For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Dear Church Family and Friends,

I pray and hope that your faith is an essential element in the person who you are. Your faith that is verified through your actions and your words.

Every day it is easy to see how the love of God and love of our neighbors energizes the people of St. Paul’s into action for God. Faith is essential to our lives; our faith connection through St. Paul’s has helped make many of us into better people for God and Christ!

Since the pandemic started and we have been isolated from being shoulder to shoulder with each other, we have proven to ourselves and literally the world that worship is essential to the people we are. Our streaming worship services are packed with people. We have demonstrated that connecting our children with God and Christ is essential because so many families are having their children participate in our One Room Sunday School Classroom each Sunday! St. Paul’s has not stopped being a church and in fact, I believe that since March we have shared more hours of church with more people than in our past.

The view in this photo has been my view every Sunday since we have separated from each other. And, no, it’s not an image I love, but by those pews being empty we have protected you and your friends from having St. Paul’s be a place where the coronavirus is passed on. The virus is invisible and it is still making its deadly impact across this nation. The Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold Georgia decided to open its doors for worship on April 26 without implementing a safety plan and two weeks later closed because COVID 19 had impacted a number of those who had worshiped on the 26th.

St. Paul’s is beginning the process of establishing protocols and rules that we will have in place before we again worship together in our beautiful church. Lori Holland, Meghan Beidle, and Kim Gibson have agreed to work with me as a new ministry team that will come up with rules that our Leadership team must approve before we move forward. These three women have the experience, the St. Paul’s connection, the faith, and the ability to make sure we do this right.

This afternoon, President Trump announced that he considers houses of worship to be essential services in our nation. I wholeheartedly agree with him and I think over these last ten weeks the people of St. Paul’s have shown that this church provides essential services to our members and the community, locally and beyond, with love! We have had more people attending church through our streamed services than have ever attended on a single Sunday in our history.

This afternoon, Bishop Schol shared his thoughts: “I am grateful that the President has recognized the essential nature of our ministry and I urge all churches to continue their ministry as they have been since mid-March. I particularly call on our clergy and lay leadership to lead so that you care for God’s creation and people during COVID-19. We trust your leadership and that you will ensure the safety of your people and the community. COVID-19 may change how we do church but does not change us as the body of Christ.”

I will be sharing more information as we move towards reopening the doors but until then our online services will continue, our daily devotions will continue, our two weekly Bible studies will continue, and our new weekly Wednesday morning Communion service will begin in June.

We are looking at all our options for worship, but before the doors of the church open again three things must occur:

1. The State of New Jersey must approve the gathering of a significant number of people inside a church or other house of worship. We will obey the law that exists for the safety of the people. Similarly we don’t drive recklessly all over the road because we think it is our right. We follow the laws designed to keep people safe.

2. Our new ministry team’s plan will be completed and it will address eight key health and safety issues as outlined by the Bishop.

3. St. Paul’s Leadership Team must approve the ministry team’s plan and set a date to open the church building and/or outdoor worship.

The Leadership Team has already approved the proposal that this year’s Vacation Bible School will be streamed/virtual for the protection of the children, the children’s families, and our volunteers.

I am so thankful for each one of you! You have become essential in my life and my family’s life. St. Paul’s is essential to each of us and I know we all miss being together! We are called to serve God and make new disciples for Jesus Christ, and that we can do using social media, volunteering in the Food Pantry, and in so many other ways.

We are the church … you are the church … we are the church together, and we don’t have to be in a physical building to prove that!

You are all in my prayers!

Pastor Dave


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