The past few days I have been with Nate who has been battling strep throat. He’s much better today and, thankfully, Rachel and I have remained untouched by the virus. But while I’ve been fever, sore throat, and congestion free, I have felt this week already a heaviness and fatigue, and not just that brought on by caring for a loved one.
I was curious about why I was feeling this way—What’s this tenson in my shoulder? What’s this ache in my temples? What’s this soreness in my knees,–until I looked at the calendar this morning and did some quick math.
3 years ago today, on Sunday, March 15, 2020, we—along with many other communities of faith not to mention businesses, schools, and government institutions—began what we thought would be a 2, maybe 3 week “shelter in place” to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 2-3 weeks that became now 3 years of frustrating isolation, of loving sacrifice, of heartbreaking loss and tenderness, of bewildering change.
And while the pandemic is not as intense as it was even a year ago, we are still processing the fallout from this collective trauma, as we learn more about the long term health effect of “Long Covid;” as we struggle to manage the still unfolding educational, economic, and personal impact; as we strive to get back to “normal.”
So of course I felt a little extra stress, fatigue, tension, and even pain. As psychologists have reminded us over the past few years as well—“the body remembers.” And the path to healing, the path through grief take time, persistence, courage.
In the vocabulary of faith, I’d suggest it also takes a heaping dose of mercy. Mercy was the theme of both Rev. Ed Johnson’s and my sermon this past Sunday. We preached on different passages (he on the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, me on the Good Samaritan in Luke 10), but in both stories Jesus makes it clear: mercy—in the form of gracious, generous, honest, relationships—is what leads to human wholeness and healing. Mercy is what makes strangers into neighbors; mercy is what satisfies souls thirsty for living water.
This week I encourage us to seek and share such mercy. Be gentle with yourself, with those part of your life you wish were better, more shiny, or less worn. Pace yourself and listen to the places where you hurt rather than run by that vulnerability. Take a moment to look back on the last 3 years, with honesty empathy, and grace. Forgive where possible. Let go of what you no longer need to carry. Call a friend and thank them for their support. Say a prayer of thanks that while we may not be exactly where we want to be, we are still here all the same. Bless someone with the simple gift of who you are.
If we do I think we might continue to discover the way forward, the way through. A path through pain, a path towards the wholeness God intends.
The Lord Bless and Keep You,
PS: One time to receive and share mercy this weekend is during the Community Navigators, Community Builders Youth Women’s Health Event on Saturday, March 18, 10:00am-2:00pm at the church. In addition to dental and heart health screenings you can come hear a presentation on the need for more equitable access to health care, especially among women of color. Contact Dr. Cleopatra Lacewell or Rev. Acton for details.
*In-Person/Livestream Worship: Join us each Sunday at 11:00am in person or online (via Facebook live) for worship!
Online participation via Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/firstpresbyterianchurchofgarner
See and share the service from March 12, the second Sunday in Lent Below.
On Sunday March 19th, we continue our Lenten series “Again and Again” proclaiming how “God Guides Us.”
*Masks are welcome but optional during in-person worship as we continue to contend with COVID and an emerging flu season. We also ask everyone to be still mindful of social distancing and respectful of the personal space of others even as we give thanks for being together.*
* The Presbyterian Women will be selling Easter Lilies and Hydrangeas to be placed in the Narthex and Sanctuary for Easter Sunday. Circle representatives will be in the Ogburn classroom collecting money and order forms again on 12th. The cost will be $16 per Lily and $22 per hydrangea. Please have orders in no later than TODAY, March 15th.
*Family Promise Week is April 2-9! We had a wonderful visit from Family Promise on February 26 and are excited to again partner with them by serving meals to the families they host. Contact Lisa Jackson to see how your gifts can be put to use in this mission effort.
*Lent Celebrations! In addition to weekly worship, we have a number of programs that will help us focus on Lent. Wednesday Bible Study by Zoom, Thursday Morning Bible Study in person and online, and a Tuesday night prayer group by Zoom (with an encore on Sunday morning in person). Contact the church office for more information and to get the Zoom links for these groups.
- Walking Group: Join the Walking Group each Tuesday at 6pm. We currently meet at Cadence Senior Living Center (200 Minglewood Dr.). Dress warmly! If you have any questions, contact the church office at 919-772-0727. In the event there is inclement weather, we’ll just gather the following week.
- CNCB and Wellness Hygiene Item Drive: Community Navigators, Community Builders Youth group is planning a Women’s Health Event on Saturday, March 18, 10:00am-2:00pm at the church As part of the preparation for the event, the Wellness Activities Ministry team is coordinating with CNCB to have a Women’s Hygiene Item Drive. Items can be brought to the church office during the week or placed in a bin in the Library on Sunday’s. The collection will run through March 12.
*Building and Grounds Work day March 25: Join us 9:00am-12noon to spruce up our grounds for the spring! Spreading mulch and other outdoor tasks ae on the punch list! Bring water, gloves and your own tools as you desire.
* April Spire articles are due by end of the day on March 21st.
*2023 Vision Update: In January’s edition of the Spire, Rev. Acton wrote about church leaders (session, deacons, and staff) exploring an emerging vision for FPCoG, rooted in the idea of serving our “neighbors.” The Session continued this conversation at its February meeting and approved the following recommendations:
1. Appoint a group who can help develop a consensus among the congregation for a vision of FPCoG rooted in the image of being neighborly towards our local, regional, and global communities.
2. Complete a demographic study of our region to better know who our neighbors are and what their needs might be.
The next step will be identifying people to serve on a “Vision Team” described above and identifying resources to help us complete a demographic study in a helpful way. The Team will be composed of active members of the Session, the Deacons, as well as the congregation. If you might be interested in serving and helping clarify the call God is issuing to FPCoG for its ministry now and into the future, please contact Rev. Acton or Mike Koenig, the Clerk of Session.
*Share FPCoG with Each Other and Our Neighbors! FPCoG is an active church! To help others know this (and to stay up to date yourself), please consider following and asking others to follow us on Facebook or Instagram!
If you have pictures of church events, please share them as well! Send to email@example.com
Stephanie Taylor, our church admin, and our Instagram Volunteer Susie Knabe will take it from there!