May 27, 2020
Rev. Jerry Kulp
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. … 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Galatians 5:26, 22-23
Greetings my friends!
There is a great deal of debate raging around us over appropriate actions as our country begins to re-emerge from the COVID19 pandemic. As you might imagine, the leadership of our community of faith has received many questions regarding the re-opening of our church buildings and the return to gathering in person for worship. Today, I would like to use this space to share with you my opinion on this topic.
First, let me say, that our community of faith has not closed. The ministries that bear witness to the love of God for the world through Jesus Christ have continued through this pandemic. They are just a little bit “different” than normal. For the first time in the history of our community, worship has been broadcast into homes via “live stream” technology and the internet. Bible studies, Sunday school, fellowship ministry, youth ministry, and various ministry team meetings have been conducted utilizing “Zoom.” A “new” ministry based on a traditional concept Calls for Compassion and Caring or “CCC” ministry emerged which engages 29 volunteers who routinely call the nearly 1,000 members of our community of faith. The prayers of the people through personal devotions and the daily prayer and Scripture journals provided by our community continue to bring praise, worship, and intercession before our Lord. The Church has NOT closed. Our buildings have been closed for the benefit of the greater community.
I am reminded that it is nearly impossible to have a discussion on topics like re-opening our buildings without people inferring a political stance. If I suggest that we should listen to the president and open our building, then I am viewed as a conservative Republican. If I suggest that we wait, then I am viewed as a liberal Democrat. Neither of these assessments would be truthful regarding myself personally.
So, on this day, I share with you my personal reflections about these topics. I believe we are called to be a “Spirit led” people. Spirit led people who possess the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits of the Spirit have always been intended by God and interpreted by St. Paul, as being fruits that are to be employed for the good of the whole church. Literally in my opinion, that means that we are to employ these fruits of the Spirit for the benefit of the entire community, or at least most of the community. When I apply this standard to my own thinking about “how” and “when” our buildings will once again host our communal worship celebrations my own thinking and desire MUST give way to what’s in the best interest of my sisters and brothers in Christ.
To suggest that those faithfully discerning, praying, and thoughtfully considering how best to apply decisions intersecting the fields of medicine, science, and faith are somehow cowardly or not bold in their faith is simply in my opinion, wrong minded. We, as a community of faith have now been conducting ministry during this pandemic for three months. Our local leaders are sharing with us that in another week or two our counties will move to “yellow.” If all goes well in “yellow” we will move to “green” in two additional weeks.
When I apply the “fruits of the Spirit” to this particular conversation then the answer seems simple; Out of regards for loving my sisters and brothers in Christ I will not endorse opening our buildings until we can feel assured that it is safe for all of our sisters and brothers in Christ to return to the worship space. Exercising patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in this time is critical to our understanding of who we are called to be as children of God.
Each of you reading this reflection either have come or will come to your own understanding of when we should join in person for our worship celebrations. I respect that. I also respect the decisions that you will reach in regards to the decisions reached by the leadership of our community of faith. My hope and prayer is that you will have a better understanding of “how” we have come to the decision to patiently and hopefully wait for our return and that you will respect this decision.
Trust God, keep washing those hands, and be at peace,