Pastoral Letter February 19, 2021
The past year has been less than we thought it would be. Not only less but some would say tragic. In fact, I dare say there are countless adjectives and phrases to describe this past year and the emotions we have felt at one time or another. Some of theses phrase or adjectives are exhausting—we hear these words and we groan in frustration: social distancing, on-line learning, Zoom, “you’re muted,” or, “you’re frozen.” Are we 6 feet apart? We groan because we are frustrated and feeling discouraged. We want to escape the confines of the life we have come to know this past year—we want to return to “normal.”
Other terms from this past year have quite the opposite effect, “in this together,” “responding on the front-lines,” “you are not alone,” these phrases remind us we aren’t alone and we want to keeping moving towards something better: We don’t want things to be the same! Truly, we don’t want the old normal, we’ve keep hearing about the “new normal,” but what we long for is something better.
Fear not! God is here. Ever present. We are not abandoned or forsaken. While the world around us changed. It did not end. This is not the first or the last time tragedy will strike! While the news on the screen is grim—there is hope! God is calling us. Calling us to draw closer to our Divine source of Light and New Life this season of Lent. In Christ and through Christ we can find our way toward restoration and renewal that calls us to strive for the still more excellent way. On Easter this year, on that day of days, God is the One who is reaching out to bring us into this new future, that we have yet to imagine.
This past year, loneliness may have crept in. Despair and doubt may have lingered longer and harder than ever before. We may have wondered, “Where are you God?” Talk about despair: imagine living on a boat for 40 days and 40 nights, knowing the life you knew is being totally wiped out. Maybe this year, we can come closer to imagining this! That’s where this Sunday’s scripture lesson begins, when God promised Noah (with no strings attached, instead a rainbow), “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and all the earth.” Never again, nope nothing can or will separate us from the love of God made known to us in Christ. Certainly not COVID.
JOIN US THIS SUNDAY MORNING!
- Sunday School at 9:00 am for Students in Grades 1 & 2. Watch your email for more information and a Zoom link from Carmen.
- Worship by online platform at 9:30 AM. This Sunday, February 21st, the First Sunday in Lent, my sermon is titled “Again & Again, God Meets Us” and is part a series titled, “Again & Again, A Lenten Refrain”
- Sunday morning Joys and Concern Prayers at 10:30 by Zoom led by Pastor Laurie. The link and/or phone number and code can be obtained at our church office or from any member of the FPC community. Refer to the Thursday Eblast for Zoom link.
DON’T FORGET! Lenten Desserts start this Wednesday, February 24th: Chocolate Blondies will be parked under the Canopy in a cooler—come and pick yours up after 1:00 PM and then join us by Zoom at 7:00 pm as we engage in an intergenerational study of seemingly flawed biblical figures that God has loved, flaws and all, and used to accomplish his purposes…this week we’ll start with Ruth!
UPDATE ON CHURCH SHUT-DOWN: In accordance with current health guidelines and best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Session has voted to extend the Church Shut-Down through February 28, 2021. The Rapid Response Team and the Session look forward to developing metrics and the beginnings of a measured plan for reopening that could possibly start this Spring.
Sarah Moore-Nokes shared with Pastors, Clerks, and Church leaders on December 17th, “As we learn more about how the vaccine will become available, I’ve started to hear questions and conversations about “returning to normal.” It is abundantly clear that many people will not be vaccinated for sometime. PLEASE DO NOT MAKE PLANS TO RETURN TO IN PERSON GATHERINGS anytime soon. It is simply not advisable.
When will it be safe to meet again?
There is not yet consensus on the answer to this question, however there are two metrics that are emerging as places to start the conversation.
One metric to consider is a positivity rate of less than 5% (to determine the rate divide positive tests by by total tests on any given day). Most of the state of WI is seeing positivity rates in the high 20s. You can find the state positivity rate at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/data.htm#summary . Some counties provide this information, if yours does not, you can simply divide new cases by total tests for a day to get the rate.
The World Health Organizations recommends that the positivity rate should be 5% or lower for 14 days or longer before opening organizations up again.
Another metric is new cases per 100,000. This data is easier to find and can be found for every county at this Department of Health Services website: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/disease.htm
Hover over your county on the map to see cases/100,000.
Wisconsin considers the new case rate low if it is 10 or below
Keep washing your hands thoroughly! Here is way to turn that time into prayer time:
Hand Washing 20 second Prayers & Meditations for Soul Cleansing
Why not multi-task during our multiple hand-washings each day? Getting a little tired of singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice, or Counting to 20? How about this: Let those 20 seconds become a chance for a little Soul Cleansing, too.
Click this link for three different ones to get us going! Add yours to the mix as you think of them.
Did you miss the Forum for All with Professor Kleiman on Sunday, February 14th?
Click here to watch!
The food pantry of SOS (Soup or Socks) remains open during the pandemic.
To obtain food or to volunteer to help,
call SOS directly: 715-387-1796.
Parish Nurse Karen
First Presbyterian Church, Marshfield, Wisconsin seeks to welcome all to join us on our journey of faith, denying no one, based upon his or her particular human condition, participation in the life of the church. We want to be a safe place, a sanctuary where people are accepted, included, and cared for as they are. We will be agents of God’s transforming power, aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit as we pray, worship, learn, share fellowship and serve together. By attending to the love of Jesus Christ in our midst, we discover a deepening faith that makes a difference in our lives. As a community based on God’s love, we strive to be of service to our neighbors and to the world.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
where all are welcomed and embraced in the inclusive Love of God
Would you like to know more of the background and rationale for the Session’s recent difficult, yet unanimous decision regarding reopening the church for Sunday morning worship? You likely are already aware that on August 25, Session decided to continue to offer recorded, remote Sunday morning worship through the end of the year; while revisiting that decision monthly in hopes we meet the gating criteria sooner that would render in-person worship safe again. This video, written and presented by Pastor Laurie Brubaker Davis, offers a deeper dive into some of the background, rationale, and prayer that led to this decision. We hope you find it helpful.