Spiritual Reflections

Since we cannot assemble weekly in person for a full range of experiences of Christian community, I am endeavoring in the first weeks of my pastorate at Resurrection Church to offer weekly spiritual reflections in addition to my Sunday sermon videos. I see these mid-week written reflections as an exercise of my teaching ministry as a pastor, especially during this time of global pandemic and necessary sheltering at home and social distancing. Resurrection Church has a rich tradition of substantive adult Christian Education. These weekly reflections seek to fill, in some measure, the void created by the absence of our Sunday morning adult educational experiences. I long for the return of those Sunday morning offerings in person which feature the substantial gifts of our own members, but for now, I give you what I can in these weekly reflections. These messages also serve to nurture a sense of our Christian community during this time when we are apart.

May God in Christ bless your engagement with these pastoral offerings in the power of the Holy Spirit for your ongoing Christian formation for your journey of faith for such a time as this.

Week of Baptism of Our Lord

Dear Friends in Christ:

With our Annual Congregational Meeting soon upon us, we will elect new members of our Congregation Council. Then a newly configured Council will elect from its ranks a new Council President. The Nominating Committee of Council members going off Council has struggled to surface a sufficient number of willing nominees to replace them. Perhaps it’s the pandemic in which all of our routines are upended, but the challenge of finding new leaders for our Council is of concern to me.

Vital, robust congregations have a large team of active and effective lay leaders. Despite the pandemic inhibiting my full view of the congregation as a whole, it is abundantly clear to me that Resurrection Church is blessed to have a large number of gifted leaders. We have members who are leaders in their own professions who can then bring these gifts to bear on our congregational life. But it is also clear to me that our members are busy professionals who are stretched thin by their responsibilities at work and at home. It is also true that many of our congregational leaders have been at their stations in our life together sometimes for decades. And many of them are tired and may long for fresh faces to step up to the plate.

I’ve been around the block enough times in the church in my own various capacities to know that what we face as a congregation is common among most congregations these days. In fact, I was involved in a consulting process with one of the largest and most vibrant congregations in the Pittsburgh area, the cream of our congregational crop – and the refrain I heard even there was that “the same few people end up doing most of the work most of the time!”

I’ve also been around the block enough to know that church-related business meetings can tend to be wearisome. Notably, there were the faculty meetings when I was a seminary professor. I used to quip that I loved dearly each of my faculty colleagues, but put us together in the same room and the whole was less than the sum of its parts. Then there were the synod staff meetings – which sometimes ran all day – when I was a Bishop’s Assistant. We inevitably surrendered our time and energy to the most difficult congregations and pastors who probably did not require that degree and extent of our attention.

You all likely have similar meeting experiences at work and with other organizations to which you belong. Why on earth would you want to volunteer to have the same kind of wearisome experiences at church business meetings when you long for church to be a place of oasis from all of that “business as usual”?

Friday, 08 January 2021 14:01

The Events of January 6, 2021

Dear Friends in Christ:

On Wednesday morning, the day of Epiphany, I recorded and uploaded my sermon for this coming Sunday, the Baptism of Our Lord. Then Wednesday afternoon happened. What a difference a few hours can make in what I might address in a sermon! Nonetheless, my sermon for Baptism of Our Lord has a relevant and important gospel message for the particularities of our time in the life of the world. Thus, I offer this special message to you concerning the events that occurred on the afternoon of the festival of Epiphany. Consider this message an anticipatory addendum to my Sunday sermon, or even an additional sermon in and of itself.

A popular saying is actually from the prophet Hosea: “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7a) Words that form speech are carried on the winds from our lungs. Words matter. Words do things; they have enormous power. Words can generate storms. Here’s how the writer of the letter of James (the study of which is the focus of a new congregational Bible Study) says it: “5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.” (James 3:5-10)

Consider the power of a word, the N word, and the social taboo against uttering it. In that word is cruel power to degrade and dehumanize, so much so that people of good will guard against giving voice to this word.

Some might say words are just words. What’s the harm in speaking our minds without editing our speech and choosing our words carefully? Well, we saw the power of words and of speech and their ill effects in visceral, raw, violent display on Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill, when mobs of people, incited by speech from various leaders and on various media, stormed the Capitol building and put a temporary stop to other forms of speech that focused on the peaceful transfer of power, a hallmark of democracy. It was an astonishing and dangerous display, the bitter fruit of months and years of forms of speech that glorified grievance, anger, fear, racism, and more, all forms of speech that serve to destroy, desecrate, to tear down, to end in the ways of chaos and death. Words that deal in desecration and death carry spirits, energies of powers and principalities that are sourced in darkness and evil, in diabolical spirits of deception and false accusation.

But, thanks be to God, that’s not the whole story. Words also serve to create, build up, to nurture life. The first reading for this coming Sunday consists of the first verses of the first creation story in the book of Genesis where “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2a). A “wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2b). This wind carried the voice of God, the word from God: “‘Let there be light;’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) Once again, words made things happen. In this case, divine words brought light where there was only darkness, order where there was a void of chaos, and ultimately the beautiful created world we inhabit. Such words were full of the creative, life-giving energies of God, that is to say, the Spirit of God.

That same Spirit was active when Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan, the gospel reading for this Sunday from Mark. The Spirit there, “descending like a dove on [Jesus]” spoke a word from God: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:10b-11) As at the creation, this word from God served to proclaim and embody and give full expression to sacrality, love, relationship, good pleasure and ultimately the world’s salvation, its healing balm in Jesus Christ, the word of God made flesh.

Again, words matter. They have consequences. Words can serve to deal in death. They can serve to give and to nurture life. Words can tear down. They can build up. Spiritual energies are carried in words and in speech. Those spiritual energies can be demonic. They can be divine. Words resulting in ideas and policies ultimately give shape to realities all around us, realities that can degrade, and realities that make for well-being.

What are we to do in response to what unfolded on Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill? The forces of darkness at work there are not going away. Those forces have been around for centuries, but until more recently these energies inhabited more the fringes of society. Now, it’s as if these forces have been unleashed much more in the mainstream of public speech and popular media. Time will tell the extent to which the forces unleashed on Wednesday will persist and spread or retreat back into shadowy corners. So, again, what are we called upon to do and how are we to respond? As individuals? As disciples of Christ? As a congregation? As a nation? It may be too early to tell and to name concrete, specific actions. Let us be in conversation and communal discernment about the emergent particulars.

But in the meantime, there is some clarity. I believe that we are called upon to use our words and speech to name and call out language that emanates from dark and diabolical places, and to do so boldly and publicly. Too many people of good will have been passive and silent for too long, having the effect of appeasing those whose speech runs roughshod over norms of civility, giving the language of violence free reign that results in deeds of violence.

We can attend to our language and the speech of others at home, in the workplace, in places of commerce, at school, on social media, and yes, in church, nurturing in our own speech and in calling out the speech of others, language that makes for life and sacredness, words that are dimensions of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22b-23a)

Vigilant attention to the words we choose is no small thing. It can be hard work, especially when the unseemly spirits in us are inclined to lash out in kind at others whose speech demeans, degrades and desacralizes. Moreover, holding others accountable for their speech also is profoundly difficult and requires a great deal of courage. But it is a sacred calling to take seriously the power of language and its effects for good and for ill. For again, speech results in behavior, in actions, in realities that make for life and for death.

Who knows what the coming days, weeks, months, and years will bring and require of us? Again, time will tell. But we are not left alone in these days and in the sacred work to which we are called. The Word and the Spirit that were present at creation and which were present at the Baptism of Our Lord are also present with us to this very day, at our own baptisms, in our own study of and engagement with sacred words of scripture, in words of forgiveness, in our holy conversations with each other. The Word from God, the Spirit of God, give shape and expression to the words we are beckoned to choose, and to the loving, life-giving speech we are compelled to offer for the sake of the world and its healing. In short, God in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is with us, leading us all the way in our holy calling for such a time as this, come what may.

God in Christ help us, our nation, and our world,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

Evening Prayer on the Day of Epiphany via Zoom

Please join us for live worship via Zoom as we pray Evening Prayer on the Day of Epiphany, Wednesday, January 6 at 7:00 pm.

  • The Zoom link is available via Constant Contact mailings. If you are not receiving Constant Contact mailings from the church office, then please contact the church office.
  • Here is the bulletin: pdfEpiphany Evening Prayer for January 6, 2021
  • To ensure a worshipful spirit that minimizes background noises, kindly participate in spoken responses at home and singing the hymn with your device’s microphone on mute. Thank you.

Children’s Epiphany Pageant at Home

From their homes, our children tell the story of the visit of the Magi. The YouTube link is available in this week's Constant Contact edition of the Midweek Message. If you are not receiving Constant Contact mailings from the church office, then please contact the church office.

Out of respect for our children's privacy and parents' wishes, please do not post this video to any social media platform, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

Dear Friends in Christ:

I have written on topics with a lot of gravitas during these months of the pandemic, when our world and routines have been turned upside down. Thus, for the sake of contrast and a bit of a break, I am drawn to engage a theme which is lighter, but still arguably profound.

Now that the weather has turned colder, I am spending less time outdoors and a lot more time inside, delighting in the spaciousness of the parsonage after years of cramped apartment living in New York.

You’ll perhaps recall from a previous midweek message that I fancy the parsonage as something of a priory, a little monastery, which I envision as a place of hospitality for members of the congregation and other guests. Well, given the required social isolation of our pandemic times, I am essentially in this place as a hermit, living a solitary life until such time when we can all be in community in person again as a congregation. Then I will be free to invite more people for gatherings in this hospitable place that is the parsonage.

Except that I am not totally alone. I am joined by two others, namely, my now nine-month-old kittens. To take up the priory theme again, perhaps it is that I am novice master to two young ones in formation. The kittens are obviously not in formation to become monks, but full-grown cats. And their formation is a wonder of nature to behold.

In writing about animals, I run the risk of anthropomorphism, that is, attributing human traits to the animals in our care. Acknowledging that risk, I cannot help but share with you some of the delight in the discovery of what it’s like to live with not one, but two adolescent, teenage cats.

Week of the First Sunday of Christmas 2020

Dear Friends in Christ:

In my youth, I had natural 20/20 vision. When I became an adult, that’s when I needed corrective lenses for a return to 20/20 visual acuity. Metaphorically speaking, it is also true that many times children and youth see things with greater truthfulness than adults. This is especially the case when it comes to matters of fairness, if not to say justice. Young people see clearly when portions are not divided evenly, and they are not afraid to speak up. Adults become distracted with many things and responsibilities which may hinder us from seeing our complex circumstances clearly. Or maybe we see things, but remain respectfully timid or passive about calling out what we see.

We are in the final days of the year 2020, a year which has seen many profound crises, a year which most, it seems, wish would just go away, not to be remembered or endured any more. Let this year be swept away from our mental, perceptual landscape we might say. Yet, this has been an unforgettable year. Nor should we forget it. It’s curious to me that in my fairly extensive reading of current social commentary, not many, at least in my reading, have made much of the play on words – 20/20 vision in the year 2020. (If in your reading, you’ve come across such word play, let me know where you saw it and when, for I’d love to know!) Maybe such linguistic play is too trite for the kinds of things I tend to read.

But I think it’s true that the year 2020, with its many inter-related crises, has provided the kinds of corrective hermeneutic lenses to enable us to see clearly realities that were perhaps more hidden – albeit in plain sight – before this year. In previous writings as your pastor, I’ve described this year as having apocalyptic aspects and dimensions. As I have observed before, apocalypse, etymologically speaking, has to do with unveiling, revealing deeper truths for all plainly to see.

Advent Evening Prayer

Please join us for live worship via Zoom as we pray Advent Evening Prayer this coming Wednesday at 7:00 pm.

  • The Zoom link is available via Constant Contact mailings. If you are not receiving Constant Contact mailings from the church office, then please contact the church office
  • Here is the bulletin: pdfAdvent Evening Prayer Bulletin for December 23, 2020
  • To ensure a worshipful spirit that minimizes background noises, kindly participate in spoken responses at home and singing the hymn with your device’s microphone on mute. Thank you.

Dear Friends in Christ

As you receive this reflection, we’re just a day beyond Winter Solstice, the official beginning of winter, the time with the least daylight of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. As I’ve gotten older, Winter Solstice has taken on increasing significance for me, because these days I seem more attuned to the effects of light and dark, of day and night on my dispositions. While I am drawn to the stillness of night and the contemplative evocativeness of darkness and its own magnificent beauty, I prefer the light, especially in winter. Perhaps I carry in my body the experience of generations of Scandinavian ancestors who endured long winters of freezing, snowy days with precious little sunlight. Even at the point of the Summer Solstice, when the daylight begins to fade at the start of summer, I become a bit wistful and am aware of a hint of foreboding of the coming winter of deep night. In contrast, I rejoice at the Winter Solstice, because then the fulcrum tips and the days start to become longer, even as winter officially commences.

Advent Evening Prayer

Please join us for live worship via Zoom as we pray Evening Prayer on the Wednesdays in Advent at 7:00 pm.

  • The Zoom link is available via Constant Contact mailings. If you are not receiving Constant Contact mailings from the church office, then please contact the church office.
  • Here is the bulletin: pdfAdvent Evening Prayer for December 16, 2020
  • To ensure a worshipful spirit that minimizes background noises, kindly participate in spoken responses at home and singing the hymn with your device’s microphone on mute. Thank you.

 

Dear Friends in Christ:

What a time to share in my first holiday season in Arlington – during the pandemic. Had Nathan not had his stroke in the autumn of 2019, I may well have begun my pastorate with you about this time a year ago. The grand plan was to have been in place in time for me to celebrate Christmas 2019 with you as your new pastor. The best laid plans of mice and mortals….

So here we are now, unable to gather in person during a most precious time of the year known for such gatherings. Even if we were able to worship indoors, in person with proper precautions, those precautions would preclude singing Christmas carols. A Christmas Eve service devoid of favorite hymns for Christmas would indeed be a much diminished and perhaps sad experience.

Our Advent Evening Prayer services via Zoom have been devotional lifelines for the 15 or so persons who participate. We are planning a special worship video to accompany the Home Worship resources we provide for Christmas – suitable for use either on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day. This resource will be in a lessons and carols format with six readings appointed for Christmas and six pieces by the choir along with six Christmas hymns, this, in addition to a homily and prayers of intercession.

At its recent meeting, the Congregation Council commended the possibility of a very brief Christmas Carol sing in person, outdoors, physically distanced with masks at 4:00 pm on Christmas Eve. Or if that is not feasible should the infection rates worsen dramatically in northern Virginia by Christmas and if the weather is inclement, our plan B is a carol sing by Zoom followed by a time for conversation with each other, a kind of virtual “coffee hour.” Watch your Constant Contact messages for what we will do as the day approaches.

Those are the programmatic plans for our congregation this Christmas, the skeleton, as it were, of our planned celebrations. But what about the qualitative dimensions of our preparations during these remaining days of Advent and of our observance of Christmas? How do we make the most of our truncated celebrations both in church and in the wider secular society?

It seems to me that an opportunity before us is to reclaim the holidays as Holy Days. The pandemic has indeed upended our lives and routines for many months. Now it’s doing the same with this season. The opportunity in this time of crisis has always been to refocus on what is most important in our lives. There have been such silver linings for the privileged amidst the coronavirus’ ravages among those most afflicted.

I have to confess that I do not miss the usual holiday commotion that often inundates and obscures the reasons for the season. Perhaps it’s a function of my advancing age, but as each year passes, I have less and less patience for the commercialized franticness that accompanies the wider society’s observance (or appropriation?) of Christmas. I just cannot do the shopping, the partying, the busyness, the noise of the way the wider society has engaged the holidays the way I used to.

Frankly, I am drawn to the simpler, perhaps more subdued spirit of the season this year. It’s as if the clutter has cleared from the horizon opening up vistas to see again the holiness of these days – again, reclaiming the holidays as holy days.

Which is to say, in our perhaps less cluttered schedules this season, there is more occasion and room for devotional engagement, and for sitting quietly, prayerfully in holy contemplation of the mysteries of the Word of God made flesh in Jesus the Christ, whose birth among mortals we celebrate at Christmas.

Moreover, there are twelve days of Christmas to look to, and on many of those days, there are particular lesser festivals and commemorations in the church’s calendar: Stephen, Deacon and Martyr (December 26); John, Apostle and Evangelist (December 27, transferred this year to the 29th since the 27th is a Sunday); The Holy Innocents, Martyrs (December 28); Name of Jesus (January 1st). That you may observe these days devotionally, I commend again for your use More Days of Praise: Festivals and Commemorations in Evangelical Lutheran Worship by our own member, Gail Ramshaw, who offers both information about these occasions and suggestions for prayer, praise, and singing on these days.

Thus, we have opportunities before us during the coming Holy Days, a seasonal observance perhaps unlike any others in our lifetimes. By God’s grace and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may we be led to make the spiritual most of the days before us in the comparative simplicity induced by the pandemic. I, for one, and for example, have claimed more occasions just to sit quietly with the cats as together we gaze contemplatively at fires in the parsonage fireplace, now made safely functional again after a liner was installed in the chimney (for which I give thanks). Fire is primal and elemental. Sitting before the hearth calls to mind millennia of human beings gathered before fires in tribal villages. The fires before me in the parsonage living room also call to mind the new fire lit at the Easter Vigil, expressing Christ’s victorious light in conquering the night of death. Gazing at the fire is a grounding experience as a human being, but also transcendent as we celebrate the divine, eternal light of Christ.

May you find such occasions for devotion in the coming Holy Days.

Prayerfully in the warming, saving light of Christ,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

 

Tuesday, 08 December 2020 11:20

Midweek Message: "Musings on Advent"

Advent Evening Prayer

Please join us for a new venture of live worship via Zoom as we pray Evening Prayer on the Wednesdays in Advent at 7:00 pm:

  • The Zoom link is available via Constant Contact mailings. If you are not receiving Constant Contact mailings from the church office, then please contact the church office.
  • Here is the bulletin: pdfAdvent Evening Prayer Bulletin for December 9, 2020
  • To ensure a worshipful spirit that minimizes background noises, kindly participate in spoken responses at home and singing the hymn with your device’s microphone on mute. Thank you.

 

Dear Friends in Christ:

Advent is perhaps my favorite season of the church year, though I love them all. When I talk with pastor colleagues, they often agree that Advent is their favorite season, too. Why is that? Speaking for myself, part of Advent’s appeal is that many of my favorite hymns are appointed for this season – “Prepare the Royal Highway,” “Rejoice, Rejoice Believers,” “Comfort, Comfort Now My People,” “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?” But it’s not just the hymns.

Another compelling feature is that Advent is one of the liturgical times of the year that has a decidedly future focus. Yes, one major aspect of Advent is preparation for and anticipation of Christmas when we celebrate the Word having been made flesh long ago. At the same time, though, Advent also looks to Christ’s coming again in a future determined only by God, a coming that promises to usher in the fullness, the completeness of God’s reign, God’s dominion in Christ Jesus. It’s a promise of a new heaven and a new earth. For the frustrated idealist in me, such a promised future engenders a renewed sense of hope for a better world in which all of God’s children and creatures will know God’s sholom, sacred and holistic well-being, the divine commonwealth. Looking for a healthier, more whole world is especially poignant this year, 2020, which many report that they are eager to leave behind.

Advent Evening Prayer

Please join us for a new venture of live worship via Zoom as we pray Evening Prayer on the Wednesdays in Advent at 7:00 pm.

  • The Zoom link is available via Constant Contact mailings. If you are not receiving Constant Contact mailings from the church office, then please contact the church office.
  • Here is the bulletin: pdfAdvent Evening Prayer Bulletin for December 2, 2020
  • To ensure a worshipful spirit that minimizes background noises, kindly participate in spoken responses at home and singing the hymn with your device’s microphone on mute. Thank you.

 

Dear Friends in Christ:

One of my early midweek messages, written just after I had taken up residence at the parsonage in mid-May, offered reflections on the natural seasons and growing cycles in relation to our life together as a congregation. This message was inspired by my devotional time sitting on the parsonage deck literally watching our garden grow, Resurrection Church’s “Plot Against Hunger,” which generates fresh produce for the benefit of those in need in our area.

At that time, our garden was just in the process of being planted. It was important and life-giving for me to engage on occasion our volunteers who offered their expertise and labor in our garden. This was an important way for me to begin to get to know some of our members outdoors, maintaining a safe distance during the pandemic.

Preparing and planting the garden also inspired my reflection on our life together as a congregation during this most unusual time of refraining from what congregations do, namely, congregate in person. In that midweek message early in my time here, I reflected on the importance in gardening of fallow seasons and of periods of dormancy, times for the ground to regain its nutrient-rich capacities, times to envision and prepare for the next growing season. I concluded that such fallow and dormant periods are an essential dimension of the whole gardening endeavor, and I suggested that our church’s pandemic-induced dormant period was a time for envisioning what our life together as a congregation might be in this emerging new period of Resurrection’s mission and ministry.

The seasons come and go. I arrived in the spring, have enjoyed the summer, and now we’re entering the waning days of autumn, anticipating the beginning of winter on the day of solstice around December 21. In terms of the church’s seasons, I took up residence during Eastertide. We celebrated Pentecost and have plowed our way through the entire season of ordinary time after Pentecost. Now it’s Advent, a new year liturgically speaking.

Week of Christ the King 2020

Dear Friends in Christ:

Thanks to all who responded to our recent survey concerning our life together as a congregation during this difficult time of the pandemic. Paul Bastuscheck, who faithfully oversees our Constant Contact communications efforts, has helpfully summarized the results of this survey to members of the congregation. His overview is as follows:

“A survey was administered to RELC Members by email on November 1 and they were given one week to respond. There were 44 total respondents. Overall participants felt that RELC was doing a good job adapting to a virtual worship-at-home format. What they said they missed the most was social interaction of in-person worship and a sense of community. People indicated that they wanted more connections with fellow members with virtual coffee hours, and introducing more Zoom groups to attend. Respondents also indicted they wanted more outdoor, socially distanced worship, communion and ways to meet in-person with Pastor Linman and other members. When asked, 55% of members said they would be willing to return to indoor worship with safety precautions. 68% of members also indicated that they would not be interested in a virtual 5K run for Thanksgiving.

Members generally gave Pastor Linman good reviews and appreciated the way he has guided the church during the past 8-months. Many also indicated that they wanted more in-person outreach to get to know the pastor better. Ideas included Virtual Zoom meetings, phone calls, in-person socially distanced meetings using the front porch of the parsonage, walks in the neighbourhood and Pastor led classes in appropriate formats.”

I am glad for this helpful overview and summary even as I am thankful for the particular comments of individual respondents. These responses both in summary and in particular will guide my own discernment about how we can undertake life together in Christ in the coming weeks and months. Some very good ideas were offered in the responses, even as the survey results will also serve as a foundation for future creative ideas and approaches.

Here is a listing of some current and future plans for initiatives which address many of the concerns and desires expressed in people’s responses. Some of what follows was already in the planning works. Other items are new possibilities based on the survey results.

Week of the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost 2020

Dear Friends in Christ:

We’ve been undertaking worship at home for some eight months now. Given the trajectory of the pandemic in what is clear is a nationwide intensified outbreak, we are likely to be worshiping at home for some time to come, even as we are also now holding brief services outdoors every two weeks in conjunction with the collection of food for the AFAC food pantry.

Worship at home is for many of us a solitary venture, even if we share common resources. I engage the materials by myself on Sunday mornings just before turning my attention to creating a first draft of my sermon for the next Sunday. I preach by myself in the pastor’s office in the church focused on the tiny blue-gray dot that is the camera lens on my laptop computer.

You may have your own solitary practices at home, or do home worship with your spouse or your family as a “pod” safely protected, but disconnected from others in our congregation. Even if your family, as a small gathering, worships together at home, it cannot compare with our full assemblies that we have known and enjoyed on Sunday mornings – and will again, we pray, sooner rather than later! It can seem so long ago….

So, we undertake worship at home separated from each other as a congregation. But providing resources for worship at home is far from a solitary endeavor. In fact, it is very much a communal effort of members and staff at Resurrection Church. Some members have wondered with me about how our home worship resources are crafted and produced. It is indeed a labor-intensive effort that is a focal point for our life together as a congregation, even if those efforts are largely unseen by most members of our church.

By way of illustrating the communal nature of this endeavor, here’s a description of how we put it all together to make the home worship resources available to you each week. Hymns are chosen well in advance and orders of worship are drafted under my care and in consultation with members of the Worship and Music Committee. Our Office Administrator, Monika Carney, then puts the well-crafted bulletin together. Member, Gordon Lathrop, conceived the basic order of worship that we employ even before I arrived on the scene as pastor. He also writes weekly the brief summary paragraph in the bulletin that helpfully weaves the themes of the lectionary readings together for our reflection. Member, Gail Ramshaw, beautifully crafts our prayers of intercession which speak to the current needs and opportunities of our days in church, nation and world, drawing on the themes of the lectionary passages for each Sunday. I should also say that Gordon and Gail’s resources are made available to everyone in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and are used in some cases even internationally.

Member, Kim Harriz, is the one who makes the calls to secure other members to serve as readers and leaders of prayer. She has done an excellent job of recruiting a wide and diverse representation of RELC members, sometimes whole families, and sometimes members who have not taken leadership roles in worship before. Our member readers and prayer leaders then create their video recordings to be uploaded for editing for the home worship video.

Our interim music director, Barbara Verdile, creates her lovely musical meditations and renditions of the psalm in our church’s nave. She also rehearses with our choir each week, and choir members then generate their own individual video and audio recordings of the hymns and anthems which are then sent to Barbara who weaves it all together for a single, ensemble choral experience online.

Once the individual video files are created by me, our readers and prayer leaders and Barbara and our choristers, then one of our videographers – either members Carson Brooke, Daniel Cuesta or Lizzy Schoen – puts the video and audio files together, editing it all into the watch-through video which accompanies the bulletin materials, and individual video files.

Also accompanying the resources for home worship are Angie Brooke’s weekly children’s messages and Amanda Lindamood’s weekly resources for faith formation at home. I commend these resources for use by adults, too, as they are salutary not just for our children and youth!

Once the resources are compiled, Barbara and I take a final look at the worship video, suggest any editorial changes, and ultimately approve it for distribution. That’s when member Chris Smith makes our many resources available on our church website and member Paul Bastuscheck crafts a message with links to the materials in the Constant Contact message that goes out to our members. Office Administrator, Monika, also sends out hard copies of our home worship resources to those members who do not have access to computers or internet.

So, you can see that crafting and compiling and sending our home worship resources each week is quite the team effort, again, largely unseen by most congregation members. I’ve tried here to give a comprehensive overview of the work we do each week. Kindly let me know if I have overlooked any parts of the process and any of the participants!

Thus, I want to thank our unsung heroes of home worship at RELC for their many, many efforts, for all the hours and energy expended over the course of these eight months and counting. Thousand thanks to our many worship team leaders and those in the choir who sing and the many members who have served as readers and prayer leaders! And thanks be to God for these efforts. It is popularly said that the word “liturgy” can basically be understood as “the work of the people.” This reality is very much conveyed and embodied in the many members who offer themselves in the service of our current practices of worship at home. It’s far from a solitary endeavor! It’s also true that many hands make for lighter work, for which I am thankful.

My prayer is that this recounting of what goes into making our home worship resources available each week will deepen and enhance your experience and practice of worship at home. My prayer is also that your awareness of the communal nature of our shared efforts will help you feel connected with other members of our congregation even when worship at home might otherwise be a rather solitary endeavor that happens apart from our longed-for assemblies in person.

With deep and abiding appreciation in Christ Jesus for all who lead and serve our home worship life,

Pastor Jonathan Linman

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