It’s been 107 days since the CGS staff packed up the essentials and started working from home. In those first weeks things seemed to change daily and we did a CGS/COVID update on a weekly basis. Then, we got used to our new situation and as we learned more about pandemics, viruses, and vaccines, we began to realize that nothing would change quickly. Our council went from making weekly decisions to making decisions for a couple months at a time. Here’s a recap of where we are:
In May, seeing the forecasts of the county health department and feeling everyone’s need to have something that was predictable in our lives, the council voted to continue online worship through the end of July. The next time that the council will reassess in-person worship will be at their July meeting. At Pentecost the majority (by a wide margin) of feedback received from the congregation prioritized the physical well-being of our most vulnerable members and was not concerned with rushing back to worship as usual. The council has also received personal emails and calls from members. They will consider this input alongside the input from our county, state, and denominational professionals.
That being said, a team of people (Daniel Thomas, Matt Byom, Phil Boyer, Steve Weirauch, Petra Menard, & Pr. Manda) have put together a technology plan for equipping the sanctuary with the ability to livestream worship. With the council’s support they’ve begun to acquire the equipment (which is in high demand and often backordered). It’s looking as if we could have this installed by the end of September…maybe.
Other activities at CGS continue online and in person. Just as we did before the pandemic, CGS has participated in service, public advocacy, and caring ministries. Safe Car Park was a WILD success beyond even our greatest hopes. Our people showed up in the streets to show solidarity with the other faith communities who value black lives and repent of the racism that we perpetuate. The stories of being lifted up, encouraged, and consoled by the CGS community continues to pour from our members and friends. Lives are certainly transformed by the ministry that this congregation is doing.
Our financial outlook is bright, even considering the loss of income from all our tenants who have stopped meeting at 1550 Meridian and the loss of value in our investments. Congregational giving is not only up, but more regular, with the increased use of electronic giving. CGS applied for and received a PPP loan in the amount of $49,000 whose payment will be forgiven. CGS was also the recipient of a gift from St. John Lutheran in amount of $100,000 for ministry with LGBTQ+ folx.
Most of our staff continues to work. Our office manager, choir director, church musician, and pastor all work from home and have altered their job duties to serve our congregation in pandemic appropriate ways. Our sexton and housekeeper continue to work onsite at 1550 Meridian but have altered their job duties to address the current needs: cleaning the common used spaces, securing the property, & keeping the outside tidy & safe. Our nursery attendant & drummer were paid through the end of May but since their duties cannot be used or transferred, they have been furloughed until we have use for these services again.
I don’t want to give you false hope that we could return to church as normal any time soon. The infection rates are increasing again as commerce restarts. And worship activities are still some of the riskiest public behavior in a time of pandemic. All the things we love are still far off if we want to prioritize the physically vulnerable in our community (and we do).
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. Frankly, this pandemic has been good for CGS. It has inspired us to give more generously of ourselves. It has re-routed our relationships to deeper connections. It has given us a Sabbath from some of our obligations and freed us to be more creative. As Presiding Bishop Eaton said, “The Church has NEVER been closed,” and that continues to be true for us at CGS. We might have gathered more often at 1550 Meridian before this, but God has always been calling us out into the world. No matter how long this pandemic lasts, that will always be true for us.
As we move forward through and beyond this pandemic over the next year, we will continue to steward the resources we’ve been given – our selves, our time, and our possessions. We will continue to stay nimble and adapt as the world changes. And no matter where we are or what the state of the world is, we will continue to do what God has called us to do – Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.