Borrowing the Apostle’s greeting to the Galatians: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
We mourn this week over the sudden passing of beloved church member Jan Pohl, who crossed into the Promised Land last Sunday evening. Jan’s gain is our loss. (Philippians 1.21) So, while rejoicing for Jan, we pray for Ron, and for their family – we pray for God to grant the comfort that is embedded in the hope of the promise of God that belongs to all who are in Christ Jesus. A memorial service will be held for Jan at a time in the hopefully not-too-distant future, after the pandemic has subsided.
As for the pandemic, it continues to wreak havoc in various places throughout the world, and across the country. While our area is in a better state than some others, as many of you are aware, Governor Northam issued a new executive order Friday afternoon as a precautionary measure. This new order is essentially a reiteration Executive Order 63, which was initially implemented earlier this year. The effect of this order will reduce public and social gatherings – inside or outside – from a maximum of 250 people back down to a max of 25 people. Two things important for all to know, as it pertains to church, are: 1) This order does not go into effect until midnight Sunday (going into Monday), 2) This order does not pertain to church worship services. So not only does this order have NO EFFECT on our gathering tomorrow (November 15); in it’s present manifestation, this order has ZERO impact restricting our freedom and ability to gather for worship in the weeks to come. The only thing that applies to worship services is the requirement to wear masks and maintain social distance – both of which we have already been requiring at Grace Covenant. I want to be clear about this, because I had serious concerns, and I know a lot of others, many who contacted me yesterday, shared my concerns and questions. (If you want to read up on this for yourself, click: 11/13/20 Executive Order, and Northam Adds New Rules Statewide (AP).)
Please know that the Session (Council of Elders) will be meeting Tuesday evening, and will discuss any implications these new restrictions may have on other aspects of our church life (such as small groups, youth groups, etc.). If any adjustments are required Session, in consultation with our Deacons where required or where wisdom dictates, will make the necessary decisions, and we will communicate them with you through multiple media and means.
Such events as we have been experiencing in recent months, and again yesterday, have served to remind me of reasons I am thankful to be part of a Presbyterian church. It is not that there is any inherent superior spirituality among Presbyterians, nor that there is necessarily anything lacking in other denominations and spiritual tribes. But I have good reason, I think, for such thankfulness. The word “presbyterian” means “governed by elders”. Major decisions, such as those about worship, or if we should suspend gatherings, are not mine alone to make as pastor, but are made “jointly and severally” (as our Book of Church Order puts it). In other words, our church benefits from the wisdom that comes through the “counsel of many” godly minds. I’ll confess, when I learned that the governor had issued this new executive order yesterday, months of frustration began to arise within me – frustrations due to the shut-downs, lockdowns, etc., Fortunately my frustration was an over-reaction, and moot, since little to nothing will change for the worse in our church gatherings. But, in the midst of feeling frustration, while trying to gather the facts, I was comforted by the knowledge that any major decisions were not left to me alone; there are others whose wisdom is brought to the table; and decisions are made from the collective wisdom. Sure, we can still get things wrong sometimes. But, the chances of error are significantly reduced for, as Proverbs 15.22 reminds us, there is a benefit to many counselors. All this to encourage you to appreciate Grace Covenant’s Elders and Deacons. These men do quite a bit for our church, and for you, often behind the scenes, unnoticed. At times, it can be taxing on them. Like all of us, they have day-to-day responsibilities and challenges. But on top of life’s normal demands, they also look after your spiritual benefit. Hebrews 12.17 tells us that they will have to “give account” to God, not just for their own lives, but how they have cared for yours as well. So, if you have opportunity, thank them. And pray for them. The old cliché is so often true, “as go the leaders, so goes the church.”
Finally, a little more on the fun side, we were notified of a virtual performance of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce that will take place tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, November 15. For details, and to register for this FREE event, click the link above. I hope many of you will enjoy it!
Have a great week!
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor