Dear Members and Friends of First Church,

None of us have ever faced a year quite like this one. Like the brave ocean voyagers of centuries ago, we sail into uncharted seas not knowing what lies ahead. Our only true guide is the North Star (which, spiritually speaking, is our faith in the God who holds all of us in His hands). Sailing into the unknown, we are not sure if we will find ourselves in danger or if we will arrive safely on the shore of a new land.

The summer of 2020 has come, and it will be unlike past summers. Those of us who summer in Florida normally look forward to a reduced pace of life and activities, and we brace ourselves for warmer weather and frequent storms. Those of us who spend our summers elsewhere have our own predictable rhythms of life with family, recreation, travel, and other routines. But who knows what this summer might bring as our nation fitfully and cautiously tries to find its way to whatever “normal” will now look like following a global pandemic?

The inner struggle for all of us will be how to balance caution with courage. Caution and the fear of getting sick (or spreading an infection) will pull us toward isolation and distance. Courage and the desire to resume activities and relationships will impel us in the other direction. Even our best scientists and researchers can’t answer all our questions or give us a simple blanket rule that applies equally to every person, place, and situation. How we all need wisdom in such a time of uncertainty!

The ministry of First Church is likewise trying, weekly and even daily, to figure out the right balance between the two poles of separation and re-engagement. We may not always make the perfect choice. Some of our programs and ministries at the church are not happening due to risk avoidance. Other activities have resumed, with sanitary precautions. Perhaps we will conclude in hindsight that we made the right decisions, or perhaps we will have some regrets. Those who feel comfortable coming to the church building for activities are warmly welcomed; those who choose to err on the side of caution and remain in their homes will be missed. You are all precious to us so please know that whatever your choice is, it is honored and respected.

The staff of First Church has been forced to learn some new skills and develop creative options to keep us connected during the past several months. I hope you have been able to worship with us online in the weeks when live worship wasn’t an option, and I hope you will continue to do so when you cannot be with us in person. We will continue to do what we can (through this Epistle, other print media, and the various electronic media options we now have) to keep you in touch with your church family.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Doug Pratt