OSLC Update 9-18-20
Have you ever been out at night using a flashlight to see where you’re going? I have fond memories of being at Camp Wapo, finding my way back to the church staff cabin after evening campfire by the light of my flashlight. I remember helping to lead youth trips at the first congregation I served – wilderness trips to Quetico, Isle Royale, and the Boundary Waters. Places where there is no electricity, and a flashlight was all I had to rely on.
The interesting thing about using a flashlight in full darkness is that it doesn’t light the entire area – it’s not a floodlight. A flashlight creates only a small pool of light, allowing you to see the next step or two and no more.
The light of a flashlight is an analogy I love in terms of how it relates to the life of faith. I remember deciding to go to seminary when I was 23. I’d been working in the corporate world, and as I prepared to go back to school, people asked me if I wanted to be a parish pastor or a professor when I was done. My answer was always, “I have no idea. All I know is that seminary is the next step. By the time I’m done with those four years, God will show me what’s next.” And I was excited about that!
I was young and unencumbered, and the future was wide open. Maybe I inherited my parents’ wanderlust (they moved from the Midwest to the west coast in the early years of their marriage, before my brother & I were born). Or maybe there’s something about being in your 20s that makes people excited to venture into the unknown, content to be certain of only the next step. Do you remember feeling that way?
For me, that level of excitement came from a sense of trust…trust that God was serving as my flashlight, so to speak, illuminating the next step of my life’s path. Trust that once I took those next one or two steps, God would illuminate the next step or two, like a flashlight does in the dark.
Oswald Chambers once wrote: “Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life– gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.”
There are a couple lines in there that really resonate with me:
“Gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life.” That’s been my experience, and maybe it’s been yours, too. That sense that a level of uncertainty is okay! Gracious uncertainty is grace-filled, giving us permission to not have all the answers just yet.
The other line that hits home for me is:
“We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.” That trust that God will reveal the next step to us when we need it.
We are living in uncertain times – we’re in the middle of a pandemic. We know how the school year is starting. No matter what school district the young people in our lives are in, we’re aware that the school’s plans may change if COVID infection rates change. If things get worse, districts will move to all distance learning. If things get better than they are now, districts will be able to move to having more students in their buildings more often. There is uncertainty.
The challenge is to live in gracious uncertainty. We know the plan for this week. We know the possibilities for future weeks. Can we be so grace-filled that that is enough? For the sake of those making difficult decisions, and for our own mental health, I hope so. There’s something to be said for holding the reins loosely when things are outside our control. There’s a saying that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. Gracious uncertainty seems to be a good option.
As our church council and staff look toward reopening Our Saviour’s building in limited ways this fall, we have similar uncertainty. If the local virus situation remains the same or improves, we can move forward with implementing the “hybrid” plans being developed. If it gets worse, we may have to hold off. Plans may need to change or be adjusted at any time, depending on what’s happening locally with COVID infection rates, including what’s happening in our local schools. Council members want people to be able to be back together in the building, and they have a responsibility for everyone’s safety.
How do we live with that uncertainty, knowing that our elected church leaders are making the best decisions they can with prayer and with the most current data available? Again, gracious uncertainty seems to be a good option.
We are Jesus people, so we are grace-filled. And some people are more comfortable with uncertainty than others. My kids are a great example of that. My oldest can go with the flow, no problem; my youngest needs to know what tomorrow will look like with as much precision as possible. We’re all wired differently. So when we’re faced with uncertain times, with things outside our control (like a pandemic), what can we do to live in gracious uncertainty?
Praying is a good place to start. Ask for wisdom and patience. Ask for a spirit of calm. Ask for a spirit of trust. Reflect on God acting like a flashlight in your life, showing you the next step…showing you how to get through today or this week. And trust that each and every day, God will show up and shine a light to get you through the next day.
When the Israelites fled from slavery in Egypt, God guided the people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
13:21 The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
God gave them light to see the next step, and God never left them.
As we live with gracious uncertainty, we may be uncertain of what’s down the road a ways, but we’re certain of God and of God’s gracious leading. As long as there’s a small pool of light showing you the next step or two, you’re in good hands – you’re in God’s hands.
I hope that brings you some comfort today.
Plan to Resume Limited Indoor Gatherings
The Council at its September meeting approved moving forward with a plan to allow gradually resuming limited indoor gatherings in our church building sometime in the second half of October.
Staff and Council must first develop a “COVID-19 Preparedness Plan” required by the State prior to reopening. Our goal is to have this completed by the first part of October and posted for all to see. Remember, plans may need to change or be adjusted at any time, depending on what’s happening locally with Covid infection rates, including what’s happening in our local schools.
- Virtual worship will continue indefinitely into the future for all who prefer that option.
- Outdoor parking lot worship may continue into October, depending on the weather.
- Sunday Indoor worship is targeted to be ready to begin the latter part of October, depending on local virus conditions. There would be two Sunday services. A maximum of 75 people will be allowed per service, including worship leaders and volunteers. Sign-up online or by phone will be required. Services will be shorter in duration. Those from different households will be seated at least 6 feet apart. All must wear masks. There will be live music but no congregational singing. People will take communion with prepackaged elements where they sit. Sunday services will be identical with a blend of traditional and contemporary elements, as they have been in recent months. Stay tuned for start date and further details.
- Wednesday night Revelation Worship is beginning the year virtually. We are in conversation about the possibility of offering Wednesday indoor worship later this fall. But attendance at this service has been largely tied to in-person children, confirmation, and youth programming, most all of which is virtual right now. Wednesday nights have many components, so scheduling is complex as well. Once again, please stay tuned.
Indoor Meetings: Beginning sometime in October, church and community groups may gradually resume limited gatherings inside the church building.
- Groups will be limited to 15 people max.
- Groups will meet in the large Gathering Space; must maintain a 6 foot distance between individuals; and all must wear masks.
- Generally, only one group will meet in the building at a time.
- Time of meetings will generally be limited to one hour to allow the possibility for two groups to meet per evening.
- There will be a time gap between meetings.
- All meetings must be scheduled through the church office.
- Since some meetings may require the presence of a staff member in the building, such meetings cannot be guaranteed unless a staff presence is arranged in advance.
More details on all the above will be available later. Pray that we’ll make wise decisions.
– Pastor Bruce
Call Committee Breaking News!
The Call Committee has chosen a final candidate whom they are excited to recommend to Council as OSLC’s new senior pastor! The Call Committee will meet with the Council by the end of this month to give a presentation about the candidate and to share why they made their choice. The Council is now scheduling a meet-and-greet with the candidate. Following that meeting, the Council will endorse the candidate and then send a letter to the congregation. The letter will share information about the candidate and announce a special congregational meeting to vote to extend a call to the candidate. Expect to receive the letter in the first part of October and a congregational meeting later in October!
– Pastor Bruce
Click Connecting with You for the September 20-27 virtual schedule.