“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 [Jesus] said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-39)
Dear friends in Christ,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The commandment to love God and neighbor is the very core of Jesus’ message to his followers. To extend love, through our words and service to others is at the heart of our Christian DNA; it is who we are.
On a church sign near where I live, it says, “Our worship is over, our service begins.” This is written on the back of the sign, so you are only able to read it as you are leaving the parking lot. It is a very fitting message of how we are to live out our faith in love through service to our neighbor.
Unfortunately, our beloved practice of in-person gathering to worship God, grow in faith, and build-up and encourage one another for a life of service has been curtailed. Still, our mission remains the same. It has not changed: we are to continue to grow in faith to love and serve.
Recently President Trump has said that “houses of worship, churches, synagogues and mosques” are “essential places that provide essential services.” Therefore, governors must allow churches to reopen.
The truth is that, although many church buildings have been closed to the public, led by the Holy Spirit, the Church has never closed. The Church is alive and active in the world fulfilling the mission of God through love and service. At St. Mark’s, except for taking a week off to reorganize, our food pantry has remained open. We have figured out new ways to gather in worship, share the Good News, and to bless and encourage one another, all while using best practices to keep ourselves and others safe.
At the last church council meeting, the council agreed to continue our current practice of limiting the use of our building and worshiping online until we are confident that we can keep everyone safe and provide a worship experience that is satisfying to our membership. As we seek to fulfill our mission of loving and serving our neighbor, for now, the best witness to that love is an empty church building.
What follows is a message from Bishop Gerald Mansholt of the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin and other area church leaders. Please take a moment and read their rationale about waiting for the appropriate time to gather in worship and fellowship.
God bless you on your journey and continue to love and serve one another,