From the Pastor….

Because the words “global” and “pandemic” are now inextricably linked, as Christians we must be concerned about and pray for all the people of the world as they face this challenge. However, the place where we are most personally affected and where we can make the greatest impact is where we live. So, we must face the facts that are most pertinent to us.

In Georgia, our economy was shut down too late and reopened too soon, and the Governor refused to mandate the precautions that might have mitigated the scope and severity of this crisis, and prevented officials at a more local level from taking those steps. Too many people chose personal convenience and their right to be inconsiderate of others over the need to protect everyone, especially the more vulnerable among us. Young people, lacking discipline and common sense, and unencumbered by legal constraints, gathered in large groups and became “super-spreaders.” A few congregations, insistent on exercising their rights to assemble and worship, contributed to the spread of the virus when members, unaware that they were infected, came into contact with others, who then went back into the community.  And as I write this, The Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that our state has the highest rate of new cases in the country. All of those facts are interconnected.

Add to these facts the intention of most schools in our area to reintroduce students gradually to the classroom and the possibility of “twindemics” since we will soon be entering the flu season, and it is likely that our local situation will get worse before it gets better. No amount of wishful thinking will alter those facts.

Like every other institution in our society, these facts affect local churches. They directly affect the family of faith that is Parkway, the congregation that now resides in one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19. Beyond what everyone in our community faces, we have to consider that a large proportion of our members are in a vulnerable category, especially because of their age. Unfortunately, all of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that in-person worship is risky at best, and dangerous at worst. 

When you factor in that, were we to follow best practices from the Centers for Disease Control, worship together right now would necessitate physical distancing, wearing of masks, screening of congregants before each one entered the building, no singing or unison speaking, limiting time of exposure, limiting the number of attendees, and rigid sanitation protocols between meetings, I can reluctantly say that I cannot personally recommend a return to in-person, indoor meetings in the near future. 

That leads us to some obvious prayers. Pray for strong leadership and wisdom from those who have the authority to mandate health precautions. Pray that people will be vigilantly considerate of others, not because they are compelled to do so, but because it is the right thing to do. Pray that scientists will discover an effective vaccine. Pray that none of these issues will become further politicized and that the most vulnerable rather than the most privileged will be the first beneficiaries of treatment options. Pray that our healthcare system will not become overwhelmed. Pray that medical personnel will remain strong and healthy.

Keep in mind that you and I face this situation not just as residents of the community but also as Christians. We have resources on which we can call and responsibilities beyond those of other citizens. We must set the example of love and concern for people that we can only hope and pray that others will emulate. This is our chance to show love in extraordinary ways, but most clearly by doing everything we can to prevent the spread of a disease that strikes the last among us with disproportionate force. We can demonstrate serenity and calm that comes from knowing that our lives are not our own, but are controlled by a loving God. 

And we can still be the church. If anything good can come out of all of this chaos, it might be that we all come to see that our faith and our community do not reside at 5975 State Bridge Road and instead are located in our connections through the Holy Spirit, undiminished by space or circumstances. We have never stopped being the church and extending the challenges we now face will not change that.

As a member of the family, please do all you can to keep our fellowship strong. Continue to worship each Sunday, knowing that others are too, and that the Holy Spirit is connecting us to one another. Use The Beginning material for personal devotional time. Attend your Sunday School class’s Zoom meeting. Join us for the Midweek Prayer Service. It continues to be the most efficient way for us to keep up with one another and to be reminded that we are still together. Support your church’s ministries and programs financially.

Continue to support our ministry partners. Your contributions to the Spring Offering were exceptional and we just completed a great drive for school supplies for Duluth Middle School. You will be receiving this newsletter around the time of our Fifth Sunday food drive for Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries. Keep up the good work.

Please let me and other members of the staff know of any ways we might minister to you. We may have to find creative ways to provide what you need, but we’re eager to try. Please pray for us as we lead.

Someone has said that the most comforting words in the Bible are, “And it came to pass.” Problems, challenges, and disasters come, but they also pass, and this pandemic will too. In the meantime, live your life in faith. That is God’s expectation for all the children all the time.