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Dear Friends,

You can read our full newsletter by opening the PDF below. Here is the text of Pastor Ruth's letter:

Like all of us, I sometimes wish I knew what the future holds for us. And certainly the COVID-19 pandemic has made that desire stronger. But we don’t, as much as we long for it, get a crystal ball to predict the future. Instead, we get a God who promises us that we will never be left alone with the hard and difficult burdens, with the uncertainties of the future. We also get the stories of our faith’s ancient and more modern believers who experienced that promise made real: the Israelites being led out of Egypt, wandering in the wilderness but guided and cared for by God; the early church’s discovery of the resurrected Christ and the way that Christ continues to be made present in bread and wine; the stories of believers facing impossible trial after impossible trial, but able to hold fast to goodness and truth and love because of their experience of God’s presence.

At St Stephen’s, we are working hard to follow in the footsteps of those whose faith and trust in God inspire us. We are carefully and thoughtfully embracing Phase Three of the Diocesan Guidelines for Re-Opening Churches. So far, I have been impressed with our willingness to commit to the basic protocols for being together (distancing, mask-wearing, hand hygiene) and grateful for everyone’s patience as we learn and re-learn technology, movement in our space, and how we find the presence of Christ in a modified form of Holy Eucharist.

I know we are tired of being in this crisis mode and I believe this September is the time we transition from “immediate crisis” to living long-term with this new reality. Phase Three of the Diocesan Guidelines are as permissive as they get – until the pandemic is over. So, unless we are forced to move backwards to an earlier stage or new more restrictive guides come out, what we do this September will become our “new normal.” We continue to believe that you know your risk-levels best – both in terms of the risks to you and yours if you were to contract COVID-19 and your capacity and comfort with taking risks. We want no one to feel pressured to take risks they aren’t comfortable with. At the same time, we believe that now is our time to settle in and get comfortable with our “new normal.” If you have avoided worship waiting for things to go “back to normal,” this is your time to embrace in-person worship even though it isn’t quite like it was before. Or, if you are continuing to limit your contacts, but haven’t figured out Zoom yet, then this is your time to embrace Zoom – by video or by phone.

Your generosity of spirit, of care, and of resources continues to make a great deal of difference. I am so grateful to those who have taken on phoning others as a ministry of care. I believe our prayers are effective in calming our own anxieties and in encouraging and upholding those we pray for. Some of you have been able to go above and beyond in your financial contributions – helping us continue to pay all the bills during this time. What we need from you now is your continued work in these areas: your financial commitment as you are able, your prayers, and your efforts at reaching out to one another.

I want to close with an encouragement that you do reach out. We are doing our best to reach many people in many different circumstances and degrees of comfort with the risks that COVID-19 poses to us. Over the next few weeks, we may adapt some of our communication strategies. So it is even more vital that you reach out to us if you think you’re missing something, want to check in, or learn more about how you can stay connected during our “new normal.”

Pastor Ruth