A Pastoral Letter to a Congregation During the Quarantine
The following post is a guest article by Bryan Schneider, pastor of the Sharon Reformed Presbyterian Church located near Morning Sun, Iowa.
There’s something that concerns me. I need to get it off my chest. This is a very personal note. There will be a lot of “I”s. It’s from my heart to you The Church.
You’re in danger of something. Loneliness.
We need to preserve life. God commanded that in the sixth commandment when He said we shouldn’t kill. So we are protecting those who are most vulnerable in our society. Isolating ourselves and quarantining ourselves is important to preserve life.
But, there’s a real danger. Man wasn’t made to be alone. It wasn’t good for Adam. It’s not good for me. It’s not good for you. We are social beings made in the image of a triune God. God has innertrinitarian conversations. Take a moment to read Genesis 1 and 2 and see how often God speaks within himself using “us” and “our” language.
There are multiple dangers here. The suicide rate has been steadily climbing over the years. And the rate of loneliness has been climbing over the years. Now we are being forced to isolate ourselves. That is both good and dangerous.
Recently I read someone write. “Still seeing messages this Sunday that say:‘Can’t be at church in-person? Put it on your TV and it feels like you’re there!’Let’s be careful. As much as we miss our pews - don’t idolize your sanctuary.Your building isn’t the (C)hurch. It’s the (c)hurch.”
I get it. I understand the theological point He’s making. But hear me out. There’s a deep issue here.
The Church is not the building. But, Hebrews 10:24-25 and the very basic sense of κοινωνια - fellowship or communion - has an idea of physical gathering and sharing aspect to it. Giving a grieving friend a hug, your friend at church with that deep belly laugh that vibrates the floor, laying your hand on someone's shoulder as you pray with them, are all a part of the physical nature of being The Church.
Let's not so over spiritualize it either that we forget we're not floating minds or spirits. Even Paul longed to be with the churches not just spiritually but physically.
I miss my church family. I walk into the (c)hurch building every day. The building isn't THE church. But on Sunday as I preached to a camera I didn’t get to see my brothers and sisters. I miss praying with you. I miss praying for you. I miss seeing your tears of joy. I miss hearing your laughter. I miss seeing you muster up courage to answer a question. I miss eating meals with you. I miss the sound of a group of people chatting about the weather and when to plant this years crops and gardens. I miss the sounds of children laughing. I miss kneeling next to the chairs of those at the nursing home and praying for them.
What are the things you miss?
It’s okay to grieve missing that. It’s okay to miss meeting together.
What can you do?
Can you call someone? Can you write them a letter? Can you send text and direct messages? Who can you pull a silly prank on? How can we still love each other even from a distance? Can you join the online prayer meeting or online Bible study?
Now’s the time you can call that friend you’ve been meaning to talk to. Now is your opportunity to reach out and pray with someone over the phone. It might be awkward at first, that’s okay.
Now is the time to record little videos and send them to kids and grandkids in the church and your family.
Now is our opportunity to love one another.
Now is your opportunity to love with intentionality.
You’ve got this Church.
Oh how I long to see your smiling faces. My heart yearns to be with you in person and not just in spirit.
I'm excited to sing Psalm 122 once again - I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”... Where the tribes go up, The tribes of the Lord."
You might not know this. But each Sunday morning I would stand outside and wait to greet you. Well you knew that. But what you didn't know is that I would pray for you to get here safely. I would sing this song excited to see you all. Excited to share life with you.
I’m praying for you.
We love you.