Dear Parish Family,
I hope and pray that you have had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend! It certainly was not the same as in years past with large crowds gathering for Memorial Day celebrations. Last year, we spent Memorial Day weekend with our daughter Bethany and her family in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. They had a wonderful parade, especially for a small town with flyovers by vintage WWII planes and a variety of floats and bands. This year, they told us, the streets were silent.
This year, Meredith and I went to visit our son, Daniel and his family in Destin, Florida. We left on Thursday and returned Monday (which happened to be Meredith's birthday!), and the only minor glitch in the trip was a "check point" for the Coronavirus at the Florida border. I have to say that it was very well done and only took us about five or ten minutes to go through (since South Carolina wasn't on the "watch state" list!). The roads were not crowded as we breezed to Destin in about eight hours. We took precautions along the way, using gloves and masks when we stopped....the main reason being to not contract the virus so that we might not infect Daniel or his family (they are moving to Philadelphia on July 1st and could not afford a delay); and, to guard against being a "carrier" when we returned to Hilton Head. Again, no problems! And, our time with Daniel, his wife, Natalie, and our grandson Simon was just a joy!
We also had the gift of being able to watch the St. Luke's worship service on Sunday morning, which I know many of you are streaming and participating virtually in worship. It was a blessing to share together! Every time the Music Team began to play, our grandson would break out in dance! So free, so joy-filled; it made us smile. Steve did a great job (and, for those of you that may have any questions, we did not go to Louisiana nor did we help Daniel pack...the Army is going to pack and move Daniel and his family).
The joy of being with family! Not everyone has that gift, either because of strained relationships or because of restrictions in travel because of the Coronavirus, including the challenges of flying or driving into “closed states.” A different time for sure! I continue to pray for those who are struggling during this time of continuing social distancing; and for some, isolating. I am also praying for those who have health challenges and compromised immune systems.
Paul, in his letter to the Philipians wrote that he had learned how to be "content in plenty and in want.” This is a great goal for us to have during this time! As I have been calling many people in our church family, friends, and family, I am actually surprised how well many are faring. Some have said that they find this time a blessing; especially if they are introverts, have had projects around the house that they needed to catch up on, gardening, or little "fix it" jobs. For others, they are doing well even though what is going on would not be their choice! And, still others, struggling with the restrictions, the social distancing, and especially, those who have had economic or health challenges, this has been a real challenging time. Plenty and want; both are evident to me as I talk with people.
An old adage, "the only constant is change;” and, as I have said often (not original with me), the only person that likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. Some people adapt to change well; others, not so well; and, still others, really struggle. Especially when the change brings hardship, the change can be unwelcome and cause us to become angry or fearful because we did not choose the change going on around us, or even in us. Plenty and want. How to cope with this?
In the context that Paul writes, the chapter in Philipians contains phrases like "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made to the Lord.” Prayer; a key in coping. Prayer and worship; vital to our spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical health. "And the peace of Christ that passes all understanding...." (read Philippians 4). There it is: that elusive peace. Especially in times like this...unprecedented, uncontrollable, uncomfortable, unwelcome. Times like this...we did not cause and did not choose. His peace, that passes understanding. Just as we don't understand all that is going on around this Coronavirus, which is the down side; we have the opportunity to rely on God's gift of the Holy Spirit that brings peace beyond our understanding. We can't willfully make this happen; but the Holy Spirit can, and will, as we keep our hearts and minds fixed on Him! He is greater than any virus, health issue, economic concern, or struggle that we may face. His is greater than any emotional weakness and shortfall; He is greater than any circumstance, person, or "thing" that might be out there to threaten our joy and security. Because of our faith in Jesus, our trust in His grace, and the gift of His Holy Spirit, we can know this peace because He has us, and this world, this time, this circumstance is not the end of it all: He is; and sharing eternity with Him!
If you are in a "good place" right now, praise and thank our Lord Jesus and pray about how the Lord might use you to be a blessing to others. You are better off than most in the world. If you are struggling right now, turn to Him, reach out to others to talk with, pray with, rely on in order to lift you up. We are not "in this" alone. He loves you, and is there for you; He will strengthen your weak arms, your weak heart, your weak resolve to help you and use others in the process.
I have been in a small group with Meredith and some precious friends during this time (a ZOOM small group) and the line that has been recurring because the study is on the book of Esther, is "for such a time as this.” For such a time as this, pray, read His Word, reach out to others, and seek and find His peace that passes understanding. Especially as we "re-open" and enter a new time of uncertainty, as Jesus preached in His first sermon: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things will be yours as well".
With love, in Christ,
Dear Parish Family,
You may have noticed that the Island has begun to "come to life" with tourists and other visitors. I have noticed increased traffic on the roads and bike paths; the beaches are either open, or will all be open within a week or so, and are crowded with people. Restaurants, hair salons, and other businesses are beginning to open up again. Our Church Mouse Thrift Shop has opened (being sensitive to Social Distancing and limiting the number of people in the Mouse) with amazing days of sales and numbers (people in line out the door!).
Some are reacting with "It is about time;" and others: "We shouldn't be opening so soon," and a variety of other reactions; some even stronger! The "right answer?” No one really knows for sure. Balancing the need to isolate and the opposite, allowing people to "get out" and "get back to life" for the sake of the economy as well as mental and emotional health, is not easy. Speculations continue as to whether there is a treatment that works, the speculation that a vaccine has been discovered and is in early stages of testing and should be out in a matter of months.
What is right....and even....what is right for me? We are at the stage where everyone needs to make decisions that are wise for themselves, and for others. We saw indications of this when we "opened for worship" on Sunday and had about 60 people: a low number by "normal" standards, to be sure. What does that tell us? We don't know for sure! Clearly, there are many that are not ready to be around others in a "social setting;" and, probably shouldn't be if they have a "compromised immune system" for any reason. Some just figure "it is not worth the risk for me and/or my family." Some feel, for now, that streaming the service is a pleasant option. Some don't like to wear masks (and, just to remind you, masks prevent others from getting the virus from you if you are a "carrier;" it doesn't prevent you from getting the virus from those who may be close to you unless you have an N-95 mask).
We have taken steps at St. Luke's via our protocols (posted on our website HERE and at the Church) for Social Distancing. We have "fogged" the Church with an anti-viral, plant-based, non-toxic treatment, and we clean the church regularly with a disinfectant that also kills the virus.
All of the States in the United States are now re-opening, or taking steps in the next few weeks to reopen. This includes Churches. Some have re-opened; some have not; some have plans to open in the next few weeks, and I have heard of Churches that are not opening until schools re-open, or have no definitive plans yet. Again, I go back to the question: "What is the right thing to do?” I believe that it takes being aware of your own responsible decision for yourself, and taking responsibility in public for being sensitive to others. There is no right answer for ALL based on one's physical, mental, and emotional condition.
And, of course, we are being "warned" that there "will be" or "could be" a resurgence of the virus during flu season. And, with the prospect of a "busy" hurricane season being projected by the weather experts, we may have other challenges.
Should you "come back to worship?” Obviously, that is your decision! We will be continuing to "stream" our worship service for the foreseeable future. This has become a "new ministry" for us that has blessed many in the United States and even Europe, based on responses that we have received! Please be assured that we are taking proper steps to protect you when you come.
1. All of us need to be in "worship," either streaming or in the Church building! In fact, worship needs to be a daily practice individually, and a time of Worship on Sundays "with others" if possible; and if not, then virtually!
2. All of us need to be as sensitive to others as we can with social distancing and, if you are going to be in crowds, wear a mask, and possibly, gloves. Some may not have the capacity to wear a mask right now; be sensitive to them and have compassion on all. We may, at times, be surprised by people's reaction or what they say to us. Again, be patient, sensitive, even smile (even if they can't see your smile behind your mask!).
3. All of us need to be aware of our physical, mental, and emotional health, and take steps if we see problems arise. Without going into any details, I have become more aware of these needs in my ministry; and, I believe that these health concerns have been accentuated by what we are going through with the Coronavirus, "reopening" and the "unknown" and "uncertainty" of the future, and "the right thing to do."
We always need to be connected: connected to the Lord first and foremost, for our spiritual, mental, and emotional health. That is the way that He has created us!
We need to be connected to others. What that "looks like" for each of us right now may vary; but, be aware that we all need others to "touch" our lives (even if it is not actual physical touching) and we need to "touch" other lives! God has made us in such a way that we need to receive and we need to give.
As we continue in this challenging, strange, and uncertain time: trust the Lord! Use wisdom. Take steps for spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health. Reach out to others for your sake, and for their sake. "Whatever you do, do as unto the Lord." (Colossians 3:12-17, especially verses 14 & 17).
May our Lord continue to richly bless you and keep you in His love and care as all of us seek to be His "Church" in this challenging time.
With love, in Christ,
Dear Parish Family,
I have noticed, having been to a restaurant for "outdoor seating" and on a walk on the beach with Meredith for Mother's Day, that people seem to be, more and more, venturing outside. Some of those people, based on many of the license plates that I saw, are from other states.
It is difficult to say whether the Coronavirus is beginning to subside or not. Some would say "yes" and some would say "no." And, there are speculations that abound that say that we may very well have a resurgence during the flu season: the fall through the spring. No one knows for sure, just as no one seems to have a clear indication of a treatment, or, that the researchers are close to finding a vaccine. There is a question of antibodies, who has them; and do they stay in one's system or do they dissipate so that one is still vulnerable to get the virus once they have had it. Again, many questions without clear answers.
Then, there is the other front that raises many questions and concerns: what about the economy? How much longer can we keep businesses from being opened and expect those businesses to survive, for families to be able to survive, for our economy to rebound. And, when people do go back to work, what will they be coming back to in the short run and in the long run?
So many questions! Who to trust and why? We have talked about this before; and, no one has all the answers, at least not yet. In the midst of all the questions, and our country reacting and responding in varying ways, we need to seek and trust the Lord. That, I believe, with all my heart.
And, while we are exploring all of these questions, one other: When will the Church be open again for Worship? I mentioned last week in my e-blast, that we have been exploring this question for weeks. I have been talking with our Bishop regularly, with Jim Lewis, our Archdeacon, with other clergy in our Diocese, as well as other clergy on the Island; I have spoken to our Staff and our Vestry. And, we have come to a decision; at least for now.
This coming Sunday, May 17th, we will open the Church doors for worship at our 10AM worship service! In order to do this, I have consulted a number of samples as well as real protocols for doing so; the precautions that we must take before, during, and after worship. I am attaching a list of the "Guidelines" that we are going to use, and that we will use to instruct those who are involved in worship; including the ushers, to be able to do what we are hoping to do in providing worship.
There are two very important thoughts immediately: we do not expect everyone to come for worship and, if you do, it is critical, for your sake, and others, that we all abide by the attached Guidelines!
To the first point: not only do I not expect everyone to come, not all should! Some have compromised health; some are anxious, worried, even fearful, and some may not feel well come Sunday morning. If you fit any of these categories, please stay home and stream the worship service! We will continue to live-stream every Sunday, so please feel the freedom to stay home and enjoy the blessing of worship at home; with family and/or with friends. But, do not feel obligated to come, or guilty if you don't come!
For those who do come, please abide by the attached Guidelines. It is important for all of us to "be on the same page;" to abide by the Guidelines for the sake of our Governor's Executive Orders, for the sake of our Bishop's desire and the protocols of the Archdeacon, the Standing Committee, and what our Staff and Vestry has worked toward. In fact, when our Vestry and the Diocese addressed the Guidelines, there were a couple of adjustments and tweaks, but eventually was approved by the Diocese and unanimously by our Vestry.
Since the Guidelines will be attached, please read them through before coming to worship on Sunday, if you are planning on coming. If possible, wear a facemask and bring your own hand sanitizer; if not, we will have both available to you.
I am so looking forward to being in worship with others in an almost "usual" worship (along with the unusual "social distancing"). And, if you do come, please don't feel that you "must" receive Communion. At this time, only bread (the host) will be offered. There will be a station in the sanctuary; and, if there is need for an "overflow room" for worship, we will use the Fellowship Hall, and communion will be brought to you.
I want to thank, once again, the Sound and Video Team, the Music/Worship Leadership Team, Steve Chisholm and the Staff, the Altar Guild, the Flower Committee, the Lay Readers, the Vestry, and all those who have gone “above and beyond” during this challenging time!
And, thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement during this time. Please continue to pray for those who are serving in healthcare professions, the EMS workers and all First Responders, for those working in stores and gas stations, and others who have gone back to work. Pray for our political and business leaders who are making decisions about what to do. Pray for the individuals who have contracted the virus, for those who have family members and loved ones who have contracted the Coronavirus or have died because of it.
This continues to be a difficult and challenging time. We are trying to make decisions for St. Luke's that are both responsible and cautious for all, and yet seek to meet the varying needs of a wide range of people with a wide range of feelings about the Coronavirus and how we should be responding.
We may need to back off and move back to "isolating" and close down our worship service again. If need be, we will, particularly if the "flu season" brings the very possible resurgence. I ask for your prayers both now and in the future for the decisions that we have made and will make.
May our Lord continue to bless you, keep you, and provide for all that you need.
With love, in Christ,
Guidelines for returning to Worship Inside the Church Sanctuary:
Lord, we ask that you take away any fear, and grant wisdom, compassion, and care to all of us as we seek to honor You and trust You. We ask that you would protect all of us, particularly those who work in Heathcare. We also pray for a treatment for the Coronavirus and a vaccine to prevent its’ spread. We ask, too, that you give all of us wisdom as we navigate this time and continue to seek to worship You and care for those around us. We ask and pray all this in Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Dear Parish Family,
I continue to pray that you and your families are well as we continue to go through this "New Normal" with the Coronavirus.
The variety of responses by people in the media and the people that I talk with during the week is wide ranging and confusing for all of us. Knowing best how to navigate the information, social distancing, and being isolated from one another is a challenge; and, for some, I know, causing frustration and fear!
In the past week, I have been on a walk on the beach with my wife Meredith, to the grocery store, and to the hardware store. The change in the last six weeks is amazing! I have seen more licence plates from more states than I have seen in over a month. I have seen more people going to the various stores with no masks or gloves; and, the beach was crowded, as are the bike paths!
It is either a desire to move on, Coronavirus fatigue, or just a belief that the Coronavirus has subsided.
But, we still find restrictions with other businesses, with social distancing, and in the restrictions with visiting at the hospitals, nursing facilities and retirement communities.
I have been on several Zoom meetings this week with the staff, with our Bishop and other clergy in our Diocese, with clergy on the Island, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. One question that has been "tackled" during these meetings: When can/should the church be allowed to open for worship? The Governor has said (and, today, being the National Day of Prayer, I am specifically praying for our President, the Governor, and other governmental and EMS workers) churches may meet with certain restrictions. The responses that I have heard vary greatly.
However, our Bishop, Mark Lawrence, has granted us permission to meet as early as May 17th for worship, with a list of protocols on how we might do that. He is also asking the clergy to submit (to the Diocese) their list of protocols. The Vestry will have a Zoom meeting in the next few days to decide when we might open. We are contemplating the possibility of May 17th, or within the next few weeks, depending upon how "ready" we feel we can be.
Let me just say that when we open, I do not expect that we will have a "full congregation;" nor should we! Our wonderful members in retirement communities may not be able to come, based on the rules governing what they are able and not able to do. Anyone who is at risk, particularly those with a compromised health status, should not expose themselves to any risk, if possible. And, some are fearful that if they go to a gathering such as worship, they could contract the virus. I do not want people who would be concerned or at risk to feel obligated or even guilty about coming to worship! Rather, all of us should practice wisdom, discernment, caution. And, let me add, we will continue to stream our worship for any who will be staying at home, as well as for those who live in other places, nationally and internationally, who have been blessed by our worship being streamed.
I have had a number of people ask "when are we going to be allowed to come back to church?" and I am inclined to move forward cautiously to address that need and desire, with the Bishop's blessing.
When we do, we will have many protocols in place: for example, social distancing as you enter and exit; social distancing when you are seated (and, we will hopefully have the Fellowship Hall open as an overflow, with the ability to stream the worship service there as well); bread only for communion, and stations with social distancing as one approaches to receive. Doors will be propped open, and we are requesting that, outside of an emergency, no one use the restrooms. We will be disinfecting the entire church after the worship service.
We are also contemplating resuming the Wednesday Healing Communion Service at 10:00 AM; but will need to make sure that we are able to disinfect in between! And, we will only be doing one worship service on Sunday (10:00 AM) since disinfecting sufficiently between the services would be very difficult.
We hope to make masks available; however, it would be helpful if everyone coming had their own masks (which you can take off while praying the responses, singing, and receiving communion); and, of course, hand sanitizers will be available at all the entry-ways. These are just a few of the protocols that we will have in place.
We are working on a team of ushers and enough sound and video people to help in both the Sanctuary and the Fellowship Hall. If you would like to volunteer for any of these positions, please let the office know, and if/when there is a need, we will contact you. We will probably need to "bolster" these with more volunteers as we progress through this period for the foreseeable future.
I believe that God delights when His people worship Him! Psalms 95 & 100 are great reminders of this! But, I also believe that our Lord does not want us acting irresponsibly nor callously. We need to allow people the grace to live in the way they feel will be a blessing to them and to others, and to treat each other with compassion and patience during this time.
Do I have all the answers? No! Do I know exactly how to proceed during this challenging time? No. Do I know the timetable or the future regarding the Coronavirus? No! Like you, I am trying to navigate this time with caution, wisdom, love, grace and care. And, at the same time, not be immobilized or paralyzed by fear or inactivity (or, as the Bishop warned the clergy, "sloth"!).
Please pray that what we are seeking to do will be a blessing for all. Please pray that the Coronavirus subsides, that the healthcare workers are protected as they do their work caring for others, seeking a treatment, a cure, a vaccine. And, pray for good health for all of your loved ones!
I will be in touch about when we actually choose to begin worship; and, should the need arise, that we suspend worship in the Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall and return to Streaming only.
A challenging time? Yes! One like we have never seen! But we trust our Lord and seek to live in His peace, knowing that He has us now; and by His grace and love and our trust in Him, for all eternity!
With love, in Christ,