Dear PPC Member(s),
“Here is the church, here is the steeple Open the door and see all the people.”
No doubt many of you reading this can recall a time when you saw a parent or fellow kid play this little game. Joining our two hands together, we interlock our middle, ring, and pinky fingers, rest our index fingers on their pads to form a “steeple,” and place our thumbs in front of the interlocked fingers and underneath the index finger “steeple” to form “doors.”
Like so much of our childhood, this little game teaches us contrasting details about the Church: Church brings us together, and Church gives us the freedom to go out into the world. We love being intertwined with our community of people that make up our congregation, and that can lead us into thinking that without a building with “steeples” and “doors,” we can’t fully be the Church.
But the past weeks of living in a pandemic have helped us understand that the Holy Spirit creates an intertwined community even outside of our building. Many of us have been surprised to see how close we feel to each other through worship, prayer, timely newsletters, and our own personal communication efforts. The Church dispersed is still the Church.
And yet, we remember what it is like to gather at PPC. We remember what it is like to have our Sunday morning greeters say “Hello!” and offer a handshake or a hug. If we settle into the routine of only being a digitally connected community, we risk losing the compelling memories we hold as we recall how wonderful it was to gather in PPC’s building. We risk avoiding the grief of being apart and the yearning we have to return to the communal gathering of our PPC family.
How do we move forward? What will freedom look like? We can choose to embrace the tension of the unknown. We can choose to mourn how we cannot be worshipping shoulder-to-shoulder in the PPC sanctuary. We can choose to feel excitement, calm, and wonder, at how we connect with God during online worship, as well as in the moments of deep connection we experience with those we see every day and those we’ve reconnected with from across the country since this pandemic started.
There are so many people we never realized we missed so much. We can choose to accept our frustration at not being able to be together in the same place, knowing that safe gathering guidance is an act of radical love which can keep all of our PPC family healthy.
As PPC’s staff, Session, committees, and task forces have met over the past several months, we have embraced the wide range of feelings related to this frightening time. And we want our members, friends, and community partners who know and love our building to understand that we are making every effort to consider the common good. We believe that the choice to continue digital worship until it is safe for all members of our community to gather in our building, is a decision of radical love.
When PPC opens our doors again, we want “all” the people to feel that they are welcome and safe. Until then, we will continue to be creative and responsible. We will try to connect in ways that will work, and we know that some ways will work better than others. We will continue to plan and dream and pray and do, and we will trust in the Holy Spirit to, as that spiritual reminds us, “guide our feet while we run this race, for we don’t want to run this race in vain.”
Where is the church? Where is the steeple? The church, our church, is in Plymouth, to be sure. But is also in our homes. It is in our hearts. It is in the actions and lives of people we know and don’t know. It is in the radical love of this moment that keeps grocery store workers, nurses, doctors, chaplains, and janitors caring for all of us. This document is a carefully-considered effort to balance the gift of our building to be the church among us and for our members to be the faithful witness of the body of Christ in this time of transition, uncertainty, and renewal.
The Covid Response Task force and the Session will reevaluate the possibility of reopening the sanctuary at the November 14, 2020 Session meeting. Session will consider a September 13, 2020 Rally Sunday Service with members listening to the service via their car radios in the church parking lot. That decision will be made at the August Session meeting. Please monitor the church website for that possibility.
We hope this letter finds all of you weathering the emotional and physical challenges of this unprecedented time. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Pastor Jeff, or your Care Group Deacon.
Covid Task Force Members (Melody Baker, Gordon Dosher, Sandy Hawley, Janet Menary)
Recommendations of Dr. Michael Osterholm and Governor Tim Walz