A PASTORAL (AND PERSONAL) WORD AT THE END OF SUMMER
by Dennis W. Foust
A NEW SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS: These words are being penned on Tuesday evening. Our Charlotte Mecklenburg schools begin tomorrow morning. Other schools have already begun their new year or will do so in the next few days. Please be prayerful on behalf of our teachers, students, parents, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, etc. The increase in COVID-19 cases and the reality that children younger than age 12 cannot yet be vaccinated generate concerns as schools reopen. We love each of you and want to be helpful along the way.
ALL TOGETHER THROUGH PRAYER – A Summer of Regathering: Back in June, as we began regathering in the sanctuary, we emphasized prayerfulness. We walked through each phrase of The Lord’s Prayer and reviewed Jesus’ teachings about prayer. We also considered the prayers of Jesus, offered prayer lists of shared emphases for each day of the summer and introduced quotations on prayer. Thank you for your investments in this emphasis. I am grateful to our staff, members and guests who have joined me in offering messages from The St. John’s Pulpit. Our summer emphasis on prayerfulness will conclude in the next couple of weeks. This Sunday, our worship will focus on The God Who Hears All Our Prayers and my message is entitled, ‘A Cartography of Jesus’ Prayer Life.’ Please read John 11:32-44 in preparation for our worship.
VIDEO WORSHIP ONLY ON LABOR DAY WEEKEND: Because we know many of you will use Labor Day weekend to be with your family and friends at the end of summer, WE WILL NOT GATHER ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5th. We will offer a video worship experience as we did through the worst of the pandemic. Our worship for Labor Day weekend will emphasize The God of the Harvest and my message is entitled, ‘A Prayer for Labor Day.’ Please read Matthew 9:35-38 in preparation for our worship of God for this video service.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH GROUPS BEGIN MEETING: Throughout the pandemic, several of our spiritual growth groups met digitally using Zoom. Some even enjoyed an expanded participation as people from across the nation joined their discussions online. Through the summer, additional groups started meeting in person. Except for Labor Day weekend, these groups will continue to meet in their classrooms. Other groups will begin meeting after Labor Day. Please ask Allison Benfield to assist you if your group needs help in any way. She has assisted several groups gather safely and has recommended resources as well.
A FAMILY AND FRIENDS SUMMER: I trust you have enjoyed time with family and friends this summer. Many of us have been separated from our loved ones during this pandemic and were able to enjoy time together. Paula and I were able to visit my mother in recent days. She lives in Indianapolis with my sister and will be 90 years of age later this year. Earlier in the summer, Paula and I were able to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary with a driving trip. We were also able to be with our daughter and son-in-law and got in some days with our sons and their families as well as a week of study leave. Hopefully, you created some memories as well.
AFTER LABOR DAY: This week begins my eleventh year as your senior minister. You are a tremendous blessing to me. It is a privilege to serve The Living God alongside you. One fact I have learned about you is that you are truly ‘Scattered Church’ during the summer. Then, you re-engage in congregational life after Labor Day. Oh, sure, you cheer for your favorite teams on Saturdays and wear your Panther’s gear on Sundays for home games. But, you are committed to being ‘Gathered Church’ on Sundays between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
This pandemic has pushed us into Scattered Church overdrive. Although we have instituted extra precautions due to the Delta variant and increased infections, the reality is this: IF YOU ARE VACCINATED AND WEAR YOUR FACE COVERING AND OBSERVE SAFETY PROTOCOLS, YOU ARE VERY UNLIKELY TO BECOME SERIOUSLY ILL DUE TO COVID-19. Therefore, after Labor Day, we expect our attendance and participation to increase beyond summer levels. Our COVID-19 Task Force has provided excellent guidance throughout these months. Until the cases decrease, we are requiring face coverings anywhere within our facilities and encouraging each and every person to be vaccinated.
WORSHIP EMPHASES AFTER LABOR DAY: During this continuing pandemic, we are instructed to “Stay Apart.” However, although a rise in cases due to the delta variant is causing us to initiate additional precautions, we are expanding the ways we serve together as a body of Christ. Through September, my messages will focus on ways you are Staying A Part of Our Church’s Ministries by Serving Together. Our worship will emphasize God’s call to offer a ministry of touch in a touchless pandemic world; a ministry of presence in a distancing pandemic world; and a ministry of listening in a shouting pandemic world. Sunday, September 12th, will include a creative approach to deacon ordination as we begin a new church year – which will introduce our centennial year. We have a wonderful year ahead as we conclude this pandemic and enter our second century of ministry. To the future!