The Pastor's Ponderings is a weekly note from one of the pastors that is sent to the congregation. If you would like to be included in the list of email subscribers to the Ponderings, you can subscribe here. Current subscribers wishing to unsubscribe can do that here as well.

We Shall Not Be Overcome

Dear Glen Mar friends,

Saturday Night Live is still going strong - and we'll keep going as long as weather permits. RSVP here - you can be in a chair in a parking space or in your warm and comfy car! https://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090B4CAAAC2AA31-saturday is the registration link. And...we will invite around 40 people to join us in the Spirit Center for worship on Sunday, 10/4 - stay tuned for details on how to reserve a spot.

I was reading Julian of Norwich's Reflections on Divine Love this week. It occurred to me that Julian lived at a very tumultuous time - late 13th century - early 14th century England. They were facing the plague of the Black Death, which decimated the population of Europe in ways that would make COVID-19 seem tame. There were wars and insurrections. There was famine and oppression. Still, Julian had visions of God's presence through it all. In those visions, she said, she never saw any indication that followers of Christ would avoid trouble, or pain or sorrow. She did, however see clearly that in the falling and the rising, we would be held and carried by God's love. She writes "He said not 'Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased'; but he said, 'Thou shalt not be overcome."

Her most famous quote was, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." What a strange message to get from God in a time when things were so bleak and broken. It feels dismissive almost, or at worst, delusional.

And yet...as we live in our own times of brokenness...perhaps Julian's word is a word for our time too. The brokenness is not of God's design. The injustice and violence are not of God's design. Much of the pain and many of the wounds we inflict are of our own making. But in the midst of it all, another story is being played out. And that story is stronger than the travails we are facing now - it is a melody line under the clashing notes that deafen us - and it is a song of lament for the ways we have missed the mark, and that weeping that endures for often what feels like a long, long night. And it is a song of joy that comes, resurrection that comes, reconciliation that comes...if we do not give up.

See you "in church",
Pastor Mandy


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Guidelines for Gathering

Dear Glen Mar friends,

We are hoping to be able to invite groups of folks to join us in the Spirit Center for Sunday worship starting in early October! Stay tuned for details, as we'll want to keep our numbers low for social distancing.

Our latest "guidelines for gathering" are as follows (although we revise them pretty frequently).

Guidelines for Gathering (as of 9/10/20)

  1. If you are experiencing symptoms of illness, please refrain from coming to Glen Mar. The safety of our community is our primary concern. Persons with symptoms should limit exposure until they get a negative COVID test or are evaluated by a doctor who says they no longer have to isolate.
  2. If you have had close household contact with someone who has a known or suspected case of COVID (symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, digestive issues, rash) please stay home until they test negative, or 10 days have elapsed since first exposure to them and 72 hours without symptoms.
  3. All requests for gathering must be approved by the Task Force For Re-Entering Well or a subcommittee thereof. Send requests for now to mandy.sayers@glenmarumc.org.
  4. All approved events must be put on the calendar in Service U. For the present, we are focusing on outdoor gatherings.
  5. All gatherings must observe physical distancing guidelines, i.e. a 6 foot separation between "family" groupings (people who share a household or who are otherwise not practicing distancing with one another).
  6. As a general rule, masks are required on church property at all times for everyone above the age of 2 (see #13 below). Staff can be unmasked if they are alone in their individual office. If you don't have a mask, and we don't have one to give you, you'll need to go get one.
  7. As a general rule, events and gatherings will be capped at 1 hour. Exceptions can be requested from the Task Force or subcommittee.
  8. Very limited singing is now permitted at Saturday Night Live Vespers (outdoors, 2 people, masked, socially distanced from each other and 20 feet from congregants). Otherwise singing is not permitted at this time.
  9. Sharing of food beyond family groups, e.g. buffets, will not be allowed. People can bring their own food or things like food trucks for outdoor events are OK but food will not be prepared or served by Glen Mar or Glen Mar folks. Eating also involves mask removal and so should be restricted to outside the building or in designated staff areas and only when people can be at least 6 feet apart.
  10. The building itself remains officially closed, so that we can monitor the places in the building where people have been for cleaning and keep people who have to be in the building as safe as possible.
  11. The time limit of 1 hour should mean that restrooms will not be needed. If you need restrooms for your event, indicate that in your request. Restrooms will have 2 people allowed in them at one time, and a specific restroom will be designated for your event (Not all the bathrooms in the building).
  12. All gatherings must have a safety monitor that has been trained in these guidelines who is masked at all times. We will help you find or train a monitor if you don't have one in your group.
  13. Masks can be hard for young children to wear, but we want you to try, especially indoors and in situations where it is hard to keep kids distanced from other kids.
  14. All hugs need to be virtual. : )
  15. Our ELC kids and teachers follow a protocol under MSDE guidelines that may differ slightly from the above list.

I'm so appreciative of how we have all pulled together through this! Join us for Vespers where we'll be talking about the Gift of the Spirit called JOY (my favorite) and/or for Sunday worship online, where we will learn from David how to be "Undignified."

See you....
Mandy


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Sharing your pacifier (aka empathy)

1 Peter 3: 8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

I was watching a Ted Talk on empathy, and the speaker talked about being on an airplane where there was a baby crying very loudly. Some passengers smiled encouragingly at the parents, some winced and tried to read their in-flight magazine, and some searched for seats they could occupy away from the noise. Suddenly, she noticed a three year old who toddled over to the baby and offered her his own pacifier. This, she says, is empathy. Seeing and hearing someone, really seeing them, and putting yourself in their shoes.

This is hard to do, because it requires vulnerability, vulnerability to bridge the distance between us, and as the epistle puts it, "brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind." It requires a heart for "the other" - a willingness to suspend the never-ending noise of our own inner dialogue to listen and to take time and be patient. It reminds me of all those frustrating pastoral care classes from seminary - the ones where we were taught to listen deeply without thinking of what we are going to say next. The ones where we learned to WAIT (ask yourself, "Why Am I Talking? (WAIT)). It's hard to do because it requires relationship - it is the seedbed of love.

It'll come as no surprise for me to tell you that empathy is not valued very much in the culture these days. Everywhere I turn there is polarization, division, Us vs. Them. And it is nearly impossible to pastor through it, because I have to keep my heart tender and my mind humble. Good luck, right? It is exhausting work. It requires taking another person's perspective, listening to and telling stories, and listening over and over again.

In a way, it reminds me of the patterns of "being with" that I see in the New Testament. Jesus, seeing people that society did not see, from the rich young ruler (Jesus, seeing him, loved him) to beggars and lepers and women and Gentiles. Jesus, speaking in stories, and listening to the stories of others. Jesus, taking perspectives, like when the Woman at the Well says "He told me everything I have ever done." Church, when it is being church, should be a storehouse of empathy (tender hearts, and humble minds).

It's not an efficient way to be. It doesn't reward "being right" as much as "being together" or "being with and for your neighbor." But maybe the church can model a new way. Perhaps the determination of a band of Jesus Freaks who call each other brother and sister can show a new way of being together. A sort of vaccine for the malaise that has broken so many ties and so many hearts. Empathy. A seedbed for love.

Pastor Mandy


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Back to school

Dear Glen Mar Friends,

This Sunday, we'll have the Blessing of the Chromebooks (and the teachers and the students). As a new year of learning begins, I wanted to give thanks for the teachers among us, for the work they do and the love and sacrifice that they show every day. We blessed several local schools with our Christmas Eve offering last year, and our schools, students and teachers have been especially close to my heart in this challenging season.

I offer the words to a hymn that I love to sing this time of year - Praise the Source of Faith and Learning (by Thomas Troeger). This hymn was played at my college convocation my freshman year in college.

Praise the source of faith and learning that has sparked and stoked the mind with a passion for discerning how the world has been designed. Let the sense of wonder flowing from the wonders we survey, keep our faith forever growing and renew our need to pray...As two currents in a river fight each other's undertow, til converging they deliver one coherent steady flow, blend O God our faith and learning, til they carve a single course - til they join as one returning praise and thanks to You, their Source. Amen.

See you online and in a "spot" at SNL,
Pastor Mandy

PS A reminder that Saturday Night Live Vespers will be moving to 5 pm starting tomorrow (and we'll have Paul and Dan Eschliman "in the house," along with the amazing Wendy Baird, by which I mean, "in the parking lot" so "Y'all come." And our Task Force For Re-Opening is taking things in stages, as we learn how to safely gather, so we will not have a "change in official status" even with Maryland moving into Stage 3, but we are working on plans in stages to welcome folks back in small groups when we are ready.


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Changes in worship

Dear Glen Mar friends,

Our Saturday Night Live Vespers Service is a real blessing that I look forward to each week. We have folks in lawn chairs worshipping and folks in their cars worshipping on the radio. The perfect "soul feeding" opportunity on a Saturday evening! As I write this, we are waiting to see if the moisture from Hurricane Laura will cancel this week's gathering. If we cancel, I'll send out a notice through the signup genius to all who registered. Looking ahead, starting on Sept. 5, we will move the SNL service from 7 pm to 5 pm (so we will be able to see - the sun is setting earlier and earlier each week).

Our Task Force for Re-Entering Well is planning to begin "livestreaming" parts of our worship service from our Spirit Center! We will not have "worshippers" there - just a few of our tech folks needed to livestream, and the participants in the service itself. We'll have folks singing the way we are now, recorded from wherever they are, since we want to avoid the dangers associated with singing indoors. Your experience of worship will be similar to how it is now...So, please continue to stay home to worship with us online, but know that we will be preaching and praying (and sometimes playing music) from a place you will recognize (that's not my red couch).

Speaking of gathering, the Task Force wanted to just touch base with you to see how you are feeling about the idea of gathering inside the building. We know what County guidelines are, and we are also wanting to absolutely prioritize health and safety. When we are ready to gather indoors, it will not be in large groups, it will involve masks, and social distancing, and is likely to feel very different than pre-COVID times. Will you do me a favor and let me know what you think in this short set of questions? Click here.

This is not a "vote" and does not represent "what we are going to do." We just want to know how you feel and what you are ready to do. No matter what, you can count on a weekly online worship, great pastoral care, Bible studies, and mission and service opportunities, because that's who we are at Glen Mar!

We're finishing our Playdate With Jesus on Sunday and getting ready for a Blessing of the Chromebooks on 9/6. You don't want to miss it!

See you online and on Saturdays,
Mandy


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