May 18, 2020 Pastoral Letter
Dear New Cut,
This has certainly been a challenging time. When this crisis escalated in March and requirements for social distancing came out, our church grieved the necessity of pausing in-person worship, but rapidly pivoted to online and mailing ministry.
I know that our church has been missing meeting together, and that there are questions about when we may meet in-person again. For now, our Session has decided to stay with the current course. This means that we will continue communicating and ministering primarily by mail, online, and by phone. However, we will continue to monitor the local and national situation, how our church ministries are going, and make adjustments as needed. But for now, the data and projections concerning the coronavirus are mixed, so we are choosing to be cautious. Some churches may be making different types of decisions. However, we are making the best decisions that we can for New Cut.
Certainly, this pandemic came at a challenging time for New Cut. The past five years have already had a lot of changes and challenges. Let me offer a few encouragements here. One thing that I was told before I came to New Cut is that this is a resilient church. This is true. The people here at New Cut are dedicated and have been able to work through difficult times. New Cut is a small church. But consider that the relationships in a small church are close and that those relationships can help the church to hold together through a challenging time. Consider also that we do not have a large overhead of expensive ministries to maintain. While I am grateful that some churches have those ministries and large staffing, New Cut’s position as a small church helps us serve in a special way in the community and to weather difficult storms such as the one we are in now. More than anything else during this challenging time, remember that God is faithful and will take care of his people. Spend time with him in prayer and rely on him.
Here are some of the ways that we have been serving and meting during this time.
For Wednesday evenings, we have been meeting via Zoom. It’s been nice to see some members attend via Zoom who otherwise could not meet in person. We finished the 1 John Bible study and have begun studying Nehemiah. Nehemiah has been a very timely book for us to study together. The book is the account of how God’s people rebuilt Jerusalem after the exile. Now, during this COVID pandemic, we are in a digital exile. While we are glad for the various ways that we have been meeting together digitally, most would agree that we have suffered a loss from not meeting physically in-person for worship. Nehemiah can give us hope and principles for working through and rebuilding during this challenging time.
For Sundays, we have been posting sermons on YouTube, and these sermons are then posted on our website and Facebook page. Our Facebook page and website have received a lot more traffic and given New Cut some new visibility. We have also been posting a weekly devotional on these pages, as well as other mid-week posts. We have been mailing a sermon manuscript to those who have limited internet access. Each Sunday we have been having a prayer and fellowship time, which also has a phone dial-in option. Going forward, we will also be having a sermon discussion. A special thanks to everyone who has helped with all these various communications. It has been a team effort.
Many of our members have also been working renewal around the New Cut campus. Here are a few examples! One of our members freshly mulched and beautified our garden behind the church. Members have refurbished some of the benches and placed them along the walking trail. These benches provide a great place to reflect, relax, or pray. For Easter, members placed the crosses on New Cut’s lawn along Camp Creek Rd, and also the Living Cross along New Cut Church Rd. All the ways that our members have cared for our campus show that we are alive as a church and has been a way to love our community. Multiple community members have commented that our property has been a blessing to them: a place where they can get outside and safely walk and relax.
I’ve been encouraged to see that our church members have been finding ways to stay in touch. I hear of people calling each other and sending notes to each other. This is great! People also occasionally bump into each other outside on or near New Cut, sometimes driving golf carts, and at varying speeds. I had no idea golf carts could go so fast before moving to South Carolina. Our young adults have been staying in touch too. We had a Pictionary Zoom meeting recently and are now planning to meet bi-weekly on Friday evenings. After some laughter and fun, we were blessed to hear Christian testimonies. Young Adults may have some outside meetings going forward.
Our Presbytery has also been staying connected. At the end of April, it was exciting to see 188 Teaching and Ruling Elders from South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia, join on a Zoom conference meeting to support the wider work of the church. It was neat to scroll through multiple screens filled with familiar faces of our brothers and sisters. Here are a couple highlights. A new pastor was examined and approved to serve at Rockville Presbyterian Church in Wadmalaw Island, SC. Also, the process to multiply into three presbyteries continued. Our church will be in the Piedmont region. The hope is that multiplication into smaller geographic regions will lead to closer fellowship, support, and joint mission together. Our national level General Assembly had a called meeting last week on Zoom conference and voted to move the 2020 yearly meeting to September 17-18, which will likely be both digital and in person.
None of the decisions on ministry during a pandemic have been easy. But I am grateful that, as Presbyterians, we have a plurality of Elders to seek the Lord’s will. To stay the course was a decision made by the Session, and the decision was made in unity while seeking the Lord’s guidance. I believe that a group unified in mind is often a sign of God’s leading. I believe that this is what God has for us in this next phase.
Even if some of you see each other outside of church functions, please do attend our church’s online ministries as able. We may not be gathering fully in-person as a church, but let’s gather as much as we can. While we are friends and family in our church, I am talking about gathering as the church. We may see each other out and about in different settings, or live in the same homes, but we need to gather as the people of God. So, please do attend the online ministries. Phone dial-in options are available too and we are sending sermon manuscripts to anyone without internet.
I look forward to when we can meet again in-person for worship. In the midst of these difficult circumstances, let’s keep praying and finding ways to glorify God.
Grace and peace,