One of my favorite books on writing is Writing for the Soul by Jerry Jenkins. In his book Jerry gives some excellent advice for Christian writers. For example, “We can’t write for other people’s souls unless ours are healthy.” Or how about this gem: “No writer ever arrives.” Jerry also advises, “Allow yourself to be moved, and write what moves you.” And one more, “Writers write. Dreamers talk about it.” As an inexperienced writer I read this book closely and tried to follow Jerry’s advice.
Counsel from an experienced person is always helpful, especially when we’re taking on a new challenge. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across our planet in March 2020, the challenges individuals, businesses and places of worship were unprecedented. At Hillsdale Presbyterian Church, we originally cancelled our March 15, 22nd and 29th services. But soon realized we were going to be closed for a much longer time. As lay Pastor, particularly at the beginning, this was very stressful. It meant we would not be having a summer community fundraiser, our annual bake sale. And our anniversary service would likely be cancelled. Yet expenses like hydro, insurance and building maintenance would still be there. Would this pandemic be the nail in the coffin that would close our church after an incredible 169 years of ministry in the community.
Other churches such as Knox Presbyterian in Midland (our moderator Reverend Alton Ruff is the minister there) offered on-line services. With our own church being an elderly congregation we only have 2 or 3 people who use computers. So I directed those 2 or 3 towards the on-line services at Knox. I connected every so often with our congregation members to see how they were doing, and if they needed anything. It was my deepest prayer that when we eventually got together as a church family again, there would be no family members missing.
The Bible does talk about the importance of listening to counsel. I love what it says in Ecclesiastes 4:13, “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning”. I have been reading up on recommendations from the Presbyterian Church of Canada. Plus learning what are other churches doing. And I checked often on the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website for the ever evolving new and changing information on COVID-19. We are an elderly congregation, with several members quite vulnerable. Whenever we did open we would have to be as safe as we possibly could.
On August 23, 2020 we met for an outdoor back parking lot socially distanced meeting. I really wanted to hear 1st hand what people thought about reopening. It was decided we will be re-opening on Sunday September 13th, 2020 at our regular time of 10:30 am. People are eager to return to church. Face coverings will be required as mandated by the health unit. There will stations set up at the back and front entrance with alcohol based hand sanitizer. We are meeting downstairs where it is easier for chairs to be set up at least 2 meters (6 feet) from each other in all directions. There are 26 socially distanced chairs set up downstairs. Space for all of our congregation plus some visitors, And there will be COVID-19 public signage.
September 13th will be 27 weeks since we previously met on March 8th. That was such a long time ago. That was 5 weeks before Easter. The clocks were on the old time. And there was still snow on the ground. The new normal will be different, and there will no doubt be some sort of awkwardness getting used to. On the other hand after 27 weeks of not gathering as a church family, it will be so refreshingly wonderful to meet again. Gospel singer Cochren & Co. sings in his song Church (Take Me Back), “It’s not a trophy for the winners, it’s a shelter for the sinners. It’s right where I belong”. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me. Let us go the the House of the Lord.