Staying Behind…

I’m not sure how you’re feeling as this new chaotic world continues to swirl around our enclosed lives. Everyday life seems full of the shadows of strange threats where we are accustomed to feeling safe – a gas pump, being handed a receipt, a food delivery dropped at the door…all a little more ominous than I would have ever imagined. This week has been especially disorienting and anxiety-producing for me as some conversations and some leaders seem to be striding far ahead as if it is time to return to “normal” (whatever that ever was…besides a setting on the dryer).

As for Peace, as the council has considered the gating criteria of the federal re-opening plan…as well as the advice of the Lutheran bishops in Texas (among other leaders)…we are convinced that it is not yet time for us to return to gathering in person yet. Peace will continue to suspend all in-person gatherings through the end of May, and will be evaluating as time goes on when it will be safe to gather again.

For a number of reasons, other gatherings in our cities will reconvene before Sunday worship. First, for us, our Sunday gathering (which we probably miss the most of all from our church life) is also the time of highest risk for our community…because it is our largest gathering. So, we will have to approach it with caution and care and adaptations when the time comes. Second, we know that our faith community is comprised of many folks who are in high risk categories for the coronavirus that is still circulating…and we do not want anyone to feel pressured or tempted to cross a boundary of safety. We don’t want anyone to be hurt by feeling they have to choose between being connected and being safe. For that reason, we will also be sure to continue electronic methods of connection well beyond when we do begin gathering in person. Finally, the data simply do not yet support returning to public activities that are not essential for life and health. Even as Texas begins to re-open, we have not yet met the gating criteria for the first phase of the federal re-opening plan. Peace’s leaders take those criteria seriously, and will be paying attention to the rate of new infections in both Travis and Williamson counties and will only invite gatherings when those rates have shown steady decreases.

It may feel like we are staying behind…and perhaps we are…but we are doing it out of love and care for our community…the love and care to which we are called by God. We will continue to look for ways to be connected and support one another from a distance through the month of May.

And when the time comes to gather again, we may have to begin with something that looks and feels very different from the Sunday gatherings we know. Wearing masks will change how we gather around music and Holy Communion. Social distancing will change how many of us can gather and how our spaces can be arranged. The continued need for some to shelter at home will invite us to think about how we gather in ways that can still provide access and connection from a distance. All these things and more will shape what comes next. And, in the meantime, we will stay behind…together…and on behalf of the well-being of all people.

As always, if you have questions or needs, please feel free to reach out to me. I so miss being with you in person, and am grateful for the ways we can connect. God be with you…until we meet again.

Pastor Carolyn