Dear Church,

I truly miss our in-person gatherings.  As I recorded this week’s worship service and I was in an empty sanctuary.  During my time in the sanctuary I felt an overwhelming grief that I was not able to share in worship with you.  While I know we are not together.  When I stand in an empty space and recite the words of Thanksgiving for Baptism to an empty space it feels different.

However, in the midst of a pandemic, gathering in person for worship is *not essential.*

This week President Trump declared houses of worship and in-person worship assemblies “essential.” He said “ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams, and other faith leaders will make sure their congregations are safe as they gather and pray…”

I, along with other ELCA Lutherans around the country as well as other faith leaders agree that the only way I or any other leader can keep you safe is by joining you in *staying home.*

Our church did not stop public gathering because our Governor drafted a law that said we couldn’t.

We decided that we were not going to gather out of love for the vulnerable that we wanted to keep people safe and that we could be the church outside the walls of the building.  Our church will not start gathering just because President Trump stated that we can or should.

We will decided to gather and (and we will gather again) based in the same principles of love and wisdom.

I know that the the church is essential to us all because we are the body of Christ.  I also know that we can offer one another and the world so much by being the church online, in our homes and in the world.  We can offer the reconciliation of God to all of humanity because we are the people of God, living into God’s kingdom of love.

The board of directors will continue to talk and pray with one another about in person gatherings, and we will seek the advice of the CDC as well as the Synod.  Currently we plan to worship online until at least July 1st.

Thank you for your support during this time.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Joe McGarry