Normally, this month’s edition is ramping up for the program year. Normally I am excited to read about plans for Sunday School, Confirmation, TRUST Youth and our own Youth Group stuff. Normally, our director of Worship and Music will have prepared the choirs, brass, and handbells for the celebration of our restart of the program year. Normally… normally? Remember those days when there was a normal? The fact that there is not a normal anymore is the biggest change for me. And while I like routines, traditions, and the expected, I am also one who likes to try new things and experiment. But during this season of COVID-19 I am craving some routine. And I REALLY miss all of you.

So here we are — still in this liminal (in-between) season of COVID-19 and the infection rates have slowed but they STILL have not diminished. I am starting to hear from members of St. John’s the infamous question: “When can we come back to church?” The honest answer is this: I don’t know. But St. John’s does have a taskforce of very committed people to monitor the situation and advise the Council on when they would recommend reopening. Just to remind you of the people on the Reopen Taskforce: Ann Paulson, Jim Gambucci, Peder Flaten, Sarah Tellijohn, Dan Cherryhomes, Deborah Dunham, and me. This commitee will not let the topic lay dormant. They are monitoring the situation and as soon as they recommend reopening, the council will then act and when they do we will all come together for a celebration as festive as Easter – regardless of the liturgical season!

In the meantime, we are all called by God to continue plugging away at living out our faith every day. I have been leading a book study on systemic racism, and while the topic has been a challenge and eye opening for many, the conversations have been nothing short of spectacular. We have wrapped up this session and will begin a new session of “Holy Conversations” at the end of September or early October. I hope you will engage in the conversation.

On Sunday. September 13th we will continue our new tradition in participating with the other +8,000 congregations in the ELCA nationwide with God’s Work- Our Hands Sunday. GWOH Sunday is a day where we take the love of God into our own hands and clean up the neighborhood, or participate in some good work for our neighbor’s benefit. This year we will host an event AT CHURCH but outside where we will be tying blankets while physically distancing ourselves AND wearing masks. MASKS WILL BE REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE AT ANY LEVEL AND NO SHAKING HANDS OR TOUCHING OTHERS WILL BE ALLOWED!! (this includes hugging and even shaking hands!) I am sad I have to write that, but I cannot emphasize enough how truly important compliance to this actually is. Nevertheless, if you are willing to play by those rules, I sincerely hope to see many of you there. (There may be another service project, but more will have to come through other communications.)

As most of you are aware, Jane McDonald did pass away in late August. Her graveside ceremony is open
to the public and as long as you wear a mask you are welcome to attend. Again, it is only the graveside ceremony being held outdoors at Lakewood cemetery. MASKS ARE REQUIRED TO ATTEND and NO SHAKING HANDS or TOUCHING OTHERS ALLOWED (including shaking hands or hugging)!!! Please arrive at Lakewood cemetery’s entrance in your cars by 1:45PM and the procession will lead us to her plot at 2PM sharp. This will be a brief service of scriptures and prayers. It remains to be decided but I think a memorial service may come later once the building reopens.

You know, I realize I started this with a lament about there not being a normal and that we’re aren’t able
to do what we normally do, but then again, look not only what I mentioned above, also look at the pages of this Messenger and you will see that in spite of there not being a normal we are accomplishing some extraordinary work. And I am truly proud of what your committees and staff are doing and profoundly grateful for your generosity in all things! Thank you so much for keeping the ministry of St. John’s Lutheran Church alive and reaching so many with God’s love and grace.

Your servant in Christ, Pastor Mark