April 2021 Pastor’s Corner – It’s Just Not The Same

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25)

One of the most incredible aspects of the past year is how businesses and people adapted to the realities of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.  Things we used to only be able to do by leaving the house transformed in a few short weeks into things you could do from the comfort of your couch.  Need groceries?  Place the order online and you can pick them up without ever leaving your car.  Want to eat out?  No problem, they’ll bring the food and leave it at your door.  The latest blockbuster movie? Catch it on release day right there in your living  room.  A year ago only the largest and wealthiest churches were live-streaming, but now almost every church is doing so, including ours.  These are amazing and wonderful advances and changes, for which there is much to be thankful.

But can we be honest for a moment?  As great as all of that is, it’s just not the same.  How many times have you purchased the wrong quantity of something because you couldn’t tell how big it was from the teeny picture on your phone?  We’ve almost finished a 25lb bag of flour we accidentally bought last April.  Being able to use Doordash and UberEats is great… but no matter how quick they are, nothing beats the ambiance of the restaurant and eating it fresh from the kitchen.  And Greyhound and Soul were amazing movies… but something gets lost when you’re not seeing it on the big screen.

All of that is even more true when it comes to church and corporate worship.  We’ve learned a lot over the past year about what it truly means to be the church, that in many ways we are able to do more “Kingdom work” outside these walls than within them.  And we are so grateful to be able to provide the ability to worship together when we can’t physically be present at the church.  But, again, can we be honest?  It really isn’t the same.  And it shouldn’t be the same.

Much moreso than eating out, going to the movies or shopping for groceries, worshipping our Lord and Savior is meant to be done by being physically present with other believers.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is still present with us and unites us together even when we’re apart, but there is something crucial and important that happens when we gather together for Sunday worship.  Whether it’s singing our praises to the Lord, praying for one another, celebrating the Sacraments, or hearing the Word of God proclaimed, it’s meant to be experienced in-person, not over a screen.

You’ll see throughout this newsletter how we are moving back to in-person worship, ministry and mission.  We’ll be talking about it more as the weather warms up as well.  Right now, we’re looking at Pentecost Sunday as our “target date” for coming together as the Body of Christ.  You are welcomed and encouraged to join us for in-person worship before that date or on it.  Please know we’re not choosing to ignore the realities of the pandemic or letting our guard down.  We are recognizing that great strides have been taken over the past few months and that we are now at a place where we can, with confidence, say, it’s time to gather back as the Body of Christ and get to work on the mission Christ has given to us in Madison Heights, Amherst County, and around the world.  As our website says,

We are a biblically-based Presbyterian church seeking to experience and share God’s love to transform our homes, community and the world. We hope you will join us.

See you soon!

Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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NEPC’s Response to COVID-19

March 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

We are in unprecedented times, being forced into new patterns of being that feel unnatural and strange, but are ever so necessary in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of this pandemic.  The rhythm and flow of our “normal” lives has been completely disrupted, and we’re just beginning to experience what this is going to be like.  It’s hard, it’s scary, and it’s frightening. What are we to do? Well, there are a few answers to that, which I’d like to share with you today.

What am I to do?

Be wise and prudent, but not fearful.  We can take the novel coronavirus seriously and apply appropriate social distancing and good hygiene without falling into fear.  I encourage you to follow the guidelines issued by the CDC and the federal and state governments.  Wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, stay 6’ away from others, and avoid large group gatherings.  But even with those efforts you might contract the virus.  Whether you do or not, you are always in Jesus’ hands.  He is present with us in our isolation, our quarantines and even more in our illnesses.  He is already and will continue to watch over each one of us.  We need not fear for our present or future, because Jesus is already there.

What is our church to do?

Both Scripture (Romans 13:1) and our confession (Westminster 23.4) command us to submit to civil authorities, and while (at the time of the writing of this letter) no law has been issued barring us from gathering for worship, we do believe that it is our civic responsibility to comply, as best as possible, with their recommendations to slow the spread of this virus.  To that end, we have cancelled all ministries and missions outside of worship.  This includes Sunday school, Bible studies, women’s circles, and youth group.  We are also moving the focus of our worship service to online streaming.  As long as you have an internet-connected device (cell phone, TV, computer, iPad, etc), you can join us for worship.  Simply go to www.facebook.com/npcmh at 11am on Sunday morning, and you’ll see the livestream there (you do not need a Facebook account to see the service).  We will publish the bulletin online so you can follow along.  We’ll send more information about how this works on different devices in a few days.  In addition, the Sanctuary will still be open if you would like to be present with us, but we encourage folks to sit 6’ apart.  But let me re-emphasize: If you are in the higher-risk categories for COVID-19, please do not put yourself at risk by going out.  Also, if you have been reading for B90, by all means keep it up!  While our discussion groups won’t be meeting, we’ll email you online videos and tools.

The Work of the Church goes on

In the midst of this, we are still hard at work serving you and our community. Our programs might be temporarily cancelled, but the work of the church is more than a program or ministry.  Please continue giving.  Our community needs the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ now more than ever.  Send your tithes and offerings in weekly.  If you find yourself quarantined and unable to go to the store or need help, please let us know.  Look for ways to to love your neighbor, old or young.  Invite a neighbor to join your family for worship in your living room (but practice appropriate social distancing).  Call one another and check in to see how folks are doing.  And when you hear of a need or concern, please let us know.  In the midst of this terrible situation, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus for each other and our neighbors in ways we’d never dreamed.

The Church has faced pandemics like this time and again throughout history.  While we don’t know how long this will last, we know that it too shall pass and look forward to the time when we can worship and be together in person.  Until then, be wise and prudent.  Practice good hygiene, appropriate social distancing, and the guidance of our governing authorities.  Help where you are able.  And above and beyond all else, pray.  For we are all in God’s hands, and we should earnestly pray for his mercy to bring an end to this pestilence both here and abroad.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. David Garrison


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A Wonderful Valentine’s Dinner – 2/15/2020

On Saturday, February 15, the Fellowship Committee hosted a wonderful Valentine’s dinner for the congregation.  Complete with lasagna, spaghetti casseroles, Olive Garden salad and a strolling violinist, it was a wonderful evening for couples and families.  Thanks to all who helped pull it together!
 

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