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A Note From Pastor Gregg


May 22, 2020
 
Return to Worship in the Building - Sunday, May 31, 11:00 am

It was announced at the Heads of Households meeting on Wednesday that we are planning to resume worship inside the Salem Hellers building on Sunday, May 31.  There will be many changes to our normal routine, so please note the following guidelines:

  • We will try to be mindful of spacing with seating, but if you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, please do so.

  • We will have bulletins printed including all music. Do not use the hymnals.

  • The Eucharist will be served at the rail in the ordinary fashion and also with a no-contact option (from the table on the floor). Please choose which method you prefer when you approach the rail. 

  • If you are showing signs of sickness, please stay home.

  • There will be no coffee time and fellowship in Cowan Hall.  Salem Hellers will be using Cowan Hall for their service.

  • Service time is 11:00 AM to give the Salem Hellers congregation plenty of time to vacate the building.

 

 

May 14, 2020
 
Dear Saints - 
 
The All Saints Session wants you to know that we eagerly desire to resume worship in the sanctuary of Salem Hellers, our beloved building, but even more to congregate as the people of the Lord Jesus on the Lord’s Day. We were considering some kind of safe worship inside Salem Hellers for this Sunday, May 17; however, Salem Hellers has asked us not to do so until after they can meet and determine their procedures for their building. Session determined to honor their request and wait on their actions and instructions next week prior to considering our future week’s plans. Pray for their consistory, as well as our session and consistory.

Therefore, this week the Session has determined that we should worship in a similar manner as last week with an important change. We call you to attend the service in the parking lot of Salem Hellers at 10 am, as before, but with the change that you may feel free to bring lawn chairs and sit outside of your vehicle in family units. You could also do as others have done and sit in the back of your vehicle. The restrooms will also be open. 

 
We understand that for various reasons some may not wish to attend or sit outside their vehicle. As before, we will also provide a livestream of the service and hopefully with better quality. In our Saintly Synopsis (tomorrow), we will provide you with any additional details that you will need to know in preparation for the service. In case of rain, we will still hold the service and you can remain in your vehicles.

Regarding spacing, deacons will direct you on site about parking, etc. Session does understand that there are differing views in our congregation about the best practices during the pandemic of COVID-19. We would ask members of our congregation to submit the following simple guidelines out of care and love for their fellow church members:
  • We ask that families sit as a family unit, leaving approximately 6 feet of distance* between each family. 
  • Additionally we ask that each individual be conscious of the fact some in our community of believers may be susceptible to the virus and some of us may be unknowingly shedding the virus, since it has been shown that people carry it without symptoms at least for a time. This applies to people of all ages and in fact, in Pennsylvania, the current age range of 25-49 year olds make-up the highest percentage of positive cases of COVID-19.
During the passing of the peace, we remind you that this blessing of granting peace does not require a holy kiss, a hug, a handshake, or any physical touching; it is a simple prayer of blessing on others in the form of the words, “The peace of Christ to you!." During this Sunday of unusual circumstances, bless others, but do not assume that requires you to kiss, hug, shake, etc. Just be reasonable, safe, and especially sensitive to others who may not welcome even an ordinary handshake, but certainly will welcome a blessing. Love one another in this. Do not judge, condemn, or upset others. If you are so inclined to “push the envelope” and effectively force a physical touch - then know that you are NOT passing the peace of Christ. Please let differences on these matters be no hinderance to love for the brethren and the peace of Christ we share in Him.

Let us always see every situation through our biblical worldview glasses. Our loving Triune God is sovereign and sovereignly brings both judgment and healings. He also provides for scientific progress, “the greater works” of the people of God which bring blessings covenantally and corporately to the entire world. Foundationally, therefore, real science is an endeavor that only makes sense from a Christian point of view. Neither materialistic atheism nor eastern mysticism can account for the regular, real life progress of the knowledge and harnessing of creation. But from a Christian view, we can rejoice that over the last century there has been much work in overcoming infectious diseases which are a result of the fall. We are to take dominion over these enemies, far as the curse is found. Such pathogens as influenza (virus), tuberculosis (bacteria), poliovirus, and many more have been subjugated by the application of biblical principles of science, consistent with our Christian worldview. This particular coronavirus (ie, COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2) is another such pathogen which shall be put under the Savior’s feet (Psalm 110). Jesus is Lord! 

*The reasoning for the 6 feet separation distance relates to the settling times of respiratory droplets which is the dominant means of transmission of the virus. The ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols provides a rigorous explanation.

Grace and Peace to you. 

Blessings,

Pastor Gregg Strawbridge
 

April 17, 2020
 
Dear Saints,
 
Our Session met again Thursday, April 16 to discuss our Lord’s Day service plan for this week. Each week we get counsel and look at the information available with the goal of doing what is not only proper and fitting with regard to theological and historical and practical/legal concerns, etc., but especially to exalt Christ, our Risen King. This week, we determined to hold a Zoom worship service at 10 a.m. as we did last week (links below). In this, we will serve others joining us from at least one other CREC church (All Souls Church, Ohio). 
 
Beyond our virtual participation in worship: This week each elder will distribute communion to his parish, one family at a time. If you would like to partake in communion on Sunday, please contact your parish elder (see the parish list below, or check out "groups" on Instant Church Directory). 
 
We anticipate communion on Sunday happening after the Zoom service from about 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the location your parish elder chooses. Of course we will take all precautions handling the bread and wine. It is our intention to serve one family at a time, and therefore minimize any health concern. Contact your parish elder and let him know if you wish to participate and he will arrange the time and location.
 
Pastor Strawbridge has interacted with dozens of pastors and theologians on how to best do worship and communion. These extraordinary circumstances test us all on the parameters of our theology of worship, sacraments, loving our neighbors, and subjection to the civil magistrate. It is in just such occasions that we should strive to “be steadfast of mind,” trusting in our Covenant LORD (Isaiah 26:3). Our Triune God is sovereign over all. Be grateful and seek the LORD in this providential time. The shepherds of All Saints Church desire to see healthy and prosperous sheep on the other side of this!
 
Our plan for the Eucharist this week is a change in the kind of distribution (in different locations with parish elders) of the elements. It is, however, consistent with historic Christian practice and the general practice of many Reformed churches.
 
  • For example, the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) which began in Heidelberg, Germany as the "German Reformed Church,” permits a distribution for the infirm, bedridden, etc.  (Note: our beloved Salem Hellers was the first such church in America): RCUS Communion of the Sick (at home) 
     
  • Likewise the Christian Reformed Church permits a similar kind of distribution: CRNA Eucharist Home Policy
     
  • This is called “Extended Communion” by the Presbyterian Church in the USA: PCUSA Extended Communion 
     
  • The ordinary practice of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is to hold an abbreviated service in the place of the infirm and serve communion.
 
Various expressions of the distribution of the elements are approved across the visible Church in almost every denomination. We are fully confident in this form of worship and communion since this is consistent with the current recommendations from the Presiding Ministers of the CREC and all reasonable health and safety mandates from our civil magistrates.
 
We do not consider this to be “private communion,” which is repudiated in the Westminster Confession (29.4): 
 
”Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone, as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people, worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.” 
 
The personal, pastoral contact with each elder/shepherd will be edifying and practically useful. We encourage you to prepare to greet each elder with the peace of Christ and to make any requests for needs or prayer. In this way we will show faith, hope, and love to one another in this unique crisis. 
 
As we have said repeatedly, we are making decisions about our practice of Lord’s Day worship and other aspects of community life on a week by week basis and therefore our practice is subject to change (even next week).  Please take note of PM Virgil Hurt’s “Open Letter to the President,” sent separately. 
 
We have scheduled our April Heads of Households meeting (via Zoom, links below) for 7 pm on Wednesday, April 22. Our Session will be meeting on Tuesday next week, and we will publish an agenda for our Heads of Households meeting after the Session meeting. We want to hear any concerns and take those into account in our future decisions.
 
Finally, this is a hard time for many, but also a time of mixed blessings with family, a slower pace to life, and new challenges. The elders’ exhortation to you is to use this time to know the Lord! Read His Word daily with your family; pray together; show love to your actual neighbors. We have had amazing, spiritual conversations with those around us. Use it well. Be a blessing to those near you, family, and friends. God‘s Word says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us not a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Let us all express that Spirit and may the time soon arrive when in the same place and time we celebrate the Greater Table of the Eucharist and the Lesser Table of a congregational fellowship meal.
 
 
In His Service, 
 
The Session of All Saints Church
Graham Dennis,  Kevin Kanoff, Duane Miller, Gregg Strawbridge

March 21, 2020

Saints,

As we prepare for a couple of more weeks of no congregational face-to-face time and no communion, let us remember all the aspects of the communion of saints. Our formal communion or Eucharist is a sacred meal, but it highlights the fellowship and unity in the body of Christ that is to be expressed in the ordinary daily lives of the Saints.

So during this time when we are limiting our social congregational interaction, be grateful to God that we do not have to limit our communication and contact with one another through phones apps, texts, email, letters, etc. Since we will not see each other very much in these weeks, Take every effort to contact people that perhaps you would not ordinarily call. Make a determination to contact every family in our church over a few weeks, a few people a day. Ask them about their circumstances and their older family and friends. Pray on the phone.

That we may not have our ordinary meal of communion we do have all that means we need of expressing the communion of saints.

Find the Family Worship Liturgy for this week, including a sermon on Psalm 23 here.

In His Service,

Pastor Gregg Strawbridge


March 17, 2020

"With the spread of the coronavirus and the unprecedented response by the US Government and governments worldwide, we find ourselves in uncertain times. It is important that we remind ourselves that this is not at all an uncertain time for the One who is control, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rest in Him and worship and serve Him. Our help is in the Lord." - Presiding Minister, Virgil Hurt  

 

Because of the recommendations we are getting from Governor Wolf, our session has decided to cancel church services and all weekly church activities through March 29.  Pastor Gregg will continue to provide a weekly Family Worship Liturgy, and this week will include a sermon for your family's worship time.  As time moves forward, we will make other accomodations as necessary.  This week you can also look for a special version of the liturgy to print out for your children to follow.

 

In the meantime, please remember to notify any deacons of needs you may have.  

 


March 14, 2020

 
Dear Saints,
 
As you know, session determined it was wise to cancel this Sunday’s service (3/15/2020). If we need to continue to avoid large gatherings after this, then we will consider alternate forms of communication. Across the CREC, churches are considering various kinds of broadcasting, conference video/live cast, or smaller gatherings in different places. 
 
For this week, I have provided a Family Worship Liturgy which preserves the themes of this Sunday’s lectionary and liturgy (Lent 3). It is very remarkable how relevant these themes are to our current pandemic, just as last week’s Psalm 121 (“My help comes from the LORD"). Sharon and I worked on this together and it includes many things relevant to younger children. It takes between 15-20 minutes to lead your family through it. Use this Lord’s Day well and stay safe as you look to the Lord in this crisis.
 
A few options to use the Family Worship Liturgy
 
- Print out this PDF:
- Follow along online
 
While all the music is contained or linked in the document, you may find it handy to use a copy of the Cantus Christi, as well.
 
Additionally, here are a few verses that may be useful to post and rehearse with your family:
 
Isaiah 26:3 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.
 
2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
 
Philippians 4:6–7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
1 Peter 5:7 [Cast] all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
 
Matthew 6:27: And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
 
Grace and peace to you!
Pastor Gregg

March 13, 2020

In light of the reports and recommendations coming from the CDC, we have decided to cancel church on Sunday, March 15. We do this not in a spirit of fear, but in hopes that our precautions may help slow the spread of the virus and alleviate the strain on healthcare professionals.

Please continue to pray for God to be glorified, for a spirit of peace, and look for ways to be the hands and feet of Christ to our family, friends, and neighbors during this time.

Let us know of any prayer requests or physical needs you may have as the days progress. Additionally, you can check out these links for further information, recommended by All Saints Elder, Kevin Kanoff, who works at Hershey Medical Center:

Johns Hopkins | PA Department of Health


March 13, 2020

A note from CREC Presiding Minister, Virgil Hurt:

"I am sure you are all following this rapidly changing situation. I want to encourage you to rest in the Lord for He is your peace, and strength and help.

Psalm 121 A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.


I am reminded that we made our bulletin for this coming Sunday on Monday of this week and printed them on Tuesday. There is nothing in the bulletin about the Coronavirus. The situation in the USA has all happened since Tuesday. So, a very rapidly changing situation that will continue to unfold today and tomorrow.

In such a situation, we do not want to over react. We also do not want to fail to act where we should. As of this writing, midday Friday, our service is on for Sunday and we have no restrictions. However, North Carolina has asked for all meetings of over 100 people be canceled. There is no such statement from Virginia Governor Northam at this time. However, were the request to be made, we will comply with the request. I also encourage you to follow your state's recommendations on gatherings.

In the case of gathering size restrictions, you may still be able to hold some limited services and livestream them to your folks at home. The Lord grant you wisdom in your own particular situation.

While the coronavirus does not pose a dire health threat to most of our people, we still do not want to catch it and pass it around. The biggest danger seems to be the rapid spreading of the virus such that it overwhelms the health care system and providers, which makes treating serious coronavirus patients and other non-coronavirus critical need patients difficult or impossible. That is what is going on in Italy. If the spread of the virus is slowed, then the health care system can keep up and treat people adequately.

Below are the recommendations for our folks at Providence. Your situations are likely quite different depending on the level of virus spread in your state or city.

Providence Church, Lynchburg, Virginia USA
Look for updates in the next couple of days about our Sunday Service. At this point,
1. If you are ill, please do not attend church Sunday.
2. There are no coronavirus cases in Lynchburg as of this writing.
2. If you are an 'at risk' individual for a serious case of Coronavirus, then feel free to stay home this Lord's Day. At risk individuals are those over 60 and those with other health problems: heart disease, diabetes and weak immune system, etc.
3. If your family is concerned about catching the virus and wants to lay low for a week or two, or as the situation becomes more clear, perhaps for longer, then we are fine with you staying away from services.
4. Given the fact that we may have an interruption or alteration of services at some point, we may make plans to hold some services with leaders and limited people and live stream to those who are not in attendance.
5. Pray that the Lord will use this uncertain and chaotic time to draw many people to Himself. Be a calm in the storm.

Be at peace and trust the Lord. This seems a bit chaotic right now but the Lord is still in control and this is part of His plan. He is good and all things work together for the good of His people.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Hurt"

 

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