Or do we need, as some people do, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. - 2 Corinthians 3:1-3
Well here we are in week 3 of a two-week isolation. According to the latest news reports, it appears the experiment known as “social distancing” is having at least some effect. It should be remembered that this “stay at home” order was never meant to eliminate the virus, merely slow it down or “flatten the curve” and give our dedicated medical personnel a chance to get the supplies they need and keep hospitals from being overrun.
While we continue our Social Distancing, we must note that we are really talking about physical distancing - keeping at least 6 feet away from each other. While many studies are seeking to see of 6 feet is too little or too much distance, we do not ever want to cut off social relations with each other. Fellowship is still a vital aspect of Christian discipleship. We cannot practice our faith in a vacuum. Christians need to be in touch with their fellow Christians. But how do we do this if we cannot have gatherings of more than 10 people and even those 10 should keep a 6 ft. spread?
Fortunately, though movie theaters, churches, restaurants, and other gathering places may be involuntarily closed, our communications lines are still working (which often go down in other natural disasters). With so many ways to communicate with each other, there is no reason for being “cut off” or “forsaken”. True isolation is a personal choice as we have many ways to remain in fellowship with each other.
The most modern way, you are reading now. Blogs, Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, Twitter, Reddit, and all the other internet-based ways of connecting are readily available. For Easter service we are looking into various live streaming ways of making the service available. Right now, Zoom is in the lead, though the free service restricts us to 40 minutes or less. In this way we can still gather around the Word in an interactive way and join in singing, praying, and hearing God’s Word while still maintaining a safe physical distance from one another. Television would also fall into this “live stream” way of fellowship but that would be beyond our capabilities at this time. With a computer with internet access or a smart phone you can simply log in at a certain time on a certain site (to be provided once we get the details worked out) and we can worship together again - sort of (more in 2 weeks).
Do you remember the days when you had to spin the wheel on a phone and hope you advanced it enough to get the right number? Or how about having to stay within 6 feet of the phone mounted to the wall with the heavy receiver balanced between your shoulder and your ear? Now our phones have speakers, are cordless, and can go everywhere we go - or whatever room we choose to spend our time in. Sometime this week, a corps of phone callers will begin their task of calling every member every week until this crisis is past and regular worship and gatherings resume. Prayer - the original wireless communication - is just as effective by phone as it is in person. We can and should use this means of staying together as well. More than just idle gossip, we can make use of our telecare team and make sure that needs are known and, to the best of our abilities, taken care of.
And there is another way of practicing fellowship, but it is really, really, really, “old school” - write a letter. When Paul was under house arrest (social distancing / stay at home, Roman style), he still wanted to hear about what was happening in the places he had visited and longed to get back to. He wanted to share and explain the hope we have as Christ’s beloved to those who had but recently come to faith. While he did have occasional visitors, much of how he “kept in touch” was by writing epistles - or letters to the various congregations. Some of his most profound and emotional epistles come from the time when he was “socially distanced” from these congregations. While letter writing, especially a handwritten letter, has become something of a lost art, this is also a method we can avail ourselves of in times of self-imposed quarantine. The USPS is considered an “essential business” and is still up and running (at least the bills are still coming through!). Maybe as we while away the hours at home we can pull out pen and paper or that box of assorted greeting cards and send someone an encouraging note. Later this week you should be receiving a letter from the church with a letter to be sent back in the enclosed envelope.
Even though we must keep physically distanced for a few more weeks, let us not become socially distant but devote ourselves to the fellowship as the disciples did after Pentecost (Acts 2:42). In the meantime, keep your ears open to the podcasts and watch for email alerts about the latest updates. In next week’s blog, I will outline our Easter celebration plans - as they now stand - and some of the things we are looking forward to once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Until then; stay home, stay safe, stay connected, and may God’s peace rest upon you all.
- Pastor Brian
Pastor Brian Handrich graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1997. He first served a dual parish in northeast Nebraska before coming to Flemington, New Jersey in 2002.