Spiritual Reflections: What’s Happening at Church?

Dear Friends in Christ:

A week after I took up residence in Arlington in mid-May, I devoted my midweek message to listing the various activities going on at Resurrection Church even amidst the pandemic’s necessary, love-of-neighbor inspired restrictions on congregation activities in person. We’re still in that same boat, largely sheltering at home.

Now that we are on the cusp of beginning what would normally be a new church program year, I want to revisit the question, “What’s happening at church?” I offer this for your encouragement and to proclaim that we continue to be and to do church, even if it’s still in limited ways.

Rally Day and “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday

We will have a Virtual Rally Day on Sunday, September 13 to mark the beginning of a new year of Christian Education offering. Included in the activities will be blessings of backpacks, iPads, and other school supplies by video, on Zoom, and in person for those children who come with their parents to the church as part of our participation in the ELCA’s “God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday” – which will focus on receiving donated items for Lutheran World Relief to replenish gifts to the world’s needy that happened to be destroyed in the devastating explosion in Beirut several weeks ago. Look for other announcements concerning the particular activities available on this special day.

Home Worship Resources

Since I last listed congregation activities in mid-May, we now include in our usual resources for worship at home each week a watch-through video that features members of the congregation reading lessons and leading us in prayer, along with musical offerings by Barbara and members of our choir, in addition to my weekly sermons with invitations to reflection and holy conversation. Many thanks to our capable, young videographers, Carson, Daniel, and Lizzy!


Our church choir still rehearses and prepares anthems for musical offerings that are digitally crafted. Barbara Verdile will continue to serve as our interim Organist and Choir Director. Watch for more from the choir in the coming weeks and months, especially as we anticipate Reformation Sunday, All Saints, Advent and Christmas. Planning preparations are underway even now for the coming liturgical festivals.

Children’s Ministry

Angie continues to prepare weekly Christian education and formation experiences for our children. If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to watch her weekly videos that proclaim the gospel. Her messages are edifying for adults, too! When my son, Nathan, visited me in the month of July, he and I were privileged to participate in some of the virtual Vacation Bible School experiences that Angie led via Zoom.

Youth Ministry

Amanda engages our youth with a rich variety of resources and opportunities – confirmation and other formation activities via Zoom with special attention to the essential work of anti-racism which so claims national attention today. Amanda’s weekly faith formation calendar, a link to which you also find in each weekend’s home worship communication, contains a variety of faith formation activities and resources for youth, which likewise adults will benefit from, too! Take a look. I’ve also had the privilege of participating in some of the Zoom meetings with our youth.

Adult Education and Bible Studies

These midweek messages serve as a conduit for my own pastoral teaching ministry, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed crafting these pieces that seek to address a variety of topics germane to our life together as a congregation during this pandemic time of multiple crises. Additionally, there are occasions for groups of members to convene via Zoom for conversation, checking in with each other and to engage in Bible Study with each other, and with me as teacher. Some of these occasions have used a modified form of lectio divina, about which I’ve written here, which gently structures time together to engage head and heart for our ongoing formation in faith. I pray that more such opportunities will emerge in the coming weeks and months.

Social Ministry

Every two weeks, our Social Ministry Committee continues to convene an in-gathering of food items for AFAC that supports this local food pantry so that they can feed the hungry and the underserved in our community. These gatherings in person, outdoors, with facial coverings and honoring physical distancing, have become the most public ways we gather as a congregation during this time. We now have a practice of including in these in-gatherings a brief, extemporaneous prayer “service” to give thanks for the generosity of those who donate and to pray for the well-being of those who will benefit from our gifts. While this eruption into prayer is unscheduled, whenever there is a critical mass of people present, we then intercede for the world as church.

Administration of the Congregation

Many of the committees of the congregation have continued their regular meetings. In addition to our usual committees, there have also been meetings of an ad hoc Home Worship Video Launch Group, which met weekly until we established a routine for the crafting of our weekly watch-through videos. Mike, our Council President, has also convened the Reopening Planning Group which has been meeting regularly over the summer to establish very concrete plans for how we might gather to worship again in person during the pandemic. While we have not set a date for assembling in person again, the groundwork for that outcome has been carefully laid through thoughtful planning. Additionally, efforts are being made to craft a budget for next year. Stewardship leaders are participating in a Synod-sponsored stewardship series via Zoom in concert with our congregation’s plans to nurture our generosity to support financially our church and its mission. Monika continues to provide excellent servant ministry as she attends to her work as Office Administrator, and I am enjoying working with her very much. Our whole paid staff also meets together on a monthly basis via Zoom so that we can keep each other informed about our work and do some planning together as a staff team.

Financial Support

While financial giving is not as robust as when we gathered for worship in person on Sundays, and there has been a usual summer slump in giving, members continue to support our congregation with their gifts.

Membership Care

I am happily aware that members of the congregation are informally reaching out to each other to check in on each other and see how we are enduring the rigors of pandemic-related social isolation.

My Work as Your Pastor

While it’s admittedly and frankly rather surreal to try to shepherd a flock that does not congregate on a weekly basis and which is scattered in their own homes, I am nonetheless striving to be your pastor. I preach and teach the gospel weekly, both in my sermons (in print and on video) and through these weekly messages. I help lead your worship at home through my presence on the weekly video, inviting your reflections and conversations. Nearly each and every day, I have some form of contact as pastor with members of the congregation. While I have a long way to go in reaching out to all members of the congregation, I estimate that I have had some significant engagement with at least 75 different members of Resurrection to date which enables us to begin to build relationships. I seek to offer you pastoral care when I know of your needs, even if it’s by email or phone or text message. I engage in the administrative activities of pastoral ministry by meeting regularly with committees, Council, and ad hoc groups, as well as seeking to attend to daily correspondence via phone and email. I have also crafted a draft of my vision for pastoral work here, which I pray will become our shared vision for ministry and mission as a congregation, and I will soon present this to our Council. Beyond our congregation, I am a regular participant in the monthly meetings of the Potomac Conference of Metro DC Synod which our Bishop convenes with the pastors of our area.

In conclusion, and in brief, though it’s not at all life as we have known it as a congregation, nor as we desire it, and there are likely current ministry initiatives that I failed to list in this message, we are still doing church together even amidst the rigors of the pandemic.

Thanks be to God.

In Christ Jesus,

Pastor Jonathan Linman