July 19 Reflection below
THIS WEEK (Nineteen)+
of pandemic restrictions
WED July 22 —Intercession Salad supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
–Fabulous Friends/Parsonage classes Zoom mtg, 7:00 PM
SUN July 26 Meeting for worship-sharing, 10:00 AM, both in the meetinghouse and online by Zoom
MON July 27 Ministry & Oversight, 7:00 PM by Zoom
BULLETIN BOARD for JULY 19, 2020
Return to the Meetinghouse
The Ministry & Oversight has set July 26 as the Sunday to begin gradual resumption of in-person meetings for worship at Winchester Friends. They seek to be mindful of Friends who are longing to gather again for worship in-person, of others who prefer to meet online until the COVID pandemic poses less risk to groups meeting in enclosed places, and of several who have been joining us online, do not live near us, but would like to continue worshipping with us.
To try to honor those wishes, new video and audio equipment has been ordered to enable us to experiment with meeting both online and in person in the church building, still using the worship-sharing format we have utilized since the pandemic began to encourage everyone to participate, not just spectate. We are proceeding on the assumption that the equipment will be delivered in time for use on July 26.
In worship-sharing, all participants consider the same piece of input (a devotional essay in this case) and a few queries about the scripture it’s based upon or the concerns it covers. After the essay topic is introduced and summarized briefly by leader(s), the remaining time is spent in unprogrammed worship with attenders speaking out of the silence to respond to the queries with their own spiritual reflections and leadings.
Based on current public health advice, the M&O requests that Friends coming to meet in person follow these expectations:
1) If you are experiencing any symptoms of illness (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea), please remain at home and join the meeting online by Zoom or telephone.
2) The two entrances on the east (parking lot) side of the building and the entrance to the annex will be unlocked on Sunday morning at 9:30 AM. Earlier entry is discouraged in order to minimize risk from close contact visiting.
3) Hand sanitizer will be available at each entrance. Friends are asked to use it as you enter so that we can all “start clean” as we share the room.
4) Facemasks also will be available at each entrance, or you are welcome to bring your own. Out of concern for one another’s well-being, Friends will be expected to wear masks while we are together in the building.
5) In order for everyone attending in person to be able to see the Friends attending online, we will use distanced seating in the parlor, arranged around the largest TV monitor we can obtain. Fellowship before and after the meeting must honor safe physical distancing, so there should be no handshakes, hugs, or other close contact. In keeping with medical professionals’ advice, no refreshments will be served.
6) As in the weeks since April, the Zoom meeting invitation and a devotional essay with queries for worship-sharing will be emailed to Friends on Saturday for your contemplation prior to worship. Paper copies of the devotional essay will be available on Sunday for those gathering at the meetinghouse. You are welcome to forward the emails to others to invite them to worship with us on Sunday morning. Those who do not have the necessary computer/phone equipment or internet capability may connect by conventional telephone by dialing 1-301-715-8592, then keying in the meeting ID (249 900 7533) and meeting password (162473) when prompted.
7) The meeting will begin in person and via Zoom at 10:00 AM and will end as close to 11:00 AM as possible.
8) If music is available, it will be mostly instrumental because medical authorities consider singing in close proximity to others to be a high-risk activity for droplet and aerosol spread of the COVID pathogen.
9) To avoid virus spread by contact, offering plates will not be passed around. A box or other recepticle will be available on a table if Friends wish to leave an offering.
Ministry & Oversight will continue to monitor pandemic statistics and the ongoing advice of public health authorities. If the pandemic worsens or risks become elevated in this area, our gatherings for worship will return to online-only meetings via Zoom.
Winchester Friends Church 765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St. Winchester, IN 47394www.winchesterfriendschurch.org
July 19 Reflection
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
So Done With the Pandemic
I must have been a terrible child. Friends here in May heard from my sister about the day during my high school years when I allegedly left the dinner table for a school activity and gave part of a hamburger to my mom’s chihuahua, then let my younger siblings take the blame for it when Mother found it in the dog’s bowl. I still don’t remember doing that. Even worse, Pam learned from one of my aunts that there was a day in my pre-school years when my mom “reached the end of her rope” dealing with my fussiness. She apparently put me into the car, drove out of the little town where we lived, made me exit the car along a country road, and drove away. After letting me sit there crying for a few minutes, she returned and drove me back home. Thankfully, I was too young to have any recollection now of that incident. In her defense, my mom was frazzled trying to take care of my older brother and me (who of course always got along well), and my younger sister who was born with a congenital heart defect that proved fatal before she reached age four. Whatever actually happened, it worked – I’ve behaved like an angel ever since, right? She should have written a parenting book.
Last Wednesday, I listened in on a weekly Zoom meeting led by Joyce and Bill Wagoner’s son Scott. He offers the meetings for experience-sharing and encouragement of Friends pastors from across the US trying to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Scott said he is more and more frequently encountering people in his pastoral work who declare, “I’m so done with this pandemic!” They go on to express all their frustrations over suspended or cancelled activities, glitchy Zoom meetings, mask wearing and physical distancing, inconvenienced everyday necessities like shopping and childcare, inability to plan anything with certainty, and a long list of other complaints. Scott told us that he listens, then responds that they may be done with the pandemic, but the strong resurgence of COVID-19 infections shows quite clearly that it is not done with us.
Then on a Thursday morning radio news program, a clinic director in a small Arizona city told how his staff had worked long hours to complete over 4000 COVID-19 tests last week. They nearly ran out of protective equipment and other materials that must be resupplied before testing can resume on Monday. Worst of all, they encountered long delays in getting back test results, which may make much of their hard work a waste of time. (If someone tested is unknowingly COVID-positive but asymptomatic, they likely will keep interacting with and exposing others until their test results come back.) After listening to that, the interviewer commented that he heard in the doctor’s voice a combination of exhaustion, anxiety, and fear. The doctor agreed that the interviewer’s diagnosis was quite accurate.
The very next story in that Thursday news program was about record-setting sales of guns across the US since the pandemic began. After seeing the hoarding and shortages that occurred in March and April, people fearing anarchy rushed to buy guns to protect their property. July’s spike in infections and the imminent end of federal assistance funding has led to a new spike in gun sales. A gun store owner expressed concern that many first-time purchasers were not attending gun safety programs. That, coupled with nationwide racial tension and general frustration, has public safety officials fearing a significant spike in the number of gun injuries and deaths, on top of COVID-19 illness and deaths, in the second half of 2020.
It would be so nice if we could just collectively say “we’re done with this pandemic” and have it disappear and our former way of doing things suddenly reappear; or if we could just drive it out of town, drop it off on a country road somewhere, and go back to our pre-pandemic lives; or if we could somehow scare all the viruses away with our substantial armory of guns. The knowledge that none of those things will happen — that the potential for infection is ever present and no clear end is in sight — makes all of us vulnerable to the same physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual forces that are producing exhaustion, anxiety, and fear in that Arizona doctor. If only there was a counterforce we could call upon and count upon to help us not just get through this, but help us grow from the experience as well.
Exhaustion During his years of public ministry, Jesus got pretty well acquainted with physical exhaustion. Everywhere he went, he had to walk unless he could get there by boat. And there was no shortage of physically ill, mentally and emotionally struggling, and spiritually oppressed people in Palestine. Once word got out that Jesus had power to heal such maladies, it’s a wonder he ever got any rest. When people found out he was near, they gathered to him like those lining up nowadays for COVID tests and food distributions. Most of the time in the Gospel accounts, he altered his plans and stayed as long as necessary to help all he could.
The physical exhaustion of helping people, though, is somewhat like an athlete’s workout or a morning of gardening, at the same time both wearying and renewing because something worthwhile is being accomplished. Other kinds of exertion are more draining when nothing seems achieved, no goal is in sight, or effort is unappreciated.
As experienced during the restrictions imposed by this pandemic, idleness is ironically exhausting. Muscles need to be exercised, and inactivity eventually allows the buildup of the chemicals in the cells that produce the feeling of fatigue. When it goes on long enough, muscles begin to atrophy, increasing that feeling of constant exhaustion and making recovery more and more taxing.
Those same realities apply to mental and emotional and spiritual exhaustion. These challenging days are forcing everyone to expend mental energy to figure out how to do usual things in new ways. The uncertainties and sadnesses are stressing everyone’s emotions, making relationships more difficult and releasing the energy-draining hormone cortisol into the bloodstream to hasten physical fatigue. Those mental and emotional challenges can reveal spiritual weaknesses in us that we’d rather not see, leaving us weary of soul as well. Knowing his disciples would encounter people experiencing all of those exhaustions, and knowing that they would experience them too, Jesus reminded the disciples — soon after their first forays in ministry without him (Matthew 10) – to return to him when they found themselves “at the end of their rope,” and he would provide the whole-person rest they craved (Matt. 11:28).
Anxiety The Arizona doctor whose clinic had all but run out of protective equipment and testing supplies, and who was having trouble finding a source of resupply, admitted that he was feeling high anxiety over not being ready to resume the testing his community desperately needs on Monday. He had no guarantee from the medical supplies company that his order would be filled, so atop his medical duties, he was constantly thinking about how to find alternatives for supplies. In all our lives, worry is a whirlpool that sucks us in and pulls us under. It’s much like the guy driving through the Kansas countryside at night, had a flat tire, and discovered he had no lug wrench. He saw a farm light in the distance and started walking to get help. After he’d walked awhile and the light seemed no closer, he got discouraged and thought “there’s probably no one home.” A few minutes later, he thought “at this hour, they won’t come to the door.” A little farther, and he thought “even if they come to the door, they won’t have a lug wrench.” Then it was “if they have a wrench, it’ll be the wrong size.” By the time he walked onto the porch, knocked on the door, and a farmer in pajamas appeared, he blurted out “oh just keep your ol’ lug wrench!” There is plenty to be anxious about in this pandemic – the risk of illness and death, economic disaster, disrupted plans and dreams. We all need often to hear the imprisoned apostle Paul implore us “not to be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7). God knows what we need before we ask.
Fear That Arizona doctor specified that what he feared was the suffering and death he knew would result from his staff’s inability safely to provide testing for his anxious neighbors and care for the ones already sickened and hospitalized by the coronavirus. His fear was not irrational. It was based on experience and science. It is highly likely that the disciples’ fear when Jesus slept in their boat in a storm on the Sea of Galilee was not irrational, either. They had probably seen people drown in similar circumstances. And yet, Jesus told them not to be afraid, to love God enough to trust His watchful care. John, who very likely was in that boat, many years later wrote that “there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out fear” (I John 4:18). The necessary suspension of activity and busyness during this pandemic is an ideal time for each of us to work on perfecting, deepening our love for the God we can fully trust.
In I Kings 19, after the prophet Elijah had eluded arrest, survived the drought in Samaria, and prevailed over Ahab’s and Jezebel’s prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, he felt so alone – exhausted, anxious, afraid — that he fled into the desert, sat down under a broom tree, and prayed to die. He might have even said “I am so done with confronting Jezebel and Ahab.” God did not punish him. He let Elijah rest, miraculously provided him food and drink to revive his body, and then led him on a long walk to Mt. Horeb where he was given a new experience of God’s presence. God twice asked Elijah “what are you doing here?” and allowed him to hear the self-pity in his answer. God gave Elijah a “close encounter” by passing by the mouth of the cave where he had sheltered. He helped Elijah to learn that the answer to his need was not in the noise of a mighty wind, nor in the power of an earthquake, nor in the energy of a fire, but in the gentle whisper of God’s Spirit. Finally, God sent the prophet back to his old place with important new assignments – preparation of new leadership, identification of a prophet to succeed him, and regathering of a faithful remnant who loved God and would help continue his redemptive plan for the world. We would do well to learn from Elijah’s example a way of responding redemptively to the wearisome, discouraging year that 2020 has been.
Ron Ferguson, 19 July 2020
Queries for Reflection and Worship-Sharing
1) What about the pandemic have you found most exhausting? Most anxiety-producing? Most fearful? How have you found rest from those burdens?
2) Why do you think the Lord asked Elijah “What are you doing here?” If he asked you that, how would you answer?
3) According to II Peter 1:5-8, what is the key to gaining perseverance for experiences like 2020’s trials?
4) In your life, how have you experienced the truth that Christ’s “yoke is easy, and his burden is light”?