One of the greatest joys I have is stepping into our pulpit in the chapel and in the sanctuary each Sunday and looking into your wonderful faces. Or looking up into the choir loft at our incomparable singers and music director as they lead us in worship. Or hanging around the coffee pot with you enjoying the best church coffee in the whole world. Or visiting with Sarah, our amazing associate pastor between services. Or watching Michelle and Chris and our Sunday School teachers dashing around making sure Christian education is on track. Or greeting you at the doors as you come in and as you depart. Saint Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church’s hugs, kisses and handshakes are as famous as our coffee. I could go on and on and on adding to the piles of gratitude that accumulate every Sunday morning, and then continue throughout each week.
Someone has said that it’s the things that we almost take for granted that we miss most when we can’t have them. I’ve never for a minute taken you for granted, but I understand what this means. That which happens ordinarily, almost routinely, because it is so much the norm we just know we’ll always get to enjoy it, that’s what we miss most when it is not there.
Then, we face a crisis.
These past few weeks, we have begun to face this crisis together as a church family and as a community. And a lesson I learned long ago about crisis counseling has come back again in a flash. All sorts of things can be experienced as a crisis, but the key to coping lies between the actual event that precipitates the crisis and our capacities and resources to deal with it.
We’ve seen in news reports the struggles of people in “our most vulnerable populations,” those with underlying health problems, the aged, the homeless, those whose jobs are now in limbo and whose pay checks may have ceased while their bills have started piling up. For them the crisis event may take on the dimensions of the catastrophic.
I hope we will all be especially mindful of the people for whom this crisis is a catastrophe. I ask that we pray for them, and that we find and that we support as many ways as possible to make sure they have the health care and urgent relief they need to come through these days.
For many of us, however, the actual event of the pandemic may be more of a chronic worry, but something with which we feel we can cope. Those of us with sufficient financial resources, those of us who are pretty healthy, especially if our immune systems are fairly robust, may find ourselves at home reading more, watching more mysteries or binge viewing Netflix, playing board games with our fellows-in-social-isolation, calling family, friends and those we are worried about more, and missing those things we almost took for granted, like seeing each other regularly and being nourished by the gifts of worship and Christian education and community.
I know we are profoundly grateful for the resources we have received that make it possible for us to go through these days, and that we will pray that God gives us the wisdom to find ways to help others go through them too.
Among the many resources we in our SCAPC community share are our extraordinary church staff and lay leadership, including of course our active elders on session, and our committee chairs. Our vows as elders speak of the responsibility we have to employ love, imagination and intelligence in the ministry of Jesus Christ. And I am daily inspired by the ways in which you are doing just that.
From our indefatigable communications team, to our caring and hardworking pastoral and worship leadership, our Christian education and youth and young adult ministers, to those who care for the grieving and the soon to be wed; from our nursery and childcare providers and teachers in our pre-school program, from our Presbyterian Women, to our hardworking leaders in the fiscal and physical engine rooms of the church itself, from those who care for the aged to those who serve in community outreach programs like RHINO and STAIR, this crisis has inspired servant leaders to come up with new and exciting ways to make sure that while our buildings are closed our church is open.
And, although I cannot see you face to face in our chapel or sanctuary or at the coffee pot or in the halls, at Bible Study or WNO, the kitchen, the library or in our meeting rooms, I feel your presence all around. Saint Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church has been tested in the refiner’s fire before, and has emerged as pure gold. You went into this historical moment as a distinctive community of God’s people with a heart for God’s mission in the world and you are proving it again every day.
I can’t see you face to face, but I want to tell you how proud I am of you, and how deeply honored I am to be among you in your ministry.
I feel today, particularly, the power of words St. Paul sent to a congregation of which he was most proud, the church at Thessalonica: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in all our prayers, remembering without ceasing your works of faith and labor of love and patience in hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of God and our Father.”
God bless you (and please stay well!)
St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church