I write to you from my home study in Owatonna. It seems strange to be writing somewhere other than my church office! I miss the familiarity of working directly with Mary and Patrick and popping into each other’s office as need or want arises. I miss Pilgrims stopping by to say hello. I imagine that most of us are experiencing the “missing” of familiar haunts, and physical interactions with extended family and friends – most especially young grandchildren.
This morning though I’m keenly aware of the many blessings with which I am surrounded, and which surround us as a faith family. I’m thankful to be able to walk around the lake with my spouse and Rouge, the wonder dog. I’m grateful and awed by the many ways the Pilgrim family has embraced the challenges of being Church away from the building. You have stepped forward to do telephone check-ins and volunteered for grocery store and prescription runs. Committee chairs, study leaders, confirmation and youth leaders have used often new skills to continue the work of being a community of faith in social distancing times. Patrick and Mary, Aine and Kristi are continuing to do the work which must be done.
I’m grateful for Zoom which has been our go-to medium, even giving us the ability to gather for Wednesday 10am coffee hours! And I’m grateful that worship in some form continues. Sunday worship is available via Facebook and YouTube (Thank you, Patrick and Harlan). On Sunday the 29th, worship will be streamed from the Associated Church of Owatonna. A federated congregation of Presbyterians and UCC’ers of which my spouse, the Reverend Coqui Conkey is the pastor. The scriptures for Sunday are Exodus 34:1-7b and Isaiah 43:1-4. The preacher will be Pat Postlewaite, a Commissioned Presbyterian Ruling Elder. Coqui and I and a dear friend Alan will share in the leadership of the service. The following week will be a different format which Coqui and I will need to figure out as we have been asked to reconsider going into the sanctuary, with even one or two others, to conduct services. So worship will be from our home.
Rev. Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister of the Minnesota Conference UCC has expressed the expectation that recommendations to avoid group gatherings like worship will continue until or into May. “That includes, of course, Palm Sunday, all of Holy Week, and Easter Sunday.” For us it also means that Maundy Thursday will need to be created in a new way. We will be working on this in the days ahead.
Much like the fledging community of the early followers of Jesus, we are clearly in unchartered territory. We don’t know what is next. There is uncertainty, perhaps fear for the safety of ourselves, our families, our communities. Yet, we move forward in hope with grace to guide us. We are a Church on the move that is certain. Who knows what will come of this time? But of this I am certain. In this Lenten time, we are being challenged and changed. The words of the Prophet Isaiah come to mind. “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the dessert. …for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the dessert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” Is. 43:18-21. The work of the church being the Church continues! Thanks be to God.
With you in Easter Hope,