May 7, 2020
Dear Bethel Church Family,
I first wrote to you about COVID-19 on March 16th; a Monday morning following our last in-person worship service. Just days before I had met with the family of Nancy Johnson, deciding in what we felt was an abundance of caution to postpone her funeral for a week or two, until this Corona virus had passed. Many of us could not have imagined how dangerous and scary the next six weeks would become.
Since March 23rd, most of you have been home to keep yourself and others safe and to comply with orders from our Governor or the health department. The stay at home orders will be lifted gradually to help balance economic hardship with the reality that the virus is still spreading. SCDHEC informs us that South Carolina now has 6936 confirmed cases and 305 deaths statewide, with Richland County having the highest in number of deaths.
I write to you with a request to STAY THE COURSE. Continue to refrain from in person gatherings. Confirmed cases of the virus continue to increase. Our Bishop has asked us to not return to our buildings and gather together for worship yet.
The physical closeness of our worship spaces are risky. Even the simple act of singing a much beloved hymn could compromise the health of those gathered as droplets carrying the virus can infect a neighbor. An unintentional touch, or hug, could do it. We don’t know who is infected with the virus. Gathering for worship impacts not only those who choose to attend, but also whoever comes in contact with those who attended. As we are called to love our neighbor, we do not want to impose negative consequences on others.
We miss being together as communities of faith, but remember we are staying apart to save lives. The lives of those we love, the lives of our neighbors, maybe even our own lives.
How long will this situation last? I do not know. However, I do know that COVID-19 has not stopped us from being the church; in fact, it may have resulted in our stepping up our game!
I know that we are still the church, no matter how we gather for worship. I know that the Spirit of the Living God still moves among us. I see it as I join you online for worship, as I read about how we are continuing to care for each other through the Rehoboth Food Pantry and our Bethel Prayer line. I it in see you checking in on those who may be especially isolated. I see it in the dollars you continue to give despite the financial realities we face. I see that you are assisting those in our church who need help with technology so they can join us for worship. I see you deliver needed food and medications. The list goes on as you serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Your faith is not bound or contained by our buildings. We are still The Church, no matter where we are or how we gather. Thanks be to God!
So for now, let’s continue to do our part in helping to flatten the curve, helping the numbers to go down; to care for each other, our families, our communities, ourselves. Let’s continue to experience worship in new ways; apart, but together online, Facebook, YouTube, TV and on Zoom calls. Let us remember that in Christ, we can do ALL things!
Rev. Julie Songer Belman
May 7, 2020