Grace and peace to you all!
When our Council met in late May, we all unanimously decided that we felt cautious about re-opening the building at this time. There are a lot of details to work through, and while we are attending to them, it will be a while before our plans can be in place and we can meet and follow the guidelines for social distancing, large group gatherings, and more. Please expect more information to come to you about our plans and needs for gradually re-opening Bay Shore. We are working on it.
In the meantime, I have been thinking, listening, reading and attending Zoom meetings with fellow clergy—ELCA and others—about doing “church” in the shadow of COVID-19. I’ve read all the documents about coming back for worship, the risks with singing and large groups, and concerns about Holy Communion. There is no doubt that how we do “church” moving forward will change. But, since we can’t move forward in all areas right now, can we at least do something? That last thought kept me up all night, battling some issues of my own about communion and what it means to give and receive it. After consulting with staff and the Executive Committee, I have decided to have Holy Communion available this Sunday to our members.
On June 7, we will open our Zoom worship as usual at 9:50 a.m. Dulcie Shoener, our Minister of Music, will begin a prelude piece at 9:55 a.m. Our service will begin at 10 a.m. But our service this week will be abbreviated and will also include the Words of Institution for Holy Communion. You will see me, on your screens, praying and blessing over a wafer and a small cup of juice which will be available to you all, in our parking lot, from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
We have purchased the very convenient, germ-free individual containers that hold one wafer and a cup of purple grape juice. We will have the containers outside on tables near the ramp in our parking lot. Attached to this email is a drawing of the parking lot, and the needed flow of traffic going in and out for the cars. We ask that only one person leave the car to pick up the communion containers for your household (please follow this rule, we do not want any fellowship happening in our parking lot—for safety reasons). The building will also not be open. I will not be doing any parts of the service outside, either. We will end our Zoom service with the words of “Lamb of God,” followed by a postlude from Dulcie. If you desire, you can leave your homes and come to the church and pick up communion after 10:30. After you have taken communion in your homes, you can use the liturgy from our Dropbox to say the concluding prayer and blessing on your own.
For some of you, the risk of coming and picking up communion is too great. I understand that completely. Please use your good sense and make the best decision for you and your loved ones.
For many of you, having communion in this manner is not comfortable. I actually understand that deeply myself. Communion for me is about our community being together, serving each other and greeting one another with smiles and words. But, if anyone asked me to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion in an emergency situation, I would do it. In fact, I have done it—with nurses after a hard death in the hospital, in a car with someone on the way to Hospice, and other times and places you would be surprised to know.
Since we are living in urgent times, I felt it would be good to offer communion in this manner just this Sunday, in honor of the day—Holy Trinity Sunday—and in recognition that God comes to us no matter where or how we gather as the body of Christ. But the choice is yours to make, just as it is ironically on Sundays from our pews. I ask you to prayerfully consider it and make the best decision for you.
I want to lift up that “church” has never been static—change has always happened. Weddings, baptisms and communion were delayed years in various places and times during the church’s history, and yet—people continued to believe. Today, some churches like Bay Shore offer communion weekly, but others only quarterly. Personally, I am comforted knowing that while I may not have had communion for 80+ days, I am still a blessed child of God, baptized in the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Communion feeds me, to be sure, but I am alive in Christ no matter what. While I will take communion this Sunday, my soul longs for the time when I can look at you all and say, The Body of Christ is given for you. Perhaps, in this time of longing, we can grow closer to God individually and also to one another as the Body. Perhaps this is part of a larger plan that we will come to understand many years from now.
May the Lord of All meet you wherever you are today and every day,