Weekday Email to Members and Friends – 2020-06-29

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Monday June 29 2020
A daily e-mailer from
Matt Matthews
 
To Members and Friends of 
First Presbyterian Church
Champaign, Illinois
 
Dear Friends,
 
Your Covid-19 Response Team of the Session has been meeting every week. Prior to that, our Science Advisor Peter Yau has been in weekly conversation with me, your staff, and your Session. We’ve been asking: What now? What’s next?
 
We cannot predict the future. We don’t know how “phase four” of our recovery will go. If Covid cases and deaths continue to drop and area hospital ICUs remain uncrowded, we feel like our plan at First Presbyterian Church *may* unfold as noted below. If things change, these plans will change.
 
The organizing principle of our work has been this: we do not want our church to become an incubator for this virus. We want to be a “super-spreader” of Gospel-love only, not of the Corona Virus. Your Covid-19 team would prefer to be too cautious, too slow, and too thoughtful. Why? We want to keep people safe. We want our sanctuary to be a sanctuary. A safe place.
            
Note also, First Presbyterian Church will not “open fully” until we’ve safely reached “phase five,” when a Corona Virus vaccine is found, tested, and available. 
 
After September 1st, we hope to resume some form of limited face-to-face worship in our sanctuary. Right now, we’ll limit the total of number of leaders and participants to 50 people; this number may change when we get closer to that date. We will attempt to preregister for worship. We will rethink how we do communion. We will, likely, not engage in congregational singing (as singing is known more widely to spread aerosolized air and singers more deeply inhale that air). Spoken liturgy will be limited. All persons will wear face masks and we will exercise physical distancing of six feet. We’ll have no paper bulletins. We’ll have no coffee hour (and doughnuts!) after worship.
 
Currently, face-to-face meetings at the church are considered on a case-by-case basis. Either I or the Covd-19 Response Team will make those decisions. Face-to-face  office appointments with me may be arranged.
 
Should you come to face-to-face events? 
 
The CDC recommends these guidelines. If you fit any of these categories, rethink your participation:
 
* People 65 years and older
* People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
* People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
* People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
* People who have serious heart conditions
* People who are immunocompromised
* Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
* People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
* People with diabetes
* People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
* People with liver disease
 
So, we’ll not be back in face-to-face worship until September at the earliest. As stewards of creation, we recognize that keeping our flock free from situations where Covid-19 could be spread is a sacred goal. The body is a temple of God.
 
1 Corinthians 6:19-20     Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.
 
Questions? Comments? 
 
Give me a call, anytime. 
 
* * *
 
Take on Race:
 

Why do we talk about structural racism?  Racism is not primarily about individual prejudice or an individual’s beliefs and attitudes. Rather, racism in the U.S. is a socially constructed system. Some people are advantaged, and others are disadvantaged, merely because of their skin color, ethnic identity or their ancestral background. Social power and prejudice have combined to treat people differently, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Some people are privileged while others are oppressed. As a consequence, there is unequal and inequitable access to resources such as money, education, information and decision-making power.   

 
* * *
 
Have you seen the movie “Just Mercy”? I watched it ONLY because I suggested you watch it. How can I ask you to do something I’m not willing to do? As I suspected, it was difficult and painful. But like as good dramas go, the movie was satisfying. A lot of people are reading about racism; this story takes all of the intellectualization and make it a matter of the heart. I recommend it. Jamie Foxx and Tim Blake Nelson are great actors. 
 
NEWS:
Tuesday, Men’s Breakfast Bible Study, 8 am
Email zoom@firstpres.church for the link.

Don’t forget out Wednesday Night Potluck on ZOOM. Tune in each week.
 

Email zoom@firstpres.church for the link.
 
* * *
 
Make a donation to DREAAM for your friend’s upcoming birthday!
 
Good Word: 
 
Matthew 11:28ff        
28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
 
Let us pray 
A Prayer in a Time of Anger, Unrest, and Injustice 
Holy One, whose Spirit is poured out upon all flesh, 
whose children you empower to prophesy,  
whose youth see visions and whose elders dream dreams, 
we cry out to you with a loud “Hosanna!” 
Where else shall we go, O Savior? 
You alone have the words of eternal life.  
You came that we might have life more abundantly, 
but that abundance eludes too many of us, O God. 
Our news cycles are filled with despair. 
Our hearts ache as we wade through a global pandemic, 
reaching grim milestone after grim milestone. 
But even as we navigate a new threat, old ones still linger. 
Communities of color bear the uneven weight of a new disease, 
yet we see that racialized violence 
and the systemic injustice undergirding it 
have by no means given way to the demands of a pandemic. 

We speak some of the most recent names: Breonna Taylor, 
Ahmaud Arbery, 
George Floyd, and Tony McDade. 
We add them to the litany already in our macabre collection: 
Aiyana and Emmett, 
Eric and Sandra, 
Jordan and Rekia, 
Trayvon, Atatiana and Tamir, 
and the myriad others in far too long a list. 

This great cloud has witnessed persistent injustice 
and our perseverance in the face of it. 
Yet, how can they rest when so many keep joining their ranks? 
We are slow to confront our complicity 
and investment in white supremacy and dominance. 
We live in a world in which Indigenous, Black and Brown siblings 
are expected and compelled to offer forgiveness at a discount. 
When the cheeks are turned, 
they are met with another hand to the face 
— or knee to the throat. 
Forgiveness is too infrequently met with repentance. 
This, O God, we name as sin. 
It is our sin. 
Many of us lament and strive against that sin. 
Help and empower us to continue that work with diligence and faith.
 Too many of us still waver and are unconvinced that there is a problem. 
Remove our hearts of stone
 and replace them with hearts of flesh 
that are softened toward our siblings. 
Help us to reckon not only with our personal failings, 
but also with our institutional history 
and the ways the church has helped to create systems of inequity. 
By your Spirit, help us to 
corporately live into our creeds and confessions 
and provide sanctuary for all God’s children. 
When we say that “God, in a world full of injustice and enmity,
is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged” 
and that “the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination,” 
help us to truly mean it. 
We humble ourselves and cry out to you 
in the hope that you will hear us and heal us. 
We lift the communities of Louisville, Minneapolis, Glynn County, 
and all where racialized violence has occurred and unrest has been stirred. 
Holy God, we recall the words of our ancestor Dr. King, 
who reminded us that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” 
Open our hearts, minds, and understanding 
to your movement in the margins, 
so that when your people speak, they are indeed heard, 
and when they tell the truth about your deeds of power, 
they are not dismissed as something other than sober and of a clear mind. 
In this way, let the fires of uprising 
give way to the fires of your Spirit, 
where your people hear the Good News of your kin-dom, 
hear it with joy, and make haste to take part in it. 
Let us release our attachment to our current world order 
and walk bravely into the world you’ve intended for us, 
even and especially when it costs us something. 
We are mindful that, as Rev. Dr. Cornell West states, 
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” 
Your kin-dom come, 
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 
Jesus is still Lord. 
To the one and only God, 
our Divine Parent, 
Jesus, our Gracious Sibling, 
and Holy Spirit, 
be the honor and the glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
(from the PCUSA’s  Office of Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries)
 
PEACE,
 
Matt Matthews
Cell: 864.386.9138
Matt@FirstPres.Church