Unusual Times and Difficult Decisions

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Dear St.Paul’s Church,

These are very unusual times and as a result we are facing decisions we have never had to face before. Thankfully, God’s goodness and faithfulness remain unchanging and the promise of his grace remains more than enough to see us through even the most trying times and the most daunting decisions.  

Earlier in the week we announced changes to our Sunday morning gatherings that we were confident would be enough to fulfill our responsibility as good citizens and neighbors and to do our part to “get out in front” of the possible spread of COVID-19 in our community and beyond. We were confident that as a small church we fit well under the recommendation by New Brunswick’s chief medical officer to cancel group gatherings of more than 150 people.

Upon further reflection, and given the relatively high proportion of our members who would face serious health risks if infected with COVID-19, and being sensitive to the burden placed upon those who are at-risk by the decision of whether or not to attend public worship, we have decided to cancel our worship services for this Sunday, March 15th.  

We do remain hopeful that with diligence and patience it will not be too long before we are able to gather again in person as a church family. With the decision by local schools to remain closed for the next two weeks it would seem fitting at this time to follow the same pattern, but we will make a final decision later next week as to whether or not we will resume services on Sunday March 22nd. So please stay connected.  

In the meantime, I will be uploading to our website and Facebook page an online offering of prayers, scripture readings and reflections following the pattern of Morning Prayer, and will be pursuing other means (online, by telephone, and through personal visitation) to help keep our people connected to one another and to our shared rhythm of prayer and worship.

If you or someone you know is in need of pastoral care and would like a call or visit, please do not hesitate to contact me through the parish office (832-3375) and let me know.

Finally, in light of ongoing and growing concerns, there are two very important things that we as Church must continue to do, even if we cannot gather in the ways that we are used to:

1) We must resist the fear of anything but the wise and grace-filled ‘fear of the Lord’. As St. Paul once wrote to his student Timothy in even more fearful times than these, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2Timothy 1:7). As another local pastor recently put it to his congregation, “It is crucial that we, the Church —whose hope and trust is not in our health, the government, the economy or anything else, but squarely in the Lord— are diligent to ‘take every thought captive’ and to not allow this pandemic to incite panic in the people of God. We are the last people who should be worried, about anything. We know Whose we are, and we know how this story ends.”

2) We must lean in to the rhythm and community of faith. Just because services are cancelled does not mean Church is cancelled. The world needs the Church to remain Church now more than ever. The world needs the Church to continue to pray and to praise, to give and to love, and to share the hope of the Gospel by words and deeds and by remaining a non-anxious presence in our families, in our communities and in our world.

So keep praying, keep praising, keep learning and following the ways of Jesus, and keep asking God to show you how to bring light and hope and peace to the people around you and how, in turn, to receive the same from them.

‘And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit,’

Rev. David +

Public Worship Cancelled at St.Paul’s for Sun. March 15th