As I write this article there’s an eerie silence in the office. I’m the only one working here; Jennifer is working from home mostly, taking your calls and continuing various day-to-day operations of the church. Pastor Kiessling is calling those on the phone whom he regularly visits. The preschool is on an extended Spring break; a few cars drive through the campus but there are no visitors. No one from the neighborhood is even bringing their kids to play in our playground, most likely as a precaution so their kids don’t touch anything someone else may have touched earlier. It’s quiet, strange, and lonely.
I’m fortunate to be able to leave the house and work at my regular place; I know not everyone can do that right now. I feel like I’m in a sort of isolated “base of operations”—I make phone calls checking in on people, send emails, texts, record the midweek Lenten services, and prepare the Sunday worship. I think this is going to become a new kind of normal for a while.
By the time you read this we will be about a week away from Easter Sunday, and unless God performs a miracle and wipes out the coronavirus from our land by then, we will be celebrating the Resurrection in our homes. As far as our summer activities go such as VBS and mission festival, those are just too far out right now to be able to make decisions on whether to have them or not. My thoughts are starting to turn to more philosophical questions such as, when we finally come out of this, how different will the church be? Will some people fall away and never come back? Will some draw nearer to God and worship more frequently? Will we simply pick up where we left off earlier this year as if nothing happened? I don’t know, these are the kind of things one thinks about while sitting alone in a quiet place.
We give thanks to God all the time at St. Paul for the many blessings He’s poured onto this church for 142 years. One of His blessings was seeing our church through the 1918 influenza pandemic. Our history book says Pastor Kolb was called to Petaluma California in the fall of 1918. This would have been near the height of the pandemic. It’s interesting that during such a dangerous time, he and his family packed up their things and moved. It’s also noted that the school did not resume in the fall of 1918, but this was because teacher Barrein had resigned in the spring. The church was without a pastor and a teacher until Frederick Westerkamp accepted the call in the spring of 1919. The pandemic was beginning to wind down by then, and by that summer it had finally run its terrible course.
Our history book makes no mention at all of the 1918 influenza pandemic, and the church’s death record notes only three deaths between the spring of 1918 and the fall of 1919, and those three were due to “apoplexy,” a type of stroke. This causes me to wonder if perhaps the pandemic wasn’t so bad in this area. Everything I read about the Spanish Flu however, says it took quite a toll on public services, the nation’s economy, and to some extent the population.
We should have every reason to believe our God will graciously and mercifully see us through this pandemic, as He has through those in the past. Barring any calls to Petaluma California or anywhere else for that matter, I imagine I will still be your pastor when Covid-19 has finally run its course, and we can resume our preschool, worship together in the sanctuary, and whatever else we wish to do for the kingdom of God. Until then participate in worship online, give generously back to God a portion of what He has given you, stay in touch, call me any time, and may God bless you and keep you healthy.
Check out our new website at www.stpaulsherwood.org for online worship and other useful resources.
God bless and be well.