As we journey toward the end of 2020, we are eager to put behind us the challenges that this year has presented us with. Even as the New Year looms, we know that we are not out of the woods yet. Several vaccines are near ready for initial distribution; however, it may be early summer before most of the world is able to receive the vaccine.
As the winter months have brought us back in doors and holiday traditions have led to dangerous gatherings, we know that the recent spike in infections will probably get worse before they get better.
We have had to adapt to new lifestyles and routines from shopping to doctor visits to worship. We have had to wash and sanitize our hands like germaphobes. We must wear face masks and gather with folks outside or in small groups. We know now that we have been marked by this experience and life will never be the same.
Usually I send a Thanksgiving/Christmas letter out in the early weeks of November. In that letter, I announce all sorts of extra services and activities for the holidays. This year that information would easily fit on a post card.
Yet, there are still reasons to write a letter to you. I have several items that you should be aware of. First, the Church Council has decided to not hold an annual meeting this year. This was discussed over several meetings. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to safely hold a meeting that would be available to all interested members, where discussion could occur, questions asked, and motions voted upon. This does present us with two problems. How do we elect council members and how to we approve a budget? Four council members will complete their terms and cannot be re-elected this year. We have decided to not elect new council members and have an eight-member council for 2021. This can be done under our current worship and meeting structure under the pandemic. Members who have completed their terms will still help with worship on Sundays on which we have worship. When the pandemic has ended, we plan to revamp Sunday morning ushering with a combination of council members and volunteers. We will operate under the same budget as 2020. There will be no significant changes to budget except for any expense that we do not control. We do believe that we can get through 2021 with these provisions.
There will be one service Christmas Eve at 6:00pm with a maximum of 75 people. Should we exceed that number, the council will consider adding a second service later that evening. Sign up will be required to attend. The services will be candlelight. There will be no candles handed out to individuals in the pew since blowing them out at the end of the service is prohibited. There will be a suitable replacement given out in lieu of candles. Sign up by phone 856-939-4411 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for sign-ups is Sunday, December 20.
Poinsettias will be available for Christmas dedications. Envelopes for blankets to be distributed by U R Important 2 Us to the needy in Camden will be available. Blankets are $10.00 each.
Our memorial lights program this year will be to collect money to begin replacing the wood paneling in the parish hall in the basement of the church. The current wood paneling is not fire resistant and within a few years will need to be replaced according to the fire code. Therefore, the council has decided to begin the process of replacing the paneling with fire resistant dry wall. This is a big project, but it would truly be wise to begin it now while the parish hall is not being used. Deadline for memorials (poinsettias and lights) is Friday, December 18.
Finally, the council believes that we are doing the best we can with in person worship. Many members are not yet comfortable to return to in person worship. Some council members do not yet feel comfortable as well. Whether or not to attend in person worship is a personal decision each member must make on their own. And it should not be made lightly. Cases of Covid-19 are on the rise and new restrictions are coming in to play regularly. Several churches who began having a weekly service during the summer are now backtracking and suspending worship because of the current situation. Our Bishop, Tracie Bartholomew, has recommended congregations in our Synod to suspend worship for the time being. We have our worship plans set through Christmas. However, we will need to re-evaluate our circumstances before making plans for 2021.
Amid the ups and downs of 2020, we still take pause at the miracle of Christ’s birth and the wondrous love of God that brought us this gift of grace.
May you have a blessed Christmas and happy New Year,
"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers..." Ephesians 4:11