I’m not quite sure how it is already August.  2020 has simultaneously been the longest, and fastest year that I can remember.  I’ve also found that it has brought a wide range of experiences that have been, at times, difficult to reconcile with each other.  Great joy as well as grief.  Loss as well as hope.  The difficulty of change and the promise it contains as well.  If you are feeling a confusing mix of emotions right now, if you are not sure if you are supposed to be putting on a brave face, making the most of things, and looking on the bright side, or if you should be creating space and time for grief and lament in your life, know that you are not alone.  And know that you can turn to God with all of these conflicting and confusing feelings.  Lifting up prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude, mingled with angry shouts, or sorrowful cries.  God is big enough to receive them all, in whatever order they might spill out of your heart.  And know that your community here at Bethlehem will continue to support you however possible.

It’s hard to believe that been almost four and a half months since we were last gathered together physically with one another.  During that span, our building may have been closed, but we never ceased to be the church, and we never stopped being one in community with each other.  And we are so excited to be gathering once again for in-person worship services starting this Sunday!  Please know that a great deal of planning and preparation have gone into this decision to reopen, and we intend to do so in the safest way possible.  We ask your grace, patience, and forgiveness as we learn into this new way of being in community with one another.

As we return to in-person gatherings, we will be changing how we offer our digital worship.  Over the next few weeks, we will transition from prerecording our services on Fridays, to live streaming them on Sunday mornings.  One benefit of live streaming is that there will be new ways to interact, in real time, with the other people who are watching the service.  Additionally, once the live stream broadcast has ended, a recording of that service becomes available almost immediately.  That being said, we are not quite there yet.  So, for the next few weeks, until we can get that system up and running, our plan is to record the worship service in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, and have the upload to you by Monday morning.  We know that this will throw many of your schedules off, during a time when it’s already hard to know what day of the week it is, and for that we apologize.  Please bear with us for just a few weeks, and be on the lookout for more information about how the live streaming will work!

As you can imagine, there are a number of new procedures that need to be followed as we gather for worship on the grass.  Below this letter, in the next section, are two documents.  The first is the full, official Bethlehem Lutheran Church Covid-19 Protocol that outlines all of the new policies that we have created.  It was written looking at state and federal protocols and guidelines, as well as those put out by the Pacifica Synod and the ELCA.  In addition to that document, there is a one-page handout that is intended to orient and prepare you for what to expect when you come for in person worship.  Clicking on those links will download them as PDFs.  We encourage you to check them both out!

In this time of great change and uncertainty, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for being such a wonderful, supportive, and caring community.  Bethlehem is truly blessed with some extraordinary people.  Paul said that it is the same spirit that blesses us with a multitude of gifts, and I am so grateful for the ways that you use those gifts for the betterment of the world.  And whether I see you soon in person, or you continue to engage virtually, may God’s blessing be upon you this and every day.

Pastor Sam