Happy Anniversary

Although I don’t suppose “happy” is the appropriate adjective when you’re talking about the one-year anniversary of the Covid-19 lockdown in Michigan, at Andrews, and with the Pioneer Memorial Church. Twelve months ago—who can forget the warp speed with which leaders and people alike, faculty and students alike, all of us alike—very much alike in our foreboding uncertainty (outright fear, I’m sure, for some) of what was happening to our nation, our community, our congregation—we were all catapulted into the strange new world of “lockdown.”

An empty sanctuary, empty classrooms, empty offices, empty everything and everybody, except for “essential” and “frontline” workers. Who can forget?

For those of us on the congregation side of the campus, empty was driven home when on Sabbath, March 14, 2020, two days after the university lock-down, a team of media workers and a few pastors showed up early Sabbath morning to conduct worship in a cavernous empty sanctuary. Who will forget that day! (I also remember it a bit more painfully, since in my rush to get to Pioneer, I backed into the rental car of a young family who was bedding down with us for the weekend. Oh boy! Got the scars to prove it.)

It seems like an eternity ago in some ways, doesn’t it? And yet in other ways, just like yesterday. Because for all our “reopenness” it still feels like we’re locked down. Face masks (what a joy it will be when we can safely discard these cloth coverings), physical distancing (have you noticed how we’re creeping closer and closer to each other—surely God understands), hand sanitizing and washing, et al. We still battle the pandemic.

But now many of us are lining up for our vaccinations (Karen and I are scheduled for next week), in a collective effort to build some sort of “collective immunity” in our country. How will life be different once we’ve been vaccinated? Here’s a link from the CDC with its latest depiction of a less-lockdown nation: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

What about Pioneer? Our children’s leaders are anticipating reopening children’s Sabbath Schools on May 15. But don’t lock that date in yet, since tenuous times mean flexible calendars. We’ll keep you posted here in our eLetter and on Sabbath mornings.

But when it is all said and done—we really do have reason to praise God for the way He has shepherded us through these past roller coaster twelve months. The Angel of the Lord has been our protector. The Spirit of Jesus has gone on ministering electronically when not in person. And you who make the Pioneer Family what it is have been faithful partners and third millennial saints in the gracious way you have rolled with the punches! And for you, we on the pastoral and office team thank God. Your commitment to safety and health, your willingness to sacrifice in order to protect those around you, as well as your unrelenting support for both God’s Kingdom and Pioneer through it all—“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).

And I am also grateful for the team of pastor professionals I get to minister beside day in and day out. They have each gone above and beyond in their dedicated ministry for Christ in spite of and straight through the pandemic. We are blessed to have their giftedness in our midst. And good news, we'll be welcoming a brand new pastor family to our team and congregation on Sabbath, April 10—a new associate chaplain to join us a Pioneer and Pastor Jose and Danielle Pilgrim in the Center for Faith Engagement here on campus.

My psalm for the day this morning offered up this prayer: “Praise befits you, our God, in Zion. . . . Blessed are those You choose and bring near to live in Your courts. . . . You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. . . . You crown the year with Your bounty, and Your carts overflow with abundance” (Psalm 65).

This anniversary-of-sorts Sabbath let us gather in person and online with the praise that befits the Almighty God who has led us heretofore, and who will guide us yet into the uncharted future that awaits us. We go together. Amen.