Dear Church family,
In meeting with the Elders group last night it was the consensus that Bethany NOT return to in-person worship until at least July 26 as weekly cases went in reverse last week. Lancaster County reported 85 COVID-19 cases for the week ending June 27, which was its lowest weekly total in two months, but then last week it had its highest number of cases in six weeks. Granted this increase may be due to slow test results. We have all seen the carelessness of people throughout the United States refuse to take the necessary precautions to halt the spread of this virus. As people of faith we are called to model a Way and lifestyle that has “love for one another” as our highest priority.
According to an article in the New York Times, more than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities. “The virus has infiltrated Sunday sermons, meetings of ministers and Christian youth camps in Colorado and Missouri. It has struck churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defiled lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.” I know many of you are quite anxious to gather back at church with friends and family. I am anxious as well. But, not at the risk of someone getting sick! I read a quote a few weeks ago (don’t remember where) that has stuck with me. “At the end of the day, we have to wrestle with the question: Are we more fearful of boredom than of sickness? Do we love our social lives more than our neighbor’s health?” As much as it pains us to admit it, loving our neighbor means staying home at least for two more weeks. Maybe longer, we will have to see how the virus progresses here in Lincoln. We often think of “church” as being a safe place to be together. However, on a scale of safe places to gather during COVID-19, churches get a 7 on a scale of 10 with 10 being the worst. There are many at-risk people who call “church” home on a Sunday morning.
It is critical that during this time of sheltering in place we find creative ways to stay together for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Even as we live more separated, we must find new ways to be together. I would invite your ideas --- your creativity --- your vision of how we can help each other not feel so isolated and afraid. I asked Lora to find information on a Virtual Camp that is being offered by Kamp Kaleo. I thought this might appeal to our young people who have been a part of the Kamp Kaleo experience. I will keep watch and talk with colleagues about this. Most Disciples congregations in Nebraska are following the same path as Bethany by not meeting in-person for worship. Some are but with much lower numbers. Be patient, church, we will get there. There is much to learn about this time of pandemic that will make us stronger. And learning what it really means to love our neighbors in this crisis will be crucial to our collective health and survival.
Grace to you and Peace from Christ,