Posted by Sheila Thomasson

St. John’s Suspends Worship Services through March 29, 2020
Dear St. John’s members and friends,

This is the email you have dreaded but expected. Earlier this week, in consultation with your Vestry, the decision was made to cancel/suspend the Lenten suppers and worship services.  We hated to take that action but with each passing hour, our national government, then our local government, and then our SC Synod of the ELCA, were recommending the limiting of group gatherings to first, less than 100 people, then less than 50 people, and finally, less than 10 people.  Our local community government applied this to houses of worship. Those of you who know me can guess my initial reaction to such suggestions and recommendations.  In times of crisis, the Christian Church has always been a place where the faithful went to be strengthened as they faced whatever crisis was before them.  So, my first reaction was to resist such recommendations because we all need to be able to practice our faith, worship our God, and be nourished at Christ’s holy table.  But, I am also aware of the risk our being together in worship gatherings might pose to our members.  As your pastor, my love, concern, and compassion for your health and well-being must outweigh my reluctance to suspend worship. Again, for reasons of health and safety, we have decided to cancel/suspend worship services, meetings, and events at the church through March 29, 2020, at which point we will reassess the situation.

Now, what can we and will we do during this time when services and meetings are suspended/cancelled? First, I am still in the church office and available for pastoral needs and emergencies.  Just reach out to let me know what is happening.  Please write down my cell phone number and call me with any pastoral needs or emergencies (843-810-8240).  Carole will also be in the church office for her regular hours on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Additionally, the Vestry will continue to conduct the business of the church and make necessary decisions for our congregation.

Second, we will remain in contact with the congregation through the use of emails and phone conversations.  I will regularly be sending you emails with updates and devotional thoughts for your consideration and reflection. Let us continue to practice our faith especially at this time when our worship is suspended, and look forward with excitement to that day we can gather again in our sanctuary for worship. 

Third, I am working with Sheila Sines Thomasson, our Communications Committee Chair, to develop potential ways for us to use the internet and social media to bring either live, or pre-recorded, messages to those in our congregation with internet capabilities.  This might be through the use of YouTube, or our Facebook account. This would be a new use of technology for us, but Sheila is very gifted and is working on this possibility right now.

Fourth, I am working with Carole to identify all our members who do not receive emails so that we can send them regular articles through the postal service.  Not all of our members are electronically connected, so we are working to make certain they are connected to their faith family through any means possible.  And I would ask you to reach out to each other through phone calls to stay connected.

Fifth, please let me know if you, or any of our members, become sick with the coronavirus.  While I and your leadership team are praying for all of our members, we want to make certain that should any of us become sick, we are praying for those persons by name.

And finally, do not be fearful and do not panic. Stay in contact with your church and with each other.  If you find yourself with additional time on your hands, offer additional prayers for those affected by this virus, those caring for the population affected, and that in these dark moments, we shall see the light and presence of Christ among us and know that we are not alone.  You are not alone!

In the days ahead, you will receive additional information from me and the leaders of our congregation.  Now is the time for us to unite and bind together even more closely as members of the body of Christ.  You are in my prayers, and we all must remember we are in God’s hands.  Have faith and trust that God will provide.  Stay well, stay healthy, and stay in contact during these unusual times.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Butler +

Let us pray. Almighty and merciful God, you are the only source of health and healing: you alone can bring calmness and peace.  Grant to us, your children, an awareness of your presence and a strong confidence in you.  In our pain, our weariness, and our anxiety, surround us with your care, protect us by your loving might, and permit us once more to enjoy health and strength and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen. (ELW, Prayers, p. 85)