Pastoral Message: Sunday Worship and Christmas Eve Updates

November 23, 2020

Dear Siblings in Christ,

In 19 years of marriage, I think Diane and I have cooked—maybe—two turkeys. This morning, I pulled a turkey out of our freezer to begin the slow process of thawing it for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday. We won’t be gathering with family this year, despite the fact that we’ve not seen some of our family since last year’s holiday gatherings. But it’s because we want to see our family at future holiday gatherings that we refuse to see one another now.

Thanksgiving reminds us that the season of Advent is about to break forth—and thanks be to God! If ever there was a season that captured the “mood” of the world in its context, it’s Advent 2020. We long for what we believe is yet to come, reflecting upon the hope, peace, joy, and love we know in Jesus Christ, perhaps especially because those gifts have seemed to be in shorter-than-usual supply this year. Whether we await divine intervention, or simply the rollout of an effective vaccine, we wait with expectant hope.

As we look forward to this long-cherished liturgical season, I want to share with you a couple of decisions that our Session made concerning worship. While acknowledging that Covid-19 cases are on the rise both nationally and—more pointedly—right here in our neck of the woods, the Session is inclined to leave the current worship situation as it stands. That is to say, as long as those who attend worship in the sanctuary continue to care for one another by observing all Covid-related restrictions, we will continue to welcome those members who feel secure worshiping in the sanctuary to do so on Sunday mornings. If doing so would cause you to feel anxious about your health, I encourage you to consider remaining at home to worship via Livestream or radio broadcast. And certainly, if you feel any symptoms of illness at all, or if you have traveled or otherwise come into contact with a Covid-positive person, you simply must stay home for the sake of everyone’s health and safety. It is when we act with thought for the common good, rather than our own selfish desires, that we best emulate the Lord Jesus.

The second worship-related Session decision is that the Christmas Eve service will be broadcast-only beginning at 7:30 p.m. Only those persons necessary to facilitate the worship service will be permitted in the sanctuary that evening. This was not an easy choice to make, but it is the right one, given the much larger crowd size that we typically experience on that evening. The worship leaders and church staff will be working hard to make this service of worship as meaningful for you and your family, worshiping in the comfort of your homes, as possible, even as we do what is necessary to safeguard our community. This may be saddening news to you, but it’s because we want to see our family of faith at future holiday gatherings that we must covenant not to see one another on Christmas Eve.

Yours in Christ’s Service,

Matthew L. Camlin

Pastor

(Correction: A previous version of the letter above included a phrase about visitors to our church that has since been removed. Below is an apology letter from Rev. Camlin.)

Members and Friends of NWPC,

I am writing to apologize for my poor choice of words found in yesterday’s letter to the congregation. In my failure to express what I was trying to convey, my wording suggested that we do not value visitors to our church and that we do not find relationships with them “meaningful.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The ministry of reconciliation to which all are called in Jesus Christ calls us to love our neighbors not merely in an abstract way, but relationally. Our congregation endeavors to do that at every opportunity; perhaps never more so than on Christmas Eve, when we always anticipate receiving large numbers of visitors and neighbors. It is a privilege each year to fling wide our doors and welcome all whom the Spirit has called to worship with us on that holy night. It is for the health and safety of members and visitors alike that we made the difficult decision to worship only via Livestream and Titan Radio this Christmas Eve.

The ministry of reconciliation also demands that when one has given offense, that one 
acknowledge this and make amends. Those who found my wording troubling were right to do so, because it did not accurately represent our congregation’s love of our neighbors. I humbly apologize.

Yours in Christ’s Service,
Matthew L. Camlin,
Pastor

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