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“A Lot Has Changed!”

This month “The Herald” returns in both print and electronic versions. As I think about this, what strikes me first is how much has changed since we mailed out the last version. Let’s take a moment to talk about all that has changed and a few things that will soon be coming up.

Hopefully all of our members and many of our friends have been able to participate in worship with us as we moved our services on-line to both Facebook and YouTube. When in-person worship services were suspended, our Vestry and Staff, with the help of Brink Norton, quickly got our services on-line so we could continue to be the children of God at worship together. Now that we have slowly begun to return to in-person worship, we are working very hard to make certain those services continue so that our members who cannot return to church yet still have the opportunity to join their church at worship. Additionally, while in-person church services were suspended, we offered the sacrament outside on the portico each week.

Returning to in-person worship has presented its own set of challenges. We now must wear face masks or shields, practice social distancing, and we receive the sacrament as we are leaving the church. We have one service that begins at 10:00AM and the church doesn’t open for people to enter until 9:45AM. We fill in the pews from the front and we dismiss from the back. There is no congregational singing, but we have a small choir that provides us with wonderful music throughout the service. We have been averaging between 45 – 50 people, counting our choir. We anticipate that average increasing as people feel more comfortable being inside the church for worship. As you know, it is helpful for the church office to know you will be attending each week, thereby providing us advance notice and ability to make certain we can seat those attending. Per the CDC guidelines and advice from the ELCA, our service is approximately 45 minutes in length.

Throughout this time where everything has been so different, we have staffed the church office as usual. Carole is now back to working her normal schedule, and Deborah Bussey has been assisting us with the receptionist duties Monday through Thursday. They have been a tremendous help to me and the church as we have kept things moving forward. But even the way we run the church office is now different.

I have learned the phrase “Zoom Conference Meeting!” It’s not my favorite phrase. All of our Vestry and committee meetings have been conducted over the internet using a program called Zoom. We have been able to carry out the ministry of our church using this program, but it is not nearly as efficient nor effective as in-person meetings. Our confirmation ministry even went on-line so our students could meet with me over the Zoom program.

In July, the SC Synod of the ELCA elected the Reverend Ginny Aebischer as our next Bishop. Reverend Aebischer has been an assistant to Bishop Yoos for 12 years. Bishop Yoos has now retired. Bob Pickard and I met with Bishop Aebischer (through Zoom) on September 14 to discuss the ministry of St. John’s and the SC Synod. She did specifically ask that we pray for her during this transition, and to be assured that we are in her prayers.

These are just a few of the things that have changed, there are certainly quite a few more. But as I close this article, I want to highlight the ‘something’ that stayed the same: we are a congregation of brothers and sisters through Christ who deeply care about each other and the ministry of our church. To those of you who have regularly checked on us, “Thank You.” It’s always a special treat when the phone rings and someone asks, “How are you doing?” And thank you for worshipping through the use of our videos and for continuing your support of our St. John’s ministries. I tell people all the time, St. John’s is a special congregation filled with wonderful, loving people. During this time, you have proved that over and over again.

I’ll keep you posted as more things change, and I hope I’ll be able to see you soon.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Butler +