It seems like we’ve been in this “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” mode of living forever, but as I write this note it is just approaching one month since we began it. April 26 is the seventh Sunday we have not gathered together for worship. It will be several more weeks before we are able to gather together again. Although plans are being discussed and made for “re-opening,” as we have heard, it will be a gradual process.
The data for our state at covid19.healthdata.org shows we reached the peak number of deaths from the virus on April 6, which means the infection rate peaked in mid to late March. Projections show we will still have over 100 more deaths during the next 3 to 5 weeks. We still need to be cautious. As we re-open our state, it will be done in phases. Group gatherings will be among the last restrictions to be lifted. Consequently, our bishop has asked all United Methodist churches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska to continue to suspend in-person worship services through the month of May (although she does express hope that we might be able to get together May 31 for Pentecost; see below).
This is disappointing, I know. I’ve heard many of you say how much you miss being together on Sundays. But even though this tends to be the primary way we think about church, I’ve noticed ways in which you all are adapting to our situation:
· You are calling and talking with each other. I’ve heard many times in my conversations with folks how they were talking to someone else from church earlier that day. Although we’ve certainly talked with each other over the phone before COVID-19, I get the sense we’re doing more of that now. (I know my phone needs recharging more frequently these days.) We remain in “touch” with each other through these conversations.
· You continue to support your church. The March financial report you’ll see in the May newsletter will show that we again received more than enough income to cover our budgeted expenses, even though we didn’t meet for 3 of the 5 Sundays that month. This consistent support through the year affirmed the trust expressed by our Finance Committee in our ability to pay our own bills, as they voted to postpone applying for the small business Payroll Protection Program loan, so that other small businesses in greater need could receive that money now. Our Church Council was also encouraged by our income, and voted to pay staff whose hours were reduced or eliminated by the church closure their full contracted pay.
· You are caring for your community by donating to the “Community Needs” fund we established. We sent our first check—over $3,000.00—to Mustangs4Mustangs to help people in need in Prosser. We would like to hear about programs helping people in need in the Grandview and Sunnyside areas as well, for future donations. Please call the church office if you know of any such programs.
· You are helping those you know are in need. I’ve heard stories about toilet paper, groceries, or baked goods being delivered to a friend or neighbor’s house.
· You are coming by the church to do a little weeding, gardening, lawn mowing, or re-supplying the custodian’s closet. This helps keep the building and grounds ready for when we do come back together there.
I know there are many other things you all are doing that I haven’t seen or heard about. These are ways in which you are living out your faith, being the church. We are showing, to ourselves, to each other, and to others around us, that although we tend to think in terms of what church we go to, as Jesus’ disciples we also carry it with us every day of our life.