The Pastor’s Peace™
Inspirational thoughts from Pastor Brian for your reflection and consideration, published monthly during the year, available in our printed Beaver Church Chatter newsletter and on our web site.
I remember at the end of 2019 I said many times, “Well, thank God, that year is over; 2020 has to be better.” It would make sense for me to say that, being what happened locally in 2019. We had 21 tornadoes in a day, a mass shooting, and a KKK rally in downtown Dayton, just to name a few things. It was the most challenging year I had experienced while living in Dayton. Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have said a thing. Who knew that 2020 would be so difficult? I can tell you I certainly won’t be saying that 2021 has to be better than 2020.
That is the uncertainty of the future; however, we never know for sure what will happen in our lives locally or around the world. This means, of course, that there is always potential for hurt and heartache each and every day we wake up. That said, there is also the potential for joy and happiness. Despite the impact of the pandemic, I can say that there have been good things and blessings in my life this year. There have been blessings in the lives of others, I know as well. Uncertainty can bring challenges, but it can also bring an end to difficulties. This is, of course, where hope comes in. We hope in the end that the future brings more good than bad, and that over time the world works towards a brighter future.
Even though we do always experience a level of uncertainty, one thing our faith teaches us is that there are constants we can hold onto. The constants of God’s love and salvation through Christ remain no matter what the future holds. This faith is something that helps me to hope, and helps me through the most difficult times. I know that no matter what, nothing can separate me from God’s love, and my faith informs me that I will be together with those whom I love that are no longer with me. No pandemic, no local tragedy, no setback in my life will change this.
I do not know what 2021 will bring to our world; I won’t even hazard a guess. What I do know is that we will be together as a faith community with God. I know our care for one another won’t change, and I know that doing the good work of Christ will help move us closer to God’s Kingdom on earth, no matter the circumstances. So, to all of you reading this, I wish you the very best of everything in this new year, and even though we don’t know if all we hope for will happen or not, know that you do not hope alone, for we as the body of Christ, and God will always be with you.
Peace, Blessings, and Happy New Year!
The repair project for the sanctuary is in full swing. By the time you read this the contractors should have already finished taking down all of the old trusses and have the new ones installed. Things have mainly gone as planned, but of course all things have surprises here and there. We had a bit of a delay in getting the final truss design approved, and there has been a little bit of bad weather, but overall things are progressing well, and we should be able to catch up and be on schedule if things continue that way.
With a large project like this, however, you never know how things will go. In fact, we still don’t with the trussing project until it is all said and done. There is always the possibility that something won’t go quite as planned, but you try your best, work hard, and eventually you will succeed. In some ways I feel this is true of the pandemic we have been facing as well. It certainly has been a long, difficult, and painful experience. There have been many ups and downs, and it has often seemed like we were making no progress at all. Now that the vaccines have started to be distributed, I am hoping that we will see some real progress, and that the hard work we have put in will result in us having lost fewer people overall when this is all said and done.
There are, of course, many things like this that we have faced as a people or even as individuals. Difficult times and tasks are not as rare as we would like them to be. I feel that in times like these it is important to know that you are not alone, and to have hope for a better future. This is why it is so important that we continue to check in with each other and make sure we are ok. This is why it is important to have a faith life, knowing that God is with you and cares for you no matter what the outcome is. I know that it is easy to feel down, and this past month I have had several difficulties, personal and professional, that have weighed on me. So, it is to God that I have turned, and when I have taken the time to pray to God and lay down my burdens before my savior, it truly has brought me a sense of peace.
If you find yourself struggling emotionally or otherwise, please reach out. Reach out to me or to other members of the church. Reach out to God through prayer and know that God loves you. Know that you are not alone, and that there are many people in this church and in this world that care for you. This is a difficult time for all of us but we take it one day at a time. If we work and strive for a better future, then I have faith that with God’s help we will be in a better place at some future point, together, with our love for each other and God’s light guiding us ever onward.
Peace and Blessings,
We are wrapping up the construction project for the church. As I am writing this, they are finishing up the painting and soon the final electric and carpeting will begin. Things, knock on wood, have gone very well so far and the project has proceeded on-time and on-budget. We have also had the blessing of receiving a few more donations, such that we have reached the goal of paying for the project completely. Any further donations we receive towards the project will be placed in our maintenance fund, which was depleted to help pay for the trussing project. The maintenance fund is what we use to do repairs when they are needed at the church.
So, we’ll be able to meet indoors without worrying about the roof falling on our heads, quite the improvement. I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is, when are we going to meet again indoors? Even though there is no longer the threat of a falling roof, there is still the threat of the pandemic, which has become a serious danger and concern for everyone. With this in mind the consistory has decided that we are going to give a little extra time to finish the work in the sanctuary as well as a bit more time for the vaccine rollout. We are looking at tentatively opening for indoor services on the first Sunday in May. We would continue to have the 9:00 drive-in service for those that wished to participate in that, and the 10:30am indoor service would continue to be live broadcast over Facebook Live. The indoor service itself would need to be done a bit differently for safety concerns. At first this will include, encouraged vaccination, socially distant groups, required masks, no passing the peace, and no singing. Obviously, at some point we would add things back once the threat decreased enough.
This has been a very tough decision and process for the consistory and myself. There are those I’m sure that feel that we could meet sooner, or don’t need all of the precautions during the service. There are also those who feel that this would be too soon and that we should wait longer. Ultimately the desire to come together and worship in person has to be balanced with the safety of the congregation. We cannot knowingly create an overly unsafe and potentially deadly environment. Doing so would go directly against God’s command that we love and care for each other.
In keeping with such safety concerns, the consistory has decided that our ability to meet together indoors will also be dependent on Ohio’s county threat level system. As I write this Montgomery and Greene county are currently at threat level 3 of 4. To meet in person, we would need to be at a minimum threat level 2 for both of these counties and preferably at threat level 1. The main factor that will decrease the threat level is the average number of cases per day over 2 weeks.
My hope is that this number will continue to decrease over the next several months. Of course, once we start meeting again there is the possibility that there would be an increase in cases that would again increase the threat level. If this increased threat level was sustained, we would likely need to pause services again. Please continue to keep everyone in your prayers during the pandemic, and pray that we can continue in the right direction to lower infections and save lives. God is with us in this, and with faith and acting in ways we know are responsible, we will all work towards a brighter future.
Peace and Blessings,
Well, it’s done! I’m talking of course about the manymonths- long construction project to replace the roof, trusses, and ceiling. The last contractor finished her work on the mural this week, and the general contractor finished the one small thing they had left to do. At this point the project is finished and we can start to move items like the cross and sound system back into the sanctuary. Speaking of which, we are organizing a church work day on April 17th to help get the sanctuary completely setup. There is more information about the work day in the newsletter. It is hard to believe that the project is complete and that it really went just as planned. God is good indeed!
This is the thing about long and difficult tasks. They are so challenging sometimes that it is hard to see the end or have faith that things will turn out ok. Sometimes in life we look to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but see only darkness in our future. Such a daunting feeling is appropriate as we look at Holy Week and we transition from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. As Christ was convicted and sentenced to death, as he carried the cross to what would be the location of his execution, I’m sure very little hope was to be seen. People saw no light, no better future, no good end to the gruesome scene playing out before them. As we know, however, the cross was not the end, but indeed the beginning of something new.
The glory of Easter Sunday is lessened without consideration for the cross and the great struggle that led to it. Easter is an example of God’s power and love, but also it is an example of the arc of God’s story that leads to salvation and beauty no matter the journey. Ultimately, the Easter story is one of hope fulfilled, and one that can inspire us to hope no matter the situation. Regardless of our difficulties, even if they ultimately lead to death, they are not the end, for we have life eternal through Christ, forever and always. God is good indeed! Our challenge of construction is ending, and I hope that over the next several months that our challenge of the pandemic will also be coming to a close. Only time will tell exactly how long it will be, but I have confidence that at some point we will all be able to celebrate God in this congregation together, and in person, as we have for over 200 years. God is good indeed!
Peace and Easter Blessings,
The time has finally arrived. After more than a year, a deadly pandemic, and a major construction project, we are finally going to meet in person in our sanctuary. Although the pandemic is still something we need to guard against, the consistory made the decision that we will start meeting again starting Sunday May 2nd with some changes to the service and extra safety precautions. I admit that it seems a bit surreal after such a long time and all that has happened, but I am very much looking forward to it, as I’m sure you are as well. I would like to thank everyone who has volunteered and helped make this possible, both in responding to the pandemic and ensuring that the sanctuary construction project was successful. We certainly could not have accomplished this without everyone’s help.
When we start meeting, there will be some changes and extra safety precautions. We will be asking people to wear masks, and also asking that groups keep social distance from other groups that they do not usually spend time with. We will be offering some extra seating in places like the choir loft and the comfort room to expand our capacity while keeping social distance. Because the county threat level is still high, level 3, we will be making some other changes such as passing peace from a distance, and trying to limit the amount of speaking people do during the service. We will also be limiting singing to begin with, but hopefully all of these changes will be temporary and only in place until the threat level decreases. It is our plan that as things get safer, we will add things back to the worship service until we are back to normal. HEPA filters will be in place in all of our HVAC systems, and the main sanctuary has had a UV filtration system installed in its HVAC system. The consistory did decide that if there was a significant surge in the pandemic that we might have to pause in person services again, but hopefully that will not happen, especially as more and more people become vaccinated.
We will continue to offer the 10:30am service over Facebook, and that will be a permanent addition going forward. We will also be broadcasting the service over the radio on 96.1FM in our parking lot during the 10:30am service in case people wish to stay in their car or we need overflow space for some reason. The 9:00am drive-in service, however, will be discontinued starting May 2nd. Sunday school will be offered again as well starting May 2nd. We are going to have one large class for any children that do not wish to stay in the sanctuary for the service. The class will be meeting in the fellowship hall area and outside to help decrease risk.
The Sunday school class will have two teachers at all times, who have both been vaccinated. I ask that you please bear with us as we transition back to some sort of normalcy at the church. It is my goal to continue to bring us towards that while at the same time balancing the safety of all members. Please continue to pray for everyone that has been affected by this deadly disease and for an end to its threat to our country and the world.
Peace and Blessings,
When we stopped having services in 2020 because of the pandemic, it was many months of stressful adjustments for myself and the church. Back then I thought about how wonderful it would be for us to be able to meet in person again someday. Of course, reopening it turns out has an entirely different set of stressors that we have had to negotiate as well. As things improve, all of us wonder what we can and can’t do. It is a balance of slowly getting back to normal while maintaining our safety. These are the things that the consistory has wrestled with as it has discussed what we should be doing during our worship service as we move from month to month.
May, it seems, went pretty well, and we were able to have services in our sanctuary that were different but still fulfilling in many ways. As we move into June and as I write this, Greene County has thankfully moved down to 49.1 cases per 100,000 over a 2-week period. Had the state continued the threat level system this likely would have placed the county at threat level 1, the lowest level on the system. Although this is certainly good news, we must also keep vigilant and not change our precautionary habits all at once. The majority of the state is still unvaccinated and people are still being hospitalized and dying from the virus. With all of this in mind, the consistory voted to change some things about the service, but also keep some safety practices in place.
Starting on the first Sunday in June, the church will be adjusting its mask policy. Beaver church will still encourage the use of masks for everyone; however, for those that are fully vaccinated they will have the option of not wearing a mask if they wish. This means the church will still be requiring masks for those who have not been fully vaccinated. We will continue as well to ask groups to socially distance from each other. In addition to mask changes, we will start singing more in church. We will sing 2 verses of 2 hymns throughout the service and are asking that the hymns be sung softly. There will also be a coffee and doughnut hour in the outdoor gazebo after church starting the first Sunday in June. All other aspects of the service will remain the same for June, and the consistory will reevaluate again at the end of the month. The Facebook and parking lot radio broadcasts will continue as normal.
With things such as this, there will always be some in the church that feel the consistory has gone too far, and those that feel the consistory has not gone far enough. The consistory has taken into account many things including guidance from the CDC, Ohio Department of Health, county infection rates, and the perceived vaccination level of the congregation. It was felt that these changes were a reasonable compromise between expansion and safety. We pray that things continue to go well in June and that we continue to see a decrease in infections. Together we will get through this with God’s help and each other’s support. With continued caution and continued vaccinations, we will hopefully before too long be back to the “normal” service we all long for.
Peace and Blessings,
Once again, the consistory has met to discuss how we should proceed with worship, given the current state of Covid-19. Information about that is below. Before we get into that, however, I would like to thank the consistory members for their work in listening to church members, discussing the issues, and ultimately making decisions. The pandemic, without a doubt, has been the most difficult challenge that Beaver church has had to deal with in the time I have been a minister here, and likely a good time before that as well. Unfortunately, especially in these times, there are no easy straightforward answers. Although we have made great progress with the vaccine, and numbers are significantly down, there are still dangers, especially for the unvaccinated, and the virus has not gone away. Clearly there needs to be a balance of returning to normal, but also being cautious and safe, and that is a challenging balance to navigate.
The consistory has been given the task of navigating that balance, and representing a diversity of church members that have their own views. Some in the church feel that we are already doing too much, and some feel that we should be doing more of the things that we used to. It is surely a great thing when a decision can be made that everyone is happy with, but unfortunately no such decision exists for the current situation. No matter what the consistory decides, some in the church will feel it is the wrong decision. With that in mind, I ask for patience with the consistory, as they have been given this incredibly hard task. Rest assured that many members of the consistory are reading about and trying to stay up to date with all of the news and statistics regarding the virus. The consistory regularly checks the rates of infection in each county and the state as a whole. Two major considerations that factor into the current decisions being made by the consistory are (one) that the case numbers are down significantly to around 2-4 cases a day in Greene County, and (two )that in speaking to people, we estimate that over 90% of those attending the in-person service over the age of 12, have been fully vaccinated. These are very positive things, but the consistory has also been keeping in mind the large number of unvaccinated people in the state, the fact that the virus is still out there and the emergence of variants, such as the Delta variant. With all of these things in mind the consistory is ultimately trying to move the worship experience back to normal, but at a slow and cautious pace.
Following that philosophy, each month the consistory has been revaluating worship guidelines. For June, the consistory made some changes including no longer requiring masks for fully vaccinated people, adding a small amount of singing, and adding an outdoor fellowship time of coffee and doughnuts. For July, the consistory has decided to continue with some caution and leave things mostly the same.
We will be adding a scripture reader again, and if there is bad weather, especially as it has gotten hotter, we will have our coffee and doughnuts inside, but only when the weather is bad. Other than that, the service will stay the same. We will not be increasing singing beyond what we are currently doing. We will still be encouraging social distancing, although we understand that people who are fully vaccinated are spending more time with others, and per CDC guideline are not required to social distance; thus, they might be less inclined to practice this as much as they used to. I am grateful to the consistory for their work on this, grateful to the church and its members for their resilience during this time, and grateful to God for helping to see us through this difficulty. I pray that things continue to improve and that all of us can soon be in a much safer place.
Peace and Blessings,
The Pastor's Peace Archive™
Read Pastor Brian's thoughts from past years.
The Pastor’s Sermon™
Listen to Pastor Brian's sermons, when available, recorded during Morning Worship and other special worship services.
The Pastor's Sermon Archive™
Listen to Pastor Brian’s sermons from past years.
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