Letter from Pastor Stephanie / September 19, 2020
On March 8, 2020, we held our last, anyone can come to worship, in person, no social distancing and no mask, worship service. The next week we began live-streaming for what seemed like a possible three-week period. We are now looking at Advent and part of 2021 doing the same.
Back in April and May when I would tell people that we would most likely be doing this for a year, it was met with disappointment and fear. I remember one person telling me that the thought of Advent and Christmas like this, was far too depressing to consider.
Here we are, a place where many of us haven't seen each other and may not see each other for a year. There are opportunities to worship in person, but as we face the winter in Vermont, those, too, may need to cease. In reaching out to many of you, I know that "YouTube TV" service feels like a reach. Some of you are not watching at all, some are attending other churches who are open at larger capacity, and some are waiting it out, on hold until this is all over.
That may seem like a bleak assessment of what our church, and many others are facing, and yet, that is the place many of us find ourselves in at the moment. I am not an eternal optimist. I don't naturally look at the glass half full. I don't see the silver lining or smile through the pain. If you ask Mitch, I often complain, rail against and wish for a different scenario - naturally. However, allowing God to reveal areas in my spiritual life that are detrimental to my growth has helped me to see that though those might be my natural tendencies, I can only have a different perspective with God's eyes.
We have embarked on a new sermon series on David the Shepherd King and having God's eyes for the world. What better time to seek God's perspective then in the middle of a global pandemic when worship, church, fellowship, and discipleship are nothing as we wish them to be? What do we do?
The first place to start is to tell God and others about our struggles during this time. I have heard the phrase "disconnected" a lot lately. If we are using that to describe how we feel, what do we mean by that? Go to God and give Him your frustrations, concerns, and fears. I said last week in the sermon a phrase my father used to tell me and that was to go to God and ask to have His eyes for humanity - especially someone hard to love. We can do that about this time as well. Ask God to have His eyes for the situation we are in which does not mean only pretending all is well. It does mean understanding that even what we deem difficult can be used for our spiritual growth. As leadership, we are praying, discerning, and working towards helping all of us grow in the Lord at all times, but especially these times.
I would label this time in our life D.I.Y. faith, which may be a bit of a misnomer in that none of us can grow in our faith alone. However, now is a time to own our discipleship. The ease with which we could attend church in-person and/or Sunday school, small group and study groups has been replaced by a need for more effort on our part. I have found that this "more effort" can be a place of tremendous growth in our relationships with the Lord. But it isn't automatically going to happen. For many, unfortunately, this may be a time of regression and stagnation.
Again, what can we do?
Let's start collectively, and individually, with prayer. My prayer has been, "God how can I use this time for Your glory?". This is how to begin the process of seeing the world through His eyes. Begin with ten, fifteen, thirty minutes of prayer with God a day simply asking for His direction during this time.
As we pray, can we pray for others? Sit with the directory and pray for those before and after your name. Call those whose names come before and after yours in the directory.
Find a "worship buddy" to call after the service or during the week to talk about the devotionals, worship, or what we are reading at the moment. Ask each other how God is working in your lives.
Find a "worship pod" to watch the service together safely or virtually. Currently, I have been told that there are Middlebury students doing just that at the moment.
Join a Zoom Sunday class or discipleship class especially if you haven't been in Sunday School in a long time (or never), allow God to grow you during this time.
Write letters to each other. Send a card. Reach out to someone in the church whom God has laid on your heart.
Take a socially-distant walk with someone at MBC. Open up about your struggles with what is happening and pray together.
Ask God to lead you into close, discipleship relationships with another person or another couple/family at MBC.
These are just a few ways to grow during this time. I have no idea how long we will have to continue this way or what our world and church will look like when pandemic is over. I do know that no time is wasted with God. He can and will (if we allow Him to) grow us in ways we never could imagine.
Know that the Deacons and I are praying for you daily.
In Christ's Name,