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Pastoral Letter from Rev. Jake Caldwell

A bolt of lightning like none I had heard before or since jolted me out of bed. It felt so close I ran to the window, certain I would find my house or one of my neighbor’s homes to be in flames. It turns out, that bolt of lightning struck four miles from my house, on the roof of the church building where I served as pastor. It traveled along the gutter lighting the attic ablaze as it went. I arrived on the scene along with my flock and we watched, over the course of the next 48 hours, as the fire slowly gained on the first responders, stained glass windows melted, stone walls collapsed, and chaos ensued. Our oldest daughter was three at the time and she knew that something bad was happening. I started to explain it to her as best I could. The building was gone and we would have church, but it would look different—different time, different place. She had just a few questions. “When we go to church, is Hampton going to be there? Is Cici going to be there? Is Reid going to be there?” She was listing off all of her friends. “Yes,” I said, “they’ll all be there.” She shrugged her shoulders, as if casting off the cares that weighed so heavily on me that day, and went back to the business of playing with dolls. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, wisdom comes forth.

I thought of that day on Sunday morning as I attended Worship and Wonder, sitting cross-legged on my living room floor. Our girls, of course, had some questions about why we were playing hooky from church to have worship and wonder in our living room and we explained it as best we could. My wife, Diana, was leading the service. She asked if the girls had a song they wanted to share for our church service. And they settled on a familiar tune they sing often in Worship and Wonder, based on Psalm 46:10, which goes like this: “Be still and know, that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still, and know that I am God.” Out of the mouths of babes and infants, wisdom comes forth. That is a grand mantra for these trying times. “Be still and know that I am God.” We are facing a disaster, friends, there is no doubt about that. I suspect the hardest parts are yet to come. But we will get through it together and we will find that there is lots of life on the other side of Coronavirus.

I thought of that day on Sunday morning as I attended Worship and Wonder, sitting cross-legged on my living room floor. Our girls, of course, had some questions about why we were playing hooky from church to have worship and wonder in our living room and we explained it as best we could. My wife, Diana, was leading the service. She asked if the girls had a song they wanted to share for our church service. And they settled on a familiar tune they sing often in Worship and Wonder, based on Psalm 46:10, which goes like this: “Be still and know, that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still, and know that I am God.” Out of the mouths of babes and infants, wisdom comes forth. That is a grand mantra for these trying times. “Be still and know that I am God.” We are facing a disaster, friends, there is no doubt about that. I suspect the hardest parts are yet to come. But we will get through it together and we will find that there is lots of life on the other side of Coronavirus.

Church, I’m sure you already know, is going to look a little different over the next couple of months. Guidance from the Center for Disease Control and both local and national officials is changing daily, sometimes more often than that. The health and safety of our church members and staff are a top priority. I am working closely with staff and lay leadership to plan for church life in the days ahead. I am sharing some initial decisions that have been made regarding worship, programming, and the use of church property for the foreseeable future.

  1. The Center for Disease Control has recommended that no gatherings of 50 or more people take place in the US for the next eight weeks. Pending further guidance, we will not hold public worship in our sanctuary until that ban is lifted. Worship materials for last Sunday were posted on the church website and we are working on some additional ways to connect through worship and hope to have some other options available soon.
  2. In-person hospital and nursing home visitation has been suspended. Our regular hospital visitors and clergy staff will be checking in with those who are hospitalized by phone. If you or a loved one are sick or hospitalized, please notify the church office or a member of the staff.
  3. All scheduled church and non-church programs, activities, and meetings held on the campus of First Christian Church have been canceled until further notice. This includes Northern Cross Preschool. If you purchased a ticket for the Youth Spaghetti dinner on March 28th, you may request a refund from the church by Friday, March 27th, or consider the price of your ticket a donation to support the youth summer mission trip.
  4. The church office will remain operational at this time and will adhere to normal business hours. However, access to the church building will be limited to essential activity. The electronic keycards have been deactivated except for staff and a few lay leaders, so there will be no general access to the church building or the Regenold House until further notice.
  5. Our cleaning service is performing a deep clean of the church building and will be sanitizing commonly touched surfaces on a regular, ongoing basis. Once rooms have been sanitized, they will be closed for use. The church library will serve as the only available meeting room if in person meetings are necessary and will be sanitized after use.
  6. We are in the process of establishing a Constant Contact list to streamline our ability to send out mass communications. This should be operational sometime later this week. We will import email addresses from our church database and you will be able to sign up or opt out from church emails.
  7. We are exploring the possibility of setting up online giving through the church website. You can currently elect to have your tithes and offerings direct debited from your bank account by contacting Dianna in the church office and completing a simple form. Your gifts are both an expression of trust in God and an expression of love and care for your church family, as they are required to keep the church operational during this season.
  8. If you need pastoral care or support, please reach out to a member of the church staff. We will do our best to respond in a timely manner, observing the social distancing protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control.

Friends, we are all in this together, even when our isolation may make us feel alone. First Christian Church has been going strong since 1875. We will still be going strong when Coronavirus is nothing but a bad memory. We will emerge from this experience stronger and closer than we have ever been before—closer to one another and closer to God. Take care of yourselves, be creative in the ways you love your neighbors, and wash your hands! You are constantly in my prayers, for good health and for the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, to guard your hearts and your minds, today and in the days to come.

Warmly,
Rev. Jake Caldwell
Senior Minister


Posted March 17, 2020
1345 Potomac Avenue  •  Hagerstown, MD 21742-3393  •  301-733-0144