Where are we?
Having got a few dates muddled up for Reading, Reflection and Prayer, I'm well aware of the confusion these days can bring. Is it Wednesday? Tuesday? Friday? Where are we? Where are we as individuals and where are we as a church? How are you doing? How is Good Sam doing? Should we open our doors next week? A week ago? In a month or so? Not until the threat has fully passed? Where have we been, where are we now, and where are we headed? Can we even say?
Anxiety and stress in a time of change
We've had to adapt to a lot. Some households have adapted relatively well; others are struggling more. It's been tough for some of us who are isolated and tough for those trying to run businesses. Some of us are introverts and have actually enjoyed quite a lot of aspects of the current lockdown. The extroverts are tending towards stir craziness. There are no rules to how you 'should' be reacting. But there is a corporate desire to be there for one another. I'm so impressed by the fact that nearly all our small groups are meeting remotely, and several more often than before. We have called nearly every household as a church staff, and the vestry are also reaching out to members of the parish. We're beginning a new Zoom Bible study this Wednesday with an open invite especially to reach those who are wanting that kind of group community and don't currently have a small group that they belong to (although, of course, all are welcome!).
Pastoral care is largely by telephone. Clergy and staff are reaching out to people - but you are of course welcome to reach out to us if you would like a pastoral conversation or any other support at this time. Small groups and other ministry groups at Good Sam have been reaching out to one another, and our mutual building of community at this time is crucial.
If you'd value a conversation with a member of clergy or another member of staff, do please reach out to us directly. All our contact details are on the website at good-samaritan.org/staff. If you have a friend you're concerned about, by all means ask us to reach out to them and we will do so.
We've had to adapt to worshiping online. Many of you have expressed your gratitude for our Sunday livestream and for the mid-week 'Reading, Reflection and Prayer'. Sunday School is online. Youth Group is by Zoom. We're learning new technology fast and our whole society is becoming drained by it. My thanks to you for sticking with it, and to the staff for all their hard work making these various things possible. We will be continuing to work on getting our technology ever more stable and reliable. Online worship has been hard to do partly because of the rules changing. First we could have ten gathered for the stream. Then it became clear that we shouldn't have people in high risk groups as a part of that. (The CDC define high risk as over 65, with a pre-existing condition (including obesity) or living in a nursing home - which is why Revd John Whitnah and Revd Marcia Wilkinson haven't been a part of the in-church worship group since the first couple of weeks.) Then it was only the Rector and his household; then six could be a part of it. I'm getting dizzy with the changes. New rule changes this week suggest that we may be back again to me and my household (with some masked people in attendance to help with technology).
The music has been beautiful. I know people especially appreciated the Good Friday meditation. Thanks to Rick Zuch and the various singers and clergy who were a part of that. I've enjoyed the fact that we can see Gary's hands and feet at work in his spectacular piano and organ playing. I'm thankful to the various households who have contributed by leading contemporary songs from their homes.
All of our online content ends up on our YouTube channel. We've improved the channel page, so if there are daily reflections, or Sunday services or sermons you want to catch up on do go to that channel page. If you Subscribe then it will appear in the list of channels you're subscribed to: youtube.com/goodsampaoli
Groups are meeting on Zoom and our new Bible Study will be on Zoom. Because of 'Zoom bombing' the links to those are only sent via email. Do sign up for the Good Sam weekly email at the very bottom of this page (in the 'footer') if you're not on that email list at the moment.
Serving our Neighbors
Our Food Closet has been seeing new families impacted by losing their employment every week. We're grateful to still be able to be in operation. Many thanks to Charlene and the team of volunteers who make that happen. Our HELPs ministry has also met some requests for assistance with rent and bills from those in our community who are similarly affected. Rose and Angela are doing a wonderful job in processing those requests.
And I know that you are serving your neighbors in countless ways. My household has been making masks, and I know many of you are reaching out to one another for prayer and support. Children have been writing and sending notes to those who are on their own. Your direct donations to both the Food Closet and HELPs have provided well for those ministries. We are busy being the Church of the Good Samaritan even with our physical movement and gathering restricted.
We are continuing to pay all our regular staff and Day School teachers. We refunded tuition for the remainder of the term to Day School families. Some refused the refund in order to support our school for which we're grateful. Nevertheless the Day School budget takes a big hit from that. Betsy has worked hard at applying for a CARES loan, which we have been approved for. We are hoping that it will prove forgivable, and that it will cover the gap that we are seeing between income and expense for the Day School.
I'm pleased to say that our giving as a church has stayed strong. It's a sign of your mutual love for one another and your commitment to one another as the body of Christ in this place. We had a poor month in March, but April saw us catch up to be on track with our income budget for the year. Thank you - and well done for those of you who have figured out online giving! You can organize that at good-samaritan.org/giving.
Normally at the beginning of a vestry year, we'd have a dinner at my house, and a retreat day to get to know one another better. Whitney, Mary Anne, Ashley and Rusty have all joined the vestry without having this regular start to our life together. They've done great being part of our vestry meetings (by Zoom) and Andy Balsan has done wonderfully at taking on his new role as Financial Warden. Whitney has already proved a great support for me as the new Rector's warden and has provided good leadership within the vestry as a whole. You can see who is on our vestry at good-samaritan.org/vestry.
It's been hard to predict what will happen next week let alone in a few weeks time. That is still true - we need to be patient and trust God in the face of uncertainty about what we'll be able to do when.
It's clear that we cannot have Vacation Bible School in person, or the mission trip we were planning in the summer. Plans are afoot for an online offering for Vacation Bible School. The state is hoping to get schools open by the Fall - and we are certainly hoping that will prove possible.
The Diocese is going to publish guidelines about the way in which we will be able to reopen churches in the Diocese next week. We'll send you details of that when they've finalized their guidance.
What is clear is that we won't be moving faster than the State. So, the expectation (but no firm timeline) is that some time in the middle of June Chester County will move to the 'yellow phase' in which the lock-down will be lifted, but gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 25 people. These will not include those over 65 or those with pre-existing health conditions. Anyone who does gather will be subject to rigorous restrictions (masks, social distancing, no singing). So a 'normal' Sunday at Good Samaritan is not going to be possible until we get all the way to the 'green phase'. There is no prediction as to when that might be.
I'm not writing this to depress you - but to prevent you having any false hope that things will be back to a regular schedule any time soon. So in the interim, please do continue to faithfully support one another, pray, give, serve etc... Make the most of the opportunities that God is giving you day by day to grow and to reach out in love to your neighbors.
Our priorities as a church at this time are clear. Providing connection through credible online worship and group experiences for all ages and providing connection through one on one pastoral support.
Both are challenging and stretching us as we have to do things in new and unfamiliar ways.
So just as I, and the whole staff pray for you day by day, can I encourage you to pray for us and for one another. That God would give us more of his Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, that we might know Jesus more day by day and know his power at work in and through us.
With love and blessings,