Typically, spring cleaning in the churchyard is for the faithful few. No different as any other year; the remnant picked up trash, raked leaves, and pulled weeds. Those clearing brush leaning heavily on a side wall were spooked when a fawn leaped up trying desperately to stabilize herself on wobbly legs before making a getaway.
Recently born, she was now alone, vulnerable, and at risk. What was to happen to her? Was she abandoned? Apparently not, for the mother deer was not far keeping a covert eye on her young. We never imagined our churchyard offered this kind of sanctuary.
We face many challenges, struggles, and threats, often on a daily basis. Even as a church we face challenges not thought of before as the pandemic has brought them to us. Many smaller churches were not ready for the technology demanded by online worship. Spooked, we flee on wobbly legs as we attempted to find our footing.
At Suamico United Methodist Church, a beautiful worship space has been provided, with
technology and volunteer help that allows us to do a great job. Each Sunday, the remnant gathers to offer praise and thanksgiving, to hear God’s word read and explained, and for prayers to be offered as we seek God’s help. After all, there has to be a service to live stream so worship can be meaningful.
Our worship space offers sanctuary where we may be embraced in God’s love. But be ever so sure that the sanctuary, God’s dwelling place, is less a place, a location, and far more a relationship, which must be cultivated. We find safety in relation to God, as we trust, rely upon, and take refuge in God. Many of the psalms express the soul’s longing for God, for sanctuary in God’s love.
Worship in the sanctuary also allows us to gather with the faithful trusting that God’s presence is among us. Obviously, online streaming has facilitated our worship, and while we encourage our members to engage in in-person worship as they feel safe, we must guard against feeling it is less convenient as we prefer to worship in our pajamas, comfy in our lounge chair.
By all means, do whatever is safe and healthy for you but try to get back to in-person worship as soon as you are able. Our community needs your presence more than you imagine.
Graham N. West, pastor