Looking ahead to Fall 2020 seems somewhat like this photo I saw earlier this week looking through a crystal ball lens: The world seems upside down, the horizon is a little unclear, yet there is still unmistakable beauty. Regardless of how your world feels, and the uncertainty of plans made for the near future, there is still beauty all around because our God is still in control. I have to remind myself of that from time to time (perhaps especially after watching the news).
But Fall will soon be upon us. Labor Day, the unofficial marker of Fall, is just a couple weeks away. The autumnal equinox, the official inauguration of Fall, comes just a couple weeks after that.
What will this mean for us at Grace Covenant? Well, truly, only the Lord knows. But we have made some plans that we hope will be both beneficial and encouraging to the Grace Covenant family.
First, we will offer our Discovery Class beginning on Sunday September 13. The difference this year is that the class will meet online (Zoom) and it will be in the late afternoon rather than between services.
The reason for the class being online is that the church building will remain closed, other than for Sunday worship, for at least the near future. With questions about the virus’ continued potency and possible second wave, we determined that online was the wisest option. Afternoon was chosen, in part as an experiment, to see if that time is better for some than Sunday morning, and in greater part because we realized that to offer a class online between services would be difficult for those who are present at either of the church services. However, online and in the afternoon also offers some opportunities and potential benefits, such as more opportunity for dialogue.
This class is designed as an introduction and explanation of the DNA and the ministries of Grace Covenant. As such, it is usually attended by those who are new to Grace Covenant, and who either would like to become a member of the church or who would like a little more information before deciding if Grace Covenant is where you will make your church home. If you are new to Grace Covenant, or if you have been with us for some time but have not yet joined the church, I would like to extend an invitation to you to participate in this upcoming class. Just email Kathy in the church office to sign up, or to ask any questions you may have.
We’d also like to extend an invitation to those who are already members of Grace Covenant to consider participating. Long time Grace Covenant member, Marian Weinberger, before she went home to be with the Lord not too long ago, participated in the class several times. She said she was just keeping tabs on the elders, making sure we were still doing and teaching the right things, but she also said she enjoyed and benefited from the discussions. A refresher can be a good thing. Sometimes you pick things up you missed the first time around. Further, your contributions to the discussions can also be beneficial to others in the class. So, if you are already a member of Grace Covenant, and would like to participate in the Discovery Class, we ask that you also shoot an email to Kathy to sign up. In the coming weeks you will receive an email invite to the Zoom meeting, and the password Zoom is now requiring for participation.
As the Fall unfolds we will also be announcing and facilitating some other classes and educational offerings. But we wanted to get started with Discovery Class, allow time for our small groups to get coordinated, and try to avoid the screen fatigue many of us have experienced these past several months.
A second important announcement is that Grace Covenant will renew regular observation of the Lord’s Supper, beginning on Sunday September 6. During the Fall, through the end of the year, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper the first Sunday of each month, with some slight changes as protocols to ensure safety.
During the duration of 2020, we will switch to pre-packaged communion elements – gluten-free wafers, and grape juice. Each package will be distributed to worshipers, as they come forward (safely spaced), by Elders, who will be gloved and masked as extra precautions. Worshipers will then return to seats, at which point we will partake of the elements.
Mindful that two-thirds of those who worship with us are doing so from home, Session has made the decision to stretch the bounds of our standards, prescribed for us in the PCA Book of Church Order, and invite those who are worshiping from home to also participate in the Lord’s Supper. We did not come to this decision easily, nor was it made lightly. We take seriously the instructions concerning the Lord’s Supper (see, for instance, 1 Corinthians 11) and we are committed to the dignity and solemnity of partaking in this means of grace. However, we unanimously felt that we are living in an extraordinary time, and that unusual exceptions are warranted in our present situation. That said, we do feel we should offer some instructions for those who plan to participate from home.
While some churches have, somewhat flippantly, invited people to just grab a favorite cracker and a favorite beverage, we want to encourage a bit more – significantly more – reflection of the holiness connected to this expression of worship. We urge everyone participating online to set aside a bread and grape juice or wine. In other words, don’t just pinch off a piece of the bread you will use for lunch, or use the same glass of grape juice you are having with your breakfast. Give some thought to what these elements represent. If possible, perhaps find some matzah or matzah crackers, though any bread is fine. It’s not necessary to set aside a whole loaf of bread, but some may wish to do so. But whatever bread is used, have the pieces ready to partake at the same time as those who are partaking in the sanctuary. Same for the wine/juice. Have it ready for all participants, pre-poured into some vessel, ready to drink while those in the sanctuary are drinking. What amount of wine/juice? That’s up to you. But I would encourage pouring out any juice leftover in the cup (not necessarily the whole bottle), after partaking. This is more symbolic than essential, but I believe you will find benefit in distinguishing the elements used for communion from the food and drink you consume in day-to-day life.
Another point that we would remind everyone, only those who have been baptized AND admitted into membership in some Bible-believing, Christ-honoring church should participate at the Table. While we respect different views on this, and we do not want to police consciences, this is the standard of our Church. We discourage parents from serving the elements to children who have not been received into membership of the Church. We strongly urge anyone who is not a member in good standing of some faithful church, or who are presently under church discipline at the church of which they are members, to refrain from coming to the table. Again, while we have no desire to police the conscience, we do put a metaphorical “fence” around the table to encourage people to give serious consideration to both the promises and the cautions God has given us, and recorded for us in the Bible. (See 1 Corinthians 11.27)
We’ll give more information in the weeks to come. For now, we just wanted to make you aware of what is coming up.
I close again thanking you, the Grace Covenant family, for your faithfulness, graciousness, and your generosity. This is evident always, but perhaps especially over these past several months. While day-to-day life has been unusual, and even difficult for many, you have encouraged us, cared for one another, and blessed our church both tangibly and spiritually. I look forward to seeing many on Sunday morning, and many others one day soon.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor