Greetings in Christ’s name!
In the past year, the differences in opinions about things like the pandemic or racial reconciliation or the presidential election have all created stress in the relationships we have. Whether it has been colleagues at work with whom you have disagreed or friends down the street or even family members, it’s safe to say that most of us have experienced strained relationships over some of these issues. In fact, some of those disagreements have felt personal and I have had to work through my own hurt feelings when people I love have made choices that made me feel threatened and unloved. I know I am fatigued from some of this stress and I assume that I am not alone in my sense of weariness.
The American Church has been historically marked by its numerous schisms, which is surely something that brings sadness to our Lord who prayed that his disciples would all be one (John 17). When American Christians don’t agree with one another, we tend to split and go our separate ways, creating new churches, new affiliations and new denominations. In the Friends tradition, for instance, most major schisms have taken place only in the United States. So, although I’ve noticed the deep disagreements that some of us at Friendswood Friends Church have had during this past year, I’ve been encouraged by how many of you have been able to move beyond such disagreements and stay in relationship with one another. It lifts my spirits when I see people who are willing to lay aside their own preferences for the sake of others in the body of Christ.
Another test is upon us. As our community and our nation are relaxing Covid restrictions, our church is also making changes (see below). I expect some of us to disagree with these changes and others of us to be at least a bit uncomfortable with them. But I have confidence that we can continue to live at peace with one another and treat each other graciously. I am sure that some of you will want to continue wearing masks during worship, perhaps especially while we sing. And others of you will not want to do so. Either way you will be welcomed and accepted.
You are faithful to Jesus in ways that have encouraged my spirit. God is working in and through you in powerful ways, making you into the people you were created to be. May God help us as we continue to live graciously with one another.
On Tuesday night, our Ministry Coordinators met and approved the following changes to our Covid protocols effective June 1.
1. We are removing our current masking and distancing protocols for all activities on our campus. While in our buildings we ask people to follow current CDC guidance, which encourages unvaccinated people to wear masks in public, and makes masks for vaccinated people optional.
2. We are removing all capacity limitations on all parts of our campus.
3. We are welcoming activities like basketball, pickleball, receptions and other meetings on our campus. We want any food served on our campus to be served with the least possibility for cross-contamination. That is, no buffet-style serving. Food should be individually served or packaged if possible.
By putting these changes off for one more Sunday, we hope to give people time to hear this information and ready themselves for these adjustments. Beginning June 1st, the policy changes will take effect.
On June 6, you can join us immediately after worship in the Coffee Café to hear about Brian and Kylie Coughlin’s plans to return to Asia. Their long-awaited return is approaching and they would love to hear your questions about it.
Also on June 6, we’ll hear from three members of our church who will be reflecting on what the pandemic has taught them through this last year. Joyce Byrne, Katelyn Sanders and Matt Wilber will each be sharing briefly in worship about the lessons they’ve learned. I anticipate their words to be a blessing and challenge to each of us.
Camping season is beginning and in one more week, 77 kids and adults will head out for Dude Camp under the direction of Janet Black. The following two weeks we’ll send junior high and high school students to Camp Quaker Haven, in Kansas. Remember to pray these weeks for students to be open to God’s call and direction for their lives, and pray for the stamina and endurance of those who are going to serve as counselors.
This week may the love of God, the grace of Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you as you strive to love God with your whole life, and your neighbor as yourself.