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Back to Normal?

Dear Friends,

There is a question that I have heard a number of times in these past months.  Sometimes it is asked with honest sincerity.  Sometimes, it is asked as an expression of frustration.  It is almost always asked with deep appreciation for all that this faith community is doing in this strange chapter of ministry together.  The question, or some variation of it, is "When will life at St. Andrew's return to normal?"  Indeed a tough question to answer.  When I think of "normal"  I think of the last worship service we shared in person on March 8th along with the many well attended and supported activities and gatherings we sponsor.  The question I ask myself in return is, "When do we think it will be safe to gather more than a hundred people together inside the church building knowing that many are vulnerable?" Also, when I consider the necessary precautions that will be needed  in worship: several weekend services (even in the summer!) and roped off pews for social distancing, all wearing masks, and no choirs, no sharing of the peace, no coffee hour, no greeting each other in the narthex, (the list goes on and on...)  I realize that "normal" as we know it is a long way off.

Pennsylvania, in past weeks, has seen dropping rates of infections and hospitalizations, which is certainly a reason to be thankful.  Unfortunately, as many of us are now aware, other states who "opened up" much earlier than Pennsylvania, are now seeing infections and hospitalizations surge placing new stresses on health care systems.  And often indoor restaurant settings, and houses of worship are among the places where COVID19 is spreading most quickly. I do not want that to be the St. Andrew's story.  For this reason, we will continue to operate with caution and not plan on in person worship for at least the rest of July.  There are no guarantees for August just yet as we remain without air conditioning and contractors are now descending upon our building as demolition and construction gets underway. (This is also a good thing!)  The truth is that we could find ourselves exiled from our building for a time anyway as construction continues.  


In the meantime, we are hoping that our summer outdoor midweek worship experiences can serve as a "soft opening," that other groups will consider having some socially distanced gatherings in the chapel when the weather is cooperating (please contact the office to make sure that the space is available), and that we will begin to make plans (alongside our worship reopening plans) for when small groups begin to meet in the building again for education, support, and service, hopefully in the fall.  

By God's grace, with a combination of in person and digital gatherings, we will  begin to create a "new normal" that will feed us in spirit and help us to protect the gains that Pennsylvanians have made in fighting the pandemic.  What that looks like will become clearer as construction gets well underway and as we see what the impact of "opening up" Pennsylvania will be.  

As we face the historic challenges before us, we will do so focused on what unites us in the Gospel, reliant on God's promises, and confident that we will get through this together by God's grace, and can come out even stronger as a community of faith on the other side.  Trust in God, take care of yourself.  Love your neighbor.

Grace  and Peace,

Pastor Mueller

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