Along for the Ride

While it is Tuesday, March 31st, I’m aware that when this goes out tomorrow it will be April Fool’s Day. Honestly? I’m not finding much humor in that this year and I sorta hope no one tries any of those jokes on anyone. We’re all simply so tender right now, I’m not certain there would be much joy in trying to fool anyone about anything, at least anything that might feel serious.

Does it feel to you like we’re in week 3,000 of this weirdness? I think it’s not simply about the stay at home orders and when that started, I think it’s about when we first started hearing about this virus, even in our peripheral awareness. It sounded like something different, but then maybe not, but then maybe so, and it was a little like the beginning of a roller coaster ride. There’s that flat part for a ways that’s a little herky-jerky as it starts, and then the chunk, chunk, chunk up the first often steep ascent before the first very direct descent and then sometimes in the middle you wonder if it’s ever going to stop even when you are really ready for it to. It somehow seems to compress time and yet take forever all at the same time.

I’m realizing there are no less than a few times that I don’t like to be the grown-up. Kids in my ‘hood are out playing today because it is soooo nice, and they are doing sidewalk chalk art and riding their trikes and their bikes and they’re yelling at each other across the street – good for those parents for corralling them – and all seems right with the world. And then I realize I’m a grown-up and sometimes grown-up’s have to do hard things. So here comes a couple of hard things.

I’ve been asked, as have our other pastors, what’s the possibility that we might do a car drive-in service rather than a webstream. And I’ll admit, it sounds great at first glance. Everybody stays in their cars in our parking lot, we have an FM station tuned in, and yet we can still see and wave at each other. I’ve read probably too many clergy from across the country trying it. Some are thrilled, others talk about how difficult it is to keep loving, friendly people from seeing someone 3 cars over and deciding they can get out and just stay 6 ft. from the car window and then 5 other people do it and then . . . Plus keeping kids in a car for even 30-45 minutes without getting out for the bathroom or just because being in a car is not that fun is close to impossible. Bishops in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Virginia have specifically asked their pastors not to do this, our Bishop hasn’t, but . . . Our grumpy Sr. Pastor is saying no. Part of what I LOVE about us is how much we love each other, love to be together, and love to have fun talking and laughing and being loud. Maybe that last one is mostly me, *snort. I simply don’t want any single one of us to have any risk of getting sick because we decided to gather. Even though we can, doesn’t mean we should, so we’re not. Not even for Easter. Your clergy and worship staff team are working diligently to continue to make our webstream services meaningful and as “real” as we can, and make no mistake, we will continue to work to increase their effectiveness and the overall experience.

Friends I want this over sooner rather than later, and I know you all do as well. We must stay strong in our belief that the more we’re willing to not gather in person or any kind of large groups the more we’re part of the overall solution. And the more we witness as a church our understanding and support for what our medical professionals are telling us over and over and over and over again, the more we let them know that what they are doing makes a difference and we are taking their sacrifices seriously. Also know we will re-look at all possibilities after the peak hits and the number of cases begins to drop and drop precipitously. That’s a fluid target, as the experts continue to tell us, but know that when we’re on the other side of the worst of it, we again will re-look at different possibilities as we make our way toward once again being safely in the same room at the same time.

Secondly, some have been quite concerned, and we appreciate your hearts of generosity in this, that our Center of Grace Mission Campus has not been open at a time when it seems those most vulnerable need those ministries the most. Yes, and . . . Please know the clergy and staff at the Center HAVE been working diligently in this time period to put together the infrastructure to be prepared to serve the masses. During this time, the Boys and Girls Club has continued to offer meals, curbside pick-up, for their students and families. Our COG staff have continued to give gift cards to Price Chopper, Aldi, and Wal-Mart in $25 and $50 amounts to help tide folks over until we get our Wed. and Thurs. night food ministries up and running in a new way. That will begin next week for meals to be picked up curbside on those nights during the same time periods as we normally serve, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Many of our regular volunteers for those ministries are in the most “vulnerable” groups that need to stay home and we love them! But now it’s time for some of the rest of us to step forward. Sylvia and her team have been recruiting those less vulnerable during this time who can come in and safely, for themselves and others, prepare food together and put the system in place for safe pick-up. All of that takes time. Thank you to so many of you who are donating gift cards and/or money for gift cards. Those have helped tide folks over immensely and those will continue to help! Chandler, Karen, and Mark will begin publicizing items we are hoping to put together for health and hygiene kits as well. In these days when folks are losing jobs and hourly wages, those personal items are expensive, so we want to help with those, so money can be spent on food and other basic needs. We are also helping with money for pharmaceuticals, utilities and other emergency needs in conjunction with other programs in the Olathe area.

A layperson emailed the other night, it happened to be the same night and time I was thinking about this, so I declared it a God-thing. A number of folks did this the last time emergency checks came from the government, so neither he nor I came up with this idea, but here it is. Most everyone is to receive financial help from the government in the next few weeks. Some will need way more than it will provide, for others it will bring the needed fill-in for a gap, some of us will not need it to survive. Those are the “us” that I’m talking to right now. What if we either tithed or simply donated that amount for Price Chopper, Aldi or Wal-Mart gift cards, or simply donated it to the Center of Grace for them to purchase food for curb-side meal preparation or for those emergency funds for folks in great need? The normal COG process is to give out $100/yr. to any one family or person. Pastor Sylvia and her team are working in conjunction with other emergency partners in the area to decide the safest way and process to increase that specified number or amount and still be responsible for gifts given in faith. It’s just a thought, and maybe a prayer…maybe it is for you as well!

I know this has all been pretty serious today. Please know I have NOT LOST MY SILLINESS. But my grown-up part has had to be in charge most of the time these days. I want you to know there are so many good things happening with so many faith communities and generous people in our area! I am humbled and amazed at how folks are creatively finding ways to walk with each other through this from safe distances but with no less warmth, vulnerability, and kindness. God created and continues creating overwhelming goodness in the world and the breadth and depth of my gratefulness is growing me, sometimes with my heels stuck in the ground in obstinance, and sometimes with my arms spread wide-open in as big an embrace as I can muster – maybe you too?

There. Is. Grace. May you find it. May you receive it. MAY YOU BE IT!!!!