Jesus told them a parable, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.” Luke 21:29
My Dear Church,
We are in this time of isolation and Holy Week once again is upon us! God is still with us; Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for all of humanity is still real; and the Holy Spirit is here to guide us! As I read the parable of Jesus about the fig tree, I again celebrated that the people of St. Paul’s represent the bright vibrant leaves of a strong house of worship showcasing the love of Jesus to the world every day of the year!
I am sitting in an empty church right now and I just shouted … ‘HE IS RISEN!!!’ I so want to hear the echo that our church family supplies of ‘HE IS RISEN INDEED’ whenever I call out the essential message of Easter throughout the year. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is alive and wanting to be Savior for all. Jesus brings us hope and peace while teaching love.
But here we sit. We are in our homes being extremely careful not to cross the lines of social distancing and fully aware that people we know and people we care about, or friends and family members of our friends, will be directly impacted by COVID-19. Our church will not be filled with people for this year’s Easter services but if the last few weeks are any indication there will be more people worshiping with us at St. Paul’s, thanks to technology, on this Easter morning than on any Easter in our history!
Holy Week to me is the most emotionally faith-filled week of the calendar year. From the waving of palms on Palm Sunday with the children marching through church, to the harsh realities of the betrayal on Maundy Thursday, followed by the horrors of Good Friday’s cross, leading to the joyful climax of the empty tomb on Easter! St. Paul’s will be providing any person in the world who wants to worship with us a faith-filled service on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday evening, Good Friday both at noon and 7pm, and on Easter morning. We want you to worship with us safely from your homes and we want you to invite all your family and friends to join us in worship! Check out our website for information.
Thanks to our incredible staff and some amazing members of our leadership team who have chosen to step up during these difficult days, we are bringing you church on Sundays and a One-Room Sunday School classroom for our kids. Our Food Pantry is feeding the hungry of our community, daily live-streamed devotions are reaching people around the world, two Bible Studies are digging into God’s Word every week, and every member of our church family is being contacted by phone once a week. I can’t thank these leaders and our staff with the thanks they deserve, but they are keeping the lights on at St. Paul’s for all of us.
One of the realities of these times is that the church still has bills to pay. We have been blessed that a few people who have discovered our Sunday services online have started to give weekly to the church even though they have never stepped foot in our building. But the electricity is still on, the staff still deserves to get paid, and our other financial realities are still real. When the sanctuary is empty on Sundays, so is the offering plate. So I am asking you, if you are able, to either mail in a check once a week or once a month that fulfills your commitment to God and our church (St. Paul’s UMC, PO Box 125, West Deptford, NJ 08086) or to send St. Paul’s your offering electronically through our website, stpaulsalive.org. We plan to continue to do ministry throughout the pandemic because that’s the call of God. It is St. Paul’s responsibility to all of you and our community!
There have been more than 800 views of our last church service in the month of March. Habibul Alam Mehedii from Bangladesh has liked our Facebook page and I have chatted with him a couple of times already. He enjoys worshiping with St. Paul’s! Tanya and her family who our Red Bird Mission team helped in Kentucky last year were amongst the hundreds worshiping with us recently!
The work for Jesus Christ in our South Jersey community and beyond is being taken on by the people of St. Paul’s of West Deptford! We are a strong family community growing stronger all the time.
This is a special place. Make plans to worship with us on Sundays and to watch our daily devotions. If you are receiving phone calls from the church please let us know. Even if you don’t have a computer we have found a way that allows you to listen to our Sunday worship services. Just ask when you get called next time or call us at 856-845-6638.
So on Easter morning when I shout HE IS RISEN to an empty sanctuary but to an overflowing online church, be sure to shout HE IS RISEN INDEED so loudly that your neighbors notice!
Stay safe and healthy! I can’t wait until we are all back together again sharing hugs and love!