The Lord Sits Enthroned Above The Flood
The Lord sits enthroned above the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.
These words from Psalm 29 resonated with all of us who gathered for Bible study this morning. These final couplets from this week’s Psalm remind us that when we are surrounded by the waters of chaos and confusion, we can hold on to three things: God is still in charge, God gives us strength to endure, and God’s blessing for our lives is one of peace.
My seminary education was done in a “low-residency” format, and that meant I had to spend a few weeks on campus a few times a year and was able to complete much of my coursework online during the regular academic year. I remember coming back from my final trip to Berkeley in January 2020, and as I sat in the Oakland airport waiting for my flight home, I was shocked by the number of people wearing masks…and it was probably about 10% of the passengers. Here we are, two years later, and masks have become part of our daily routines. If you go to any airport around the world, you’ll see 100% of the people with masks covering their faces.
I know that the last two years of the COVID pandemic have been exhausting and I am just as eager as everyone else to see the pandemic phase of this illness end. I hope that our situation will change in the future, but until then, I go back to Psalm 29 for hope: God is still in charge, God gives us strength to endure, and God’s blessing for our lives is one of peace.
I have discussed our current moment in the pandemic with clergy colleagues and listened to what other churches in our diocese are doing in light of omicron. At this point, no one is canceling in-person services, but many are asking parishioners to double down on masking and social distancing. Knowing that people within this parish are at different places with their tolerance for COVID exposure, I presented my summary of these inquiries to the Vestry with some recommendations, and this is how we together decided to respond:
- The 9 AM virtual Morning Prayer service will continue to be available on Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook.
- At 10:30 AM, we will continue to require masks in common areas such as the narthex and we will encourage everyone to leave their masks on during the service. If you attend worship at 10:30, you may continue to remove your mask once you are seated in a pew if you maintain appropriate social distancing from others. There is plenty of room to spread out in the church, and both side chapels have ample seating nearly every Sunday.
- Coffee hour will now be held outside in the patio/ramada area (weather permitting). Drinks and treats will be on tables near Rectors Hall, so after you grab a drink and a snack, you can find a comfortable spot to socialize for a few minutes while enjoying the beautiful Paradise Valley weather and scenery.
- At the 6 PM service, masks and social distancing will continue to be required at all times.
- In general, if you are on campus and near a crowd of people, whether indoors or outdoors, we strongly encourage you to keep your mask on unless you’re eating or drinking something.
These changes in protocols will also affect our plans for the Annual Meeting. We will not be gathering for a potluck in Rectors Hall as we had advertised. Instead, we will take a short break after the 10:30 service—coffee and treats will be available outside—and we will gather in the church for the Annual Meeting at 12:15.
I think that church should be safe and fun for everyone, no matter what it looks like. We are trying to do the best we can to keep as many people involved in the fellowship and worshiping life of this community in person and online and I appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to keep everyone safe. As Christians, Jesus tells us that our highest call and our most distinctive trait is that we love one another.
We have weathered two years of this pandemic together, and even though we are weary, we must remember how important the together part of that statement is: We need each other, and we cannot do this alone. So let’s stay connected, in person or online, and let’s continue to hold each other in love and prayer. And let’s take the words of Psalm 29 to heart: God is still in charge, God gives us strength to endure, and God’s blessing for our lives is one of peace.
The Rev. Dr. Perry M. Pauley
Christ Church of the Ascension