A Word from the Pastors | Coronavirus Message 07-23-2020

One Lutheran pastor in Philadelphia that Pastor Neil has known since seminary… and that Pastor Gwen has known for almost as long… often emails articles on any number of topics to a group of colleagues and friends. You probably have one or two eager communicators like this in your own life. About a week ago the forwarded article was one from USAToday.com: “A Dangerous Environment: As churches reopen, outbreaks are sprouting and some are keeping doors shut.” The article discussed such issues as deciding whether or not to reopen, social distancing, sanitizing, face mask requirements, public singing, Holy Communion, touching, and fellowship in a time both of concerns about safety and also of reported incidents of church-related infections and deaths. Neither Pastor Gwen nor Pastor Neil had any great complaints or concerns about what that article said. But another Lutheran pastor from the same era and the same seminary responded – and copied everyone else in – with “Please spare me this biased garbage. We have over 3,800 members and we opened the first week we were allowed to and we have had no known cases, mainly because we took all reasonable precautions. For all of June, we averaged 1,213 each weekend and 111 of those were onsite at 6 different times and places.” Blow the trumpets! Roll the red carpet! Pass out the awards!

Perhaps the “biased” article sent by one pastor and the blessed experience shared by another pastor is not really much in conflict, except in tone. The congregation (located in a metropolitan area in the southwestern United States, by the way) had 111 people worship onsite in June at different times and locations each weekend – simple math suggests that an average of less than 20 people [111 divided by 6 = 18.5] were physically in the same place at the same time for worship. “Mainly because [the congregation] took all reasonable precautions”, they had “no known cases”. We don’t know if they did or didn’t sing if they did or didn’t share communion or hugs or donuts afterward. But the 111 made it through worship in safety each weekend. Subtracting the 111 who were physically together onsite for worship leaves 1,102 persons per weekend who participated in shared worship but apparently were not in a shared location at a shared time. Why might so many not come physically together? And subtracting 1,213 from the rolls of 3,800 members (actually more than that!) indicates that 2,587 did not join together in worship each weekend, either physically or through technology. The USAToday.com article had suggested that people were more reluctant right now to physically come back into churches for shared worship. We are guessing that the blessed congregation in the southwest averaged more than 111 people in physical attendance each weekend before these COVID-19 times. The USAToday.com article stated that foot traffic to restaurants as well as clothing and shoe stores has rebounded more strongly than churchgoing has nationally. So many perhaps are not yet feeling comfortable or confident in these days of COVID.

As we listen to St. Peter’s members and friends and neighbors… as we consider what the City of Philadelphia leadership and our Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod leadership and our nation’s  medical leadership are advising… as we pray and pray some more… we will continue to move slowly and carefully and safely. Most of us have never experienced anything like this before. We’re all trying to figure this out. In the midst of pandemic blues all over this land, all over this world, the Lord is showing us new ways to live faithfully and to love fervently! In the meantime, wear your face mask (even the President is beginning to think that this might be a good idea for him personally, if only for political points)… keep your social distance (not just the “6 feet”; watch the clusters of people and be aware of the connecting links that you or your people have to others)… stay in good health and mind and spirit… and let’s walk together in faith, hope, and love (but maybe not “hand-in-hand” right now). You are in our hearts and thoughts and prayers!

Pastor Neil & Pastor Gwen

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Lord, when did we see you hungry?

“Feast Incarnate” is a year-round food outreach and hospitality ministry for the food insecure, including those affected by HIV/AIDS. It has been an expression of affirming love and a welcomed meal since 1988 through the compassion and commitment of the congregation of the University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, located on the U of Pennsylvania campus in West Philadelphia. Individuals and groups from St. Peter’s have helped to provide and to serve the meal several times each year.

On Tuesday, July 21 St. Peter’s planned and provided the meal for 85-90 people, which was distributed outside but not served inside at the table because of COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns. We are grateful to those who helped contribute: Valerie Taylor Samuel, Beverly Morris, Tanya Morris, Trudi Wright, Shelvia Samuel, Paul Samuel, Judy Echols, Justine Patterson, Maliek Patterson, Diane Hughes, Frances Maddox, Katrina Whitaker, Paul Whitaker, Timyk Hillsman, Diane Hillsman, Pastor Gwen, Pastor Neil.

This was a Thrivent Action Team Event, so Thrivent Financial provided seed money to assist. And they have sent more of those soft “Live Generously” t-shirts (the ones with a heart and a cross).

Volunteers, you are welcome to contact Pastor Gwen to get a shirt… these are salmon in color, and we also have others left over from previous Action Team Events.

Some Christians know very well what it is like to be hungry and desperate. Some Christians have only experienced hunger as wanting yet another snack since the recent last meal or recent last snack. Each generation of Christians has been confronted with the hunger and poverty of others, and many Christians have responded with food, with funds, with advocacy, with development, with compassion.

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Healing the Heart

    Bishop Stephen Munga of our companion synod, the North Eastern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, had a bad heart and needed air ambulance transport to South Africa (at a cost of $37,000 just for that!), major heart surgery, and recovery care. He has already had the surgery, been released from intensive care, and is now recuperating in a general hospital unit.

What a bill to pay! Our Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) has created a “Healing the Heart” appeal to reach out with more than our prayers and best wishes. To date, the Synod has received donations in the amount of $8,400. Here at St. Peter’s, $250 has been donated (but not yet sent). If you would like to contribute, you can make an offering to St. Peter’s with the notation “Healing the Heart”. Or you can go online to our Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod and give a donation that way.

As many of us have experienced with our own huge medical bills, this will probably take a little while to be paid.

Upcoming Events

Jun
19
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jun 19 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jun
23
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jun
30
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
3
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 3 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
5
Fri
2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Jul 5 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Check out the Senior Food Program’s page for more information.