In my morning reading today in Psalm 102 the imagery of despair and struggle is very present as the author speaks of things we have all felt at one point or another. The list includes, ‘My days disappear like smoke,’ ‘I have lost my appetite,’ ‘I lie awake, lonely as a solitary bird on the roof,’ and ‘my tears run down into my drink.’ These feelings are real and present in many today and they can be a part of life, but they are not the final refrain. The journey to hope begins with lament. I think the author knew this too as the list above is immediately followed by the following: (Ps 102:18-22)
18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.
Even amidst the suffering, the Psalmist found hope. They looked forward to future generations. There is a cry of our heart that sounds from hard places but it will always be met by God’s loving and rescuing presence. We must purposefully instruct our spirit within us to journey all the way through the dark place, in faith, with hope, believing that God redeems.
Like you, we long to return to physically worshiping together. We miss being in the midst of the people of God, in song, in word, in table, and in fellowship. And in the hope of this, now is the time to begin thinking critically and thoroughly about how this will happen.
We have assembled a reference document to review with your team as you begin thinking about how to return. As we plan, it’s important to keep in mind that timing and dates are still in flux. We do know that lifting of restrictions will be gradual and accompanied by regulations and requirements for posting notices, protocols for sanitizing, priorities for distancing, and more. For the health and safety of our congregants and those most vulnerable, we will need to plan for a very different experience and be prepared to create a different environment for our congregations and guests than before.
What follows is a summary of resources and official guidelines meant to assist you in the thorough preparation for, “when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.”
On behalf of your superintendent team,