Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-05-18

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Monday May 18th 2020
A Weekday Emailer from
Matt Matthews
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
Dear Friends,
On Thursday, your Session will elect a Covid-19 Response Team; after that election, I’ll share their names with you so you can begin picking their brains. They will add their brain power and mighty spirits to all of the serious
thinking and praying that has been going into the basic question we all wonder about: When will be begin face to face worship?
Right now, gathering face to face is premature. But talking about it, and making plans is not. The Worship Team with Peter Yau’s advice has been dreaming about plans for when we gather again.
I’ve been thinking “what ifs” about our return to face to face worship. Consider this:

After the stay at home order has been lifted, the governor (guided by public health officials and good science) has suggested stages that will guide public gatherings such as face to face worship in local sanctuaries. 
We are in stage two now. At stage three in our region, arriving perhaps by June 1, face-to-face public gatherings will include no more than 10 people with proper social distancing and masks. Stage four, which may arrive by July
1st at the soonest, might suggest that our sanctuary can be filled with up to 50 people per face-to-face service. Stage five, after a vaccine is available, would allow us to return to normal worship attendance practices.
Who knows when stage five will come; most people suggest that will be at least a year from now.
In each of these cases, people over 60-years-old (the age varies depending on whose standards one considers), and those with a compromised immune system of any age would be urged not to gather face-to-face for any non-essential
If stage four begins in July, that might mean 50 people under the age of sixty who are well can gather for face-to-face worship in our sanctuary. Their temperatures might be taken at the door near the parking lot. They’d be
required to wear face masks for the good of the community; only families would sit together; everyone else would be physically distanced around the sanctuary, from the front pew to the back, from the left to the right. 
Does the idea of asking everyone over the age of 60 to stay at home hurt your soul? Mine, too. Who gets to tell them to go home?
Does taking forehead temperature scans in the parking lot sound welcoming? It sounds inhospitable to me, also. 
And who gets to turn away the 51st person? Who will tell the family arriving late, “We’ve run out of space. You must go home?” (Or, go to the chapel and watch worship on a screen.)
This is not an ideal configuration of worship. Does it feel Draconian? It does to me, also.
While the goals we set for face to face gatherings will, surely, be designed to keep everyone safe, and while they might be most prudent and theologically “moral,” they may seem harsh. And, perhaps not everyone will agree.

Some of you have admitted that you won’t be back in face-to-face worship until there is a vaccine. Some have said that when the coast is clear, they won’t be in the first wave to return. Others of you are ready. I,
certainly, am. 
But at what cost will we gather? 
What will be gained? 
What could be lost?
Pray about these matters with me and write me a private note about the best, safest, and most humane way to move forward. If you find a great link pointing to good science about public gatherings, send it to me; I’ll forward it to
the Response Team. Your staff and leaders have been talking about these things and holding them up to the light from every angle. Our Covid-19 Response Team will begin the first of their many conversations this week.
I am certain we will get there. 
I just don’t know when, or, precisely, how.
I’m trusting our Shepherd, who says in John’s gospel, he is the way. Faithfully, one step at a time, I endeavor to follow.
Thanks, in advance. 
Chuck Milazzo died last week. We rejoice his baptism is complete in death, and we grieve with his family his earthly absence.
Wednesday Vespers: This week, The Gathering Band will join us for a concert. Tune it at 7:00 on this Wednesday at FirstPres.Live
CU-Better Together Coming together to fight hunger and give hope to school families in need. Here is the sign up for the Interfaith Alliance. Please share widely. Thank you!
 Men’s Tuesday Bible Study! Join them tomorrow from 8:00 am-9:00 am (email info@firstpres.church for the link)
 Dog & Cat Humor (From Claudia Kirby): Day seven at home and the dog is looking at me like, “See? This is why I chew the furniture!”
(From Diane Mortensen:) What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?
One has claws at the end of its paws, and one is a pause at the end of a clause.
Confuse your doctor by putting on rubber gloves at the same time he does. 
Good Word:
Psalm 66:8-12 The Message (MSG)

8-12 Bless our God, O peoples! Give him a thunderous welcome! Didn’t he set us on the road to life? Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch? He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires, Brought us
into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road-tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back;

Finally he brought us to this well-watered place.
Let us pray:
O Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as
Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first
mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. 
And so, as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been
but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. 
Give us the courage to do your will. 
Give us the devotion to love thy will. 
In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen. 
(Adapted, Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Much, much love to you all.
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138