I'm so glad to live here in Florida where it's hot and humid and sunny and beautiful. I love it.
And I guess the virus hates it! And that means some of our freedoms are being restored. We're not letting our guard down, but as we continue to follow the guidelines, they give us permission to meet. (Sorry northern friends!)
To be clear, we are not meeting in person this Sunday.
But I do think we're very close. Like, very close.
Now, if that makes you nervous for any reason, please don't come. Keep watching online. There's no shame in that. Like I keep saying, each of us should decide for ourselves whether the guidelines restrict us or give us freedom. When we open the church again it will be for those who can reasonable attend. But we also have some who shouldn't be out right now. So, if you're not well or if you have a weakened immune system, please continue to shelter in place. We will continue to stream our services at sarasotacommunity.online.church as we have been. I don't see this changing.
But for those who are able, start preparing your heart to gather again. Start imagining a Sunday morning where you get ready before church instead of after it. (Haha.) Start getting ready, because that's what our staff is doing. I'm not ready to say when we're opening -- not yet -- but I think it'll be soon.
Our goal is to create an experience where everyone not only is safe, but everyone feels safe. This is prudent to health, but also to hospitality.
And of course no handshakes or hugs. In fact, even if you feel good about hugging and shaking hands I'm asking all of us to go the extra mile in creating a safe experience for those who feel most threatened by gathering.
Just resist the urge to hug and shake hands. For some of us that feels rude, so I'd like to recommend something that I learned from a pastor friend of mine (Tyler Hartford, who pastors some of own our winter residents in Indiana). He learned it from another culture where it was just their way. And I think it's beautiful.
It shows affection and honor and warmth. It touches the heart. And it does that by touching your own heart! That's the gesture.
When we greet each other, let's just put our hand to our heart:
"So good to see you."
"So nice to meet you."
No hugs or handshakes. You can touch the other person's heart by just touching your own.
"I missed you."
"How are you doing?"
"How can I be praying for you."
Start trying it on for size. I think you'll like it. Let's see if it can become our preferred greeting.
I can't wait to see everybody. The Spirit calls us to fellowship. And love also calls us to prudence even in our zeal. I appreciate your prayers for wisdom and discernment, not only for these decisions, but always. It is the prayer of my heart.
See you soon,
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.