Life has turned out to be rather unpredictable these past six months; our assumptions about how the spring and summer would unfold have fallen through. And even though we were not prepared for the chaos and uncertainty that this worldwide pandemic has produced, we have survived! We are still standing upright and moving forward, we have learned to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances beyond our control.
And even though we cannot predict when the infection rates and death rates will begin to decline, we hold out hope that we will get though this crisis. We can begin to plan for the processes that we will implement in the reopening of our church campus. The Church Council appointed a “reopening work group” to begin this process of developing guidelines to be implemented when it is safe for us to meet again for in-person services or events at the church. Even though we do not know when the plan will be implemented, we want to be prepared with clear procedures and guidelines for safe reopening. We will keep the Church Council and Deacons updated on the process and will publish the guidelines churchwide prior to the reopening of the campus for in-person events.
Almost every week, we receive a thank you note from one of our ministry partners. Often, it is a Divinity School, like Campbell, that you will find in this week’s Illuminator. Sometimes, it is an agency, like the North Carolina Children’s Home or the North Carolina Baptist on Mission. Sometimes it is a denominational partner, like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or Baptist World Alliance. I always read the thank you notes as a reminder of our continued ministry that remains a critical part of our identity and mission. We cooperate with a wide range of ministry partners. And while our gifts may be just a small part of their over-all budget, their thank you notes remind us that they could not do their ministry without the sustained support of thousands of churches like Hope Valley.
While our local congregational ministries continue during this extraordinary time, our world-wide impact continues as well. Missions and Ministry continue! Thank you for your continued support of our ministry and missions.
During these past four months, we have been adjusting to a new normal. Social distancing and careful attention to safety precautions are becoming second nature. I automatically put on my seat belt when I get into the car and I put on my mask when I get out of the car. When I stop to get gas, I automatically reach for the disposable gloves. In some ways, I am beginning to settle into new routines. What once seemed foreign, is now becoming the new normal. I hope that you are finding new routines and patterns that provide structure to your days and weeks. It could be that you will find new patterns that you will want to keep as you move into the future, I know that I have.
And while our campus is closed, we are still discovering and experimenting with ways to continue to be church to one another. Since I do not have a crystal ball, I cannot predict when this pandemic will ease. At this point in time, we are continuing to monitor the trends within our county and state. Based on current information, the Church Council has made the decision to continue the HVBC campus closure through the month of August.
In the Zoom Sunday School class, we have been focusing on “Living with hope in a broken world.” We have been studying the little letter called First Peter and contemplating the role of hope in our lives as Christians. This series has been timely as we face our own challenges as we come to grips with this pandemic and the ways it has disrupted our lives. The writers had no way of knowing what we would be struggling with when they wrote the lessons months or years ago. They could have predicted that we would be facing challenges, they just didn’t know the particulars.
As I was looking ahead in the Sunday School literature, we will spend August reflecting on what we receive from our participation in a local fellowship of believers. Of course, the lessons were written assuming that we would be discussing the lessons around the table and then walking to the sanctuary after the class was over. And while this pandemic has changed a lot of things, it has not changed why we need the church. As we study the lessons and reflect on the benefits of being a part of a faith community, our challenge will be to transfer and adapt these benefits to our new normal; our new ways of doing church. And while the medium and technologies are evolving, these benefits continue. If you do not have a quarterly, contact the church office or Mike Dossett.
See you in Sunday School!
I want to be a good student. I want to learn from the events and experiences that I encounter. A crisis, like this pandemic, provides opportunities to learn new things and discover new truths. I suspect that we will be learning from this crisis for a while. But already, I am discovering new lessons and a different perspective.
One thing I am observing is that no one has done this before. As I listen to pastors, presidents, and governors, I realize that they are all having to find their way as they go. We are all flying by the seat of our pants. We are all rookies; learning as we go. And as we stumble along, we are figuring it out as we go. We do not have a roadmap that provides all the answers. Each day brings its own set of challenges, and we are figuring it out as we go. We keep adjusting to new circumstances as they arise. While we have always done that, during this crisis the rate of change and the complexities of the variables is multi-plying.
And during this crisis, I am relearning the value of competent leadership. As I watch political leaders or pastoral leaders lead their groups, I am reminded that a crisis shines a spotlight on leadership characteristics. No political or pastoral leader will be unaffected by this crisis and the leader’s response to the crisis. Their management of the crisis will either enhance or diminish their standing as a leader. I suspect you are seeing this as well. I see this on a congregational level. I am observing lay leaders who are paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision, and others who recognize that being second-guessed goes with any leadership role. I am grateful for the leaders at Hope Valley who continue to lead and serve during challenging and difficult circumstances. Thank you for your service!
Well this has been a different Holy Week! Usually this week feels like that one long ago in Jerusalem. The city and temple were bustling with the crowds and people were everywhere. And that is what we have come to expect. Church attendance is up and extra services are planned. But this year, we are spending it in isolation. New clothes and our Easter attire stay in the closet. This year we will not be taking pictures at the front of the sanctuary. While it will be different; will its meaning be any different? We can remember these events of Holy Week without needing a crowd. Quiet reflection might be enhanced by our solitude. Easter Sunrise will happen whether we watch it by ourselves or with a crowd. It might be that its significance is felt more deeply if we are not distracted by the crowd. Rather than recoiling from the solitude, I am going to lean into the silence and experience the joy of Easter. May this be a deeply meaningful season for you.