“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” 1 John 4:7-8
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Yesterday, after almost 12 weeks, Governor Murphy lifted New Jersey’s stay-at-home order. To some, this news comes as a relief, and they are eagerly planning to get a haircut, to eat out, to go shopping, to take a trip, to to to the shore or whatever else we were missing. To some, this news brings no joy, but actually increases their level of stress and anxiety. Because of age, pre-existing medical conditions and a full spectrum of other reasons some will feel the need to continue to stay-at-home, mostly. The members of the St. Paul’s community, too, greet the announcement with varied and mixed thoughts and feelings. The pressing challenge before us as a community is to continue to move forward as one fellowship, one body, even though each of us will being choosing different ways of engaging in a new normal — as individuals, families and even social pods.
To move forward together requires each and every one of us to put our personal feelings, opinions, and claim to rights aside for the sake of love and the well being of their sisters and brothers in Christ. The freedom we have been granted in Christ immediately subjects us to the law of love. We are free from sin so that we can love and serve, serve our sisters and brothers, serve our neighbors, love all people. The very first thing that God does to us in baptism is kill the old creature, so that a new creature can emerge from the waters of baptism to live by faith, love and obedience to the command of Christ — “love one another as I have loved you.”
With love for all people as our guiding principle, we are in the process of planning for in-person gatherings, receiving Holy Communion in community worship and at home, as well other church ministries and activities. In each and every one of these planned gatherings, we will expect all participants to observe three simple rules, out of love and for the sake of others.
With those modifications fixed in hearts and minds, we can begin to plan for in-person gatherings in a thoughtful, ordered and organized manner. In person gatherings are being planned in this order:
For those of you who are planning on participating in our in-person gatherings (and a significant number will choose to not participate with good reason), you will want to know what to expect these gatherings to be like. While each gathering may be slightly different, for now, the most noticeable changes, in addition to observing social distance and wearing face coverings, will be …
This is nothing to mourn, but instead an opportunity to grow in our understanding of what it means to be church, together. We are seeing what has always been the case but has been hidden under the guise of “going to church." St. Paul’s, like all local congregations with Reformation roots, is a partnership between and collection of house churches. Our response to pandemic has awakened us to the Spirit’s call for us to stop going to church so that we can start to be the church. Once we see and connect to how the Spirit is moving, we can start to see how all the pieces come back together into a new normal. If you have spent the past 12 weeks waiting in your home for the opportunity to go to church again, let me once again invite you to step into a new vision of what it means to be church members in fellowship with Christ and with one another.
An understanding that not all will be able to gather in person, and seeing this congregation as collective of Christ-center households is guiding a new understanding of how I serve you as pastor of this congregation. Starting next week, I will begin to schedule appointments with members of this community to either bring Holy Communion to your home or to provide us with space, outdoors at St. Paul’s, where we can once again receive God’s promise of forgiveness, life and salvation through the sacrament of Holy Communion. If you wish to share communion at your home, I only ask that you provide an outdoor space that allows for appropriate space between us during our time together. If you and your household wish to receive Holy Communion, please e-mail me at PastorJim2006@icloud.com. I will be reaching out to the congregation by phone, beginning with our oldest members.
Finally, once again I want to encourage you to place love for God and neighbor above all else in your life. Not only is this God’s good and gracious will for us and the planet, but it is the only way we will move forward, together as a community. That means we may have to deny ourselves for the sake of caring for another, endure discomfort to protect those around us or even develop new habits and new ways of acting so that we can show the world how deeply we care for one another. From the earliest days of the church, we have known that most powerful way we can witness to the Gospel and God’s abiding presence in the world is to simply love one another deeply. This is the enduring heart of our faith, and it is this faith, active in love, that will sustain us through this summer and any dark days that are yet to come. By God’s grace, we have been given this time to regather, regroup and reorganize. What we do over the next few months, will go a long way to building the resilience and strength we will need to endure and abide.
Peace in Christ alone,
Rev. James Krombholz
The latest news, sermons and commentary on our life in mission together.