"Uncle!" Your pastor has relented. We are now re-instituting our popular Sunday Zoom Fellowship Hour, under the new and improved branding: "Zoom Coffee Talk" at 10:30 AM between services. (**Please note that "Coffee Talk" must be pronounced with a New York accent reminiscent of the Mike Myers SNL skit from the 1990s.)
I must admit, I did drag my heels for weeks on this, but your pastor is not a person incapable of changing her mind.
It's not that I didn't love our Zoom coffee hour; truly, I did. In fact, when we were all at home, I got to know many of you during Zoom coffee hour in a much deeper way than I ever would have during the busy pleasantries that happen in Fellowship Hall on Sunday mornings.
But the truth is that I've grown to resent Zoom. These virtual gatherings have come to symbolize for me all the ways in which my life and ministry have changed. After 16 months, I am still not accustomed to the substitutions we have made. Typing "Good Morning!" does not feel like hugging friends during the "Passing the Peace." Breaking bread by myself at the communion table does not feel like the Lord's Supper. Zoom pastoral care with someone with whom I cannot make eye contact or pass a box of tissues feels cold and clinical.
But truly, both online and in-person ministry have their own unique blessings. Teachers, healthcare workers, and pastors like me must accept the fact that we are not going back -- even if this virus disappears tomorrow. Our entire life, ministry, and way of being as a church family has changed. I admit, as I stare down the barrel of life as a single working mom, I will need hybrid options going forward for evening meetings. The homebound in our congregation need if they are to make it to worship or small groups. Traveling professionals still long for a community of faith. Inclusivity these days often looks like a laptop.
So it is my prayer that we as a church family may continually evolve in our online, in-person, and at-home ministries to include to all God's children, whether they be in-person or online, rich or poor, young or old, black or white, gay or straight, able or disabled. God never separates us into classes of worshippers - those in in-person and those online - and so neither should we. So let us all widen the welcome of our ministries to those at home -- not just when the virus is spreading -- but from this day forward.
Blessing of the Backpacks!
Here we are, at the beginning of another school year. I'll admit, I’m having a difficult time getting excited about the school year starting up again when there is so much to worry about. Children feel the anxiety around them…I know my kids do.
But I wonder…what’s something you do as a family to help you cope with anxious feelings? As an adult, what’s one thing you do to help you feel peace? Something I have found that can help as we navigate these difficult times with our children is by doing things that feel empowering or uplifting. Here are some ideas:
this!!! Go team!!! Shine your light today.
Courage and kindness in all things.
At church THIS SUNDAY, all students and teachers are invited to bring backpacks and masks and any other learning tool to our Blessing of the Backpacks DRIVE THROUGH event from 10-11. Come out to the church for an in-person, safely distanced FUN activity! Let’s add another tool to our toolbox of ways we can empower and uplift our children. You can also bring your backpacks and masks to in-person worship at 9 and 11 or receive the blessing online at 11 am.
I pull a lot of peace and strength from remembering that GOD IS WITH US – in all times and places. We are all BELOVED Children of God and we are not alone.
With love, always,
Austin has now re-entered Stage 5. Vaccinated church members have now begun falling ill to the Delta variant of Covid-19. Parents are wringing their hands as they prepare to send their children back to school where our governor has said that masks cannot be required, and yet, many remote learning options have fallen away or become untenable for families. Meanwhile, the secondary and tertiary costs to each wave of this virus - to not just our physical health, but our emotional health, social health, economic health, spiritual health, and our children's developmental health - have ripped at the very foundation of our wellbeing.
We all had such hopes that we we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and that life would finally begin returning to normal. We're not there quite yet.
Philippians 2:4 says, "But look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." In the interest of our teachers and children returning to school, of the immunocompromised, and all those around the world who do not yet have access to the vaccine:
Read more about the latest recommendations from Austin Public Health here: https://www.austintexas.gov/page/covid-19-risk-based-guidelines
I am praying for you always,