Week thanks to this coronavirus. At Tuesday evening's Council meeting while eating ice cream and other treats for the Pastor's 61st birthday, after having already taken actions over the past week to minimize the risk of infection, we did everything but completely shut down Resurrection. And then Thursday afternoon the Governor ordered everyone in the state to stay at home, except for "essential business," from Friday evening through Tuesday, April 7. 17 days Yes, we can shop for food and medicines -- toilet paper had already disappeared from the shelves -- and there are other "essential services" that continue (the list includes "licensed medical cannibis dispensaries and licensed cannibis cultivation centers; reproductive healthcare providers"). But basically everything is shut down.

So how does one pastor a flock when, to try to prevent the spread of a disease for which there is no known treatment, he's not supposed to be in others' presence? Especially when most of the congregation is people who are considered most vulnerable -- the aged (which in the US is 60+ -- so that includes me!), those living in close proximity to others (such as senior communities, all of which were already closing to "outsiders"), etc. -- while many of the "younger" set work with them.

Our most visible step is for me to live stream daily prayer. For the beginning, that's Morning Prayer (Matins) at 10 o'clock in the morning, Evening Prayer (Vespers) at 7 in the evening. Every day. Started Friday evening with Facebook Live from my page. I'd played with that before, but it actually works rather easily with the iPhone app. Even as we were making the decision to do this Thursday evening, I took the first steps to do this on my YouTube Channel, since lots of folks aren't on Facebook. I've not broadcast live there yet, but I have uploaded the last three. Here's tonight's Vespers:

You are welcome to share these links with others.

I'm learning that it's one thing to pray the offices in the church my myself, it's another thing to pray them in the church with a (small) congregation, and it's yet another to pray them by myself while on camera. But I grew accustomed to the first two, so I should become accustomed to the third. Though hopefully not too comfortable.

Once upon a time in the face of grave danger people flocked to churches. Today even those who want to aren't able to do so. For the short term I think that's okay; this gives our health officials, scientist, and the medical profession (yes, I'm avoiding a now-common description) time to get some sort of handle on the spread of this disease. For the moment, streaming congregation-less worship services is a starting point for the Church to keep its connections. But it's only a start, particularly for a Faith where "he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man."

At the heart of being a pastor is being with the flock I've been called to. That happens when we come together, on the Lord's Day, on other days. We can offer "virtual" or "remote community" for a short while. But many in the Church are unable to access even that. What do we do for them to remain among us?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Prayer for Steadfastness in Affliction (1917)

A Prayer for Steadfastness in Affliction from the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1917 --

Almighty and most Merciful God, Who hast appointed us to endure sufferings and death with our Lord Jesus Christ, before we enter with Him into eternal glory: Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Thy holy will, and to continue steadfast in the true faith unto the end of our lives, and at all times to find peace and joy in the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead, and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer in Time of National Distress (1917)

A Prayer in Time of National Distress from the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1917 --

O Lord God, Heavenly Father: We humbly confess unto Thee that by our evil doings and continual disobedience, we have deserved these Thy chastisements; but we earnestly beseech Thee, for Thy Name's sake, to spare us; restrain the harmful power of the enemy, and succor Thy suffering people; that Thy Word may be declared faithfully and without hinderance, and that we, amending our sinful lives, may walk obediently to Thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer in Time of Great Sickness (1917)

A Prayer in Time of Great Sickness from the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1917 --

Almighty and most Merciful God, our Heavenly Father: We, Thine erring children, humbly confess unto Thee, that we have justly deserved the chastening, which for our sins Thou hast sent upon us; but we entreat Thee, of Thy boundless goodness to grant us true repentance, graciously to forgive our sins, to remove from us or to lighten our merited punishment and so to strengthen us by Thy grace that as obedient children we may be subject to Thy will, and bear our afflictions in patience; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.