As we face the reopening of two of our worship services this Sunday the 20th, it will be a new chapter in the history of St. Andrew’s UMC. And it will be a new chapter in the lives of Jayne and I, as well. For the first time, this Sunday, I will be in the pulpit at St. Andrew’s in front of a live congregation. This will be so exciting. Worship is so much more meaningful and inspirational in the presence of a community of faithful. It fills you with energy and passion. After being co-pastors of St. Andrew’s for two and a half months, we can attest that the people of this church have a lot of energy and passion for the Lord.
Yet we know that this Sunday will mark a new chapter because it will mark the beginning of a rebuilding. The question is “how will we rebuild?” This is the question that Zerubbabel asked God, around 530 BC, when he led the first group of Hebrews back to Jerusalem after being in exile in Babylon. We can say that, in a way, we have been in exile over the last six months. Here are God’s words to him in Zechariah 4:6-7: "So, he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”
As we enter this new phase at the church, we face the same concerns about rebuilding. The task seems so daunting for us. Yet we need to take these words to heart, that it is not by our power but by the Spirit of God. Success will not come by human strength but through God’s power. We must put our trust in God that by the Holy Spirit, we will be guided and directed to new life after this six-month hiatus.
Zerubbabel was instructed to bring out the capstone, the foundation for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. We are hopeful to hear our crowds shout “God bless it! God bless it!" as we open our doors for worship this Sunday and later to ministries and classes for meeting back in the church. We will do so celebrating God’s blessings in our midst. As we see God’s movement in our church and among our people, we will be filled with gratitude as St. Andrew’s UMC is rebuilding from the “exile.” Looking to God and celebrating our blessings will be the foundation of bringing life to our church as we reopen our doors.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had three simple rules for life. The first one is do no harm. As we start our in-person worship services this Sunday, this rule is foremost in our minds. Diligent plans and procedures have been well-thought out and prepared to make sure the worship environment is a safe place. There will be a team of volunteers with spray bottles and rags sanitizing the surfaces in the sanctuary. There will also be a variety of safety precautions in place. We want to thank the Relaunch Team who was been meeting every week since the pandemic to discern the timeliness of opening and to ensure a safe facility for regathering. We want to especially express our gratitude to David Carlson for leading this endeavor, Dr. Deborah Humphrey for providing updates on the spread of the virus, and to Jess Adams for all the instructional signage you will see on Sunday.
One final item—Jayne will not be in worship this Sunday. As many of you know she lost her mother in June, right before we came to St. Andrew’s. Prior to our plans to reopen the church for in-person worship, she and her two sisters had planned to take their father to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan near Mackinaw City, so he
could get away from the distractions of life and spend time with his daughters. They will be enjoying the beauty of a star-filled night out in the country air.