Jesus got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Peace! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39
I escaped to the beach for a few days with my kids this week. Pastor Reggie had agreed to preach (BLESS HIM!) so I was able to enjoy a few blissful days in the sunshine.
It wasn’t exactly vacation, as time with three toddlers never is, but also I was highly aware that as we played in the sand, Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and his Cabinet were meeting to make decisions about the future of how we will be worshipping at church. I must admit this had me feeling quite anxious. To mitigate my anxiety as much as possible, I played Hope Darst’s new song “Peace Be Still” on repeat. She sings,
I don’t want to be afraid
Every time I face the waves
I don’t want to fear the storm
Just because I hear it roar
You are here so it is well
Even when my eyes can’t see
I will trust the voice that speaks
I’m not gonna be afraid
Peace be still
Say the word and I will
Set my feet upon the sea
Till I’m dancing in the deep
Peace be still
In my Bible, I turned to the stories about God leading people through uncertain times. What resonated most with me last week was the story of Moses, found in Exodus. God called Moses to lead God’s people to the promised land. After being saved from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites found themselves on the shore of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down. When death seemed certain, God parted the waters and the Israelites walked to safety. When they were without food in the wilderness, God caused a bread-like substance called manna to appear on the ground each morning. When they were without water, God caused a spring to arise from a rock. Despite the many ways God provided for the people, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before arriving at the promised land. I am sure they more than once asked, “How long?” They had no clear notion of God’s timeline for leading them to their destination. The Exodus story is full of their frustrations and doubts. Yet, at each pivotal point, God was faithful and provided what was needed.
My friends, we also find ourselves in uncertain times. None of us like uncertainty. We want to know what to expect, now more than ever. By now, I had hoped to be able to announce a date on which we would begin reopening. With the information we have available, I cannot at this point give you all of the hoped for information for resuming in-person worship and other gatherings here at Bethel. Regardless, I know with certainty that our ever-faithful God is leading us and providing for us. We may not yet know the time of arrival, but this long and uncertain journey will end.
At the end of their meeting, the Bishop and his cabinet published a document called “Reset. Restart. ReNEW.” where they asked that all churches in South Carolina remained closed through June 10th and then begin to consider in-person worship and gatherings (as they discern it is safe to do so) on June 14th.
You may find the Bishop’s letter here: https://www.umcsc.org/bishop-holston-no-in-person-gatherings-through-june-10-services-may-restart-june-14/
The entire “Reset. Restart. ReNEW” plan is laid out on the conference website here: https://www.umcsc.org/restart/.
Your Pastors, Staff, and Church Leadership will be praying, meeting, talking, (and praying some more!) in the coming weeks as we review together the Bishop’s recommendations. We will look closely at the guidance from our denominational leaders, public health and government officials, but most importantly we will determine what is best for our church family here at Bethel UMC. Reopening plans will be finalized soon and we will communicate them to you in a variety of ways. Until then, please continue to pray for the clergy, staff, and lay leadership of Bethel UMC. Please continue to monitor your email, Bethel’s website and social media, and the COVID-19 resource section of UMCSC website for important information.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and may God richly bless you,
Pastor Julie Belman