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.
Dear Glen Mar friends,
Maybe this email finds you feeling fatigued at the state of things, or a bit "lost," without normal routines or normal "Holy Week" things to plan and do. Maybe you miss family and friends and Zoom has lost its appeal. There can be a sense that we aren't sure "what to do" or "how to act." A friend told me she feels like she's lost her normal set of maps.
As I was walking in my neighborhood, I thought about life without the normal maps. My normal maps would have me speeding past all the things on my walk that now I get to notice. The small things, like flowers bravely blooming, or an encouraging sidewalk chalk drawing. Not having normal maps means we can listen for God's direction and guidance more easily. The Israelites in the wilderness had to rely on God's guidance (very often complaining about that), not maps. When God called Abraham to go from Haran to "the land that I will show you," he had to rely on God, not maps, to get there.
I'm not trying to make light of a global pandemic in any way, but perhaps when our own maps get adjusted, it might be a chance for God to lead the way. Perhaps we can use this time to reconnect with "the mission behind the map." As we carefully and from a distance handed out palms to folks in their cars this week, I was powerfully reminded of "why" we do what we do. Turns out, it's not about "perfect" Easter lilies, or the "building for the sake of the building," or processes or silos or policies. What we're about is people. Sharing the love of Jesus with them, being the body of Christ with and for them, making disciples and growing as disciples, sharing the message that we are not alone - that God is with us and we are here for each other. We exist as a church to be a blessing - to you, to our neighbors, and to the world. We stand in a time of crisis to remind the world that God is present in the midst of this and will take us through it.
You may recall from a sermon I preached on lament psalms that psalms are of 3 kinds - orientation (everything is fine, as it should be, in order - Psalm 8), disorientation (my world is falling apart and I need your help, God - Psalm 22) and reorientation (I have come out the other side of the wilderness with God's presence and help, and I'm not the same as when I went in, I'm a new creation - e.g. Psalm 73). On the other side of this time is "reorientation" - getting reconnected with the mission behind our maps, and meeting again our "mapmaker" - the One who calls us all beloved children and who asks of us to "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly" with God.
I hope this year you will make a special effort to join us for all our Holy Week services (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter) online. We are even planning a "virtual" Glen Mar choir. I'm planning my Palm Sunday video today - 10 seconds of our family processing with, in our case, pine branches we recently pruned from our yard - to share as part of a Glen Mar Palm processional that will be unlike any we have ever had. As Pastor Jen reminded us, this may feel like the "Lentiest Lent" ever, but I also think that is a setup for what could be the "Easter-est" Easter.
See you online,
Dear Glen Mar friends,
I'm so grateful for all the ways Glen Mar is being the church! Zoom Bible studies, planning and meetings, prayer and care and check ins, blessing our community partners in need, ELC teachers reading story books online, worship reaching out, including new people, and generosity of spirit and sharing by everyone, all doing their part. Prayers ascending, people helping, and praising God, growing disciples and serving the world, all while honoring the practices that help "flatten the curve" for this virus. I'm grateful.
I wanted to share with you that our beloved Ed Franey passed from this life to reward at 5:30 am on Thursday morning. He will be so missed, and I know that heaven is all the richer for the presence of this good saint of God. (Also, if God needed some warm-hearted jokes...Ed will have them at the ready). We pray for Ed's family and friends. Cards can be sent to daughters Dot Bauman, 5855 Bellanca Drive, Elkridge, MD 21075 and Joyce Nolan, 3912 Aspen Street, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. Ed also has another daughter, Barb, and son, Scott. There's no further info on a service at this time.
Worship and our Facility
We're extending our closure of the building to the public through at least 4/26 pursuant to directions from our Bishop, and while technically "closed," we will continue to do the work of ministry, care and mission remotely, using technology, so as to do our part for our neighbors and friends. We will continue to livestream worship using teams of less than 10 people, keeping an appropriate distance. We will have Holy Week experiences for people to participate in at home, including the chance to pick up palms for Palm Sunday! More info about that to follow in a separate email next week. And I'm hoping to do a video inviting your friends to join us for Easter - that will be easy for you to share!
Our Early Learning Center will be temporarily closed, pursuant to Gov. Hogan’s Order. Our Director and Board will be communicating with staff and parents about details. We want to stay connected to families during this time as much as we can.
Ways to Help
Thank you to everyone who has "caught up" where they can on their offerings and pledges, and thank you to those who are starting or continuing to give through the different ways giving can happen. (You can send a check, give through online banking, use a credit card through our online giving platform...). Your giving allows us to continue paying staff, serving our community, and sharing the message of Jesus and the hope, love and new life Jesus offers.
- Sign up for our Good Friday Prayer Vigil. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/60B0B4CA5A72FA75-good
- Would you like to do a friendly "how are you" call? We are setting up a phone tree system to reach out to every Glenmartian we know, just to say, "We love you, how are you, how can we serve you, can we pray for you?" Contact Marti Windram.
- Helping the Hungry: Today, from 3-5 pm, we're collecting lunches for Manna House. A sandwich (turkey, ham, or PB&J), Fresh fruit, Water, Snack. Drop them off on the cart outside the main Glen Mar doors today between 3 and 5. Socially distanced and safe for all.
- Check out our website for more ways to serve.
Ways to Get Help
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Call the emergency pager number, key in your number, and hang up. 410-748-1320.
- Though the office is closed, if you call during business hours, Kyara, the Pastor's Assistant will be glad to talk with you, and make sure you get the help you need.
As we practice "physical distancing," may we look for ways to be more "connected" than ever. And may you know that you are not alone. God bless you all!
See you online,
Update: March 18, 2020
Dear Glen Mar friends,
I hope you enjoyed our first "livestream" worship experience on Sunday! Join us this weekend for another time to "be together" online as we continue our Lenten series, First Things First: God Is Our Refuge. I'll be preaching on Psalm 46, the basis for the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and many songs based on the phrase, "Be Still and Know that I Am God." You can find the link on Sunday at 10:00 on our website and Facebook page.
If our ministry has blessed you, and if there's a way that you can, we'd love for you to be able to contribute to our church, to replace the "missed offering" that we rely on as part of corporate worship. We received about half of what we normally would expect last weekend, and we want to be able to continue mission and ministry and pay our bills in an uninterrupted fashion. Here's a link with all the ways you can give. It's easy, quick and secure. Thank you for helping us as we all pull together to get through this time. https://glenmarumc.org/give/
Building and Meetings
Our Bishop has recently issued an updated directive to refrain from group gatherings in our building through at least 3/29, so we will be honoring that directive. Glen Mar Church's offices are closed to the public through at least 3/29.
Our Early Learning Center plans to remain open until we are mandated to close so that we can be available to serve our community by offering child care to those workers essential to our work force at this time. The Center is prioritizing safety by complying with updated MSDE requirements for child care centers, enhanced cleaning, maintaining social distancing, and limiting "group" sizes. The Church is helping here, also, by closing our building to lower "foot traffic," and help protect the people who are here.
Groups are using all kinds of online resources to meet remotely, to study and to share and to pray for one another. If you need help doing this, or getting hooked up with a group,Pastor Anna can help you. Anna.Schwartz@glenmarumc.org
Even though we are not meeting in person, be assured that your pastors, staff and church family are with you in prayer, in spirit, and if you need us. If you need pastoral care, or if you are hesitant or unable to be out and about, call us to get a listening ear, talk to a pastor, or have groceries, medications or other necessities delivered to you. Contact email@example.com or call the pager at 410.748.1320.
I'm grateful to be one of your pastors in every season of church life, and especially grateful for all we are doing to keep folks safe and help our neighbors. We are here to help, and to love, in Jesus' name.
See you online,
Update: March 16, 2020
Dear Glen Mar friends,
We are experiencing an extraordinary time, as many organizations are taking precautionary measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Even though we are not meeting in person, be assured that your pastors, church staff, and your church family are with you in prayer and in spirit. We are still here for you! If you are hesitant or unable to venture out into public, you may call on Glen Mar to deliver groceries, medications, and other necessities to you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the pager at 410.748.1320. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. You are not alone!
Update: March 13, 2020
Dear Glen Mar Friends,
I am sure you have been following the fluid circumstances and directives we have had regarding the current health situation. Yesterday I drafted several communications only to delete them as circumstances changed. Following Governor Hogan's press conference, our Bishop sent out a letter directing churches to refrain from having group gatherings in church buildings for two weeks. Therefore, we will not gather for worship on Saturday 3/14, Sunday 3/15, Saturday 3/21 or Sunday 3/22. We will have worship online on Sundays at 10 a.m., probably featuring prayers, scripture, a song or two, and a sermon, that will be easily accessible for folks from wherever they are. Click here to view the worship service.
As a general principle, we will not have scheduled group meetings, including outside groups, at Glen Mar during the period 3/14-3/27. I'll be meeting remotely with church and ELC leadership this weekend regarding whether the building itself will be closed to the public, whether staff can come in to work individually, and what the ELC will do. As of now, the ELC (which is under the 250-person threshold) will remain open under an enhanced cleaning protocol, though that may change as things develop.
We have a small wedding and a small funeral scheduled in our chapel within this two-week time, and I am making the pastoral decision that those events can continue as planned (with no visitation). They are well under the 250 person limit and in my view, fall within "pastoral care" in this time of crisis. We will clean thoroughly following those events.
I will reach out to the leader of our Alcoholics Anonymous group to see how they wish to proceed. In the past, during building closures, they have met elsewhere, but I haven't had the chance to have that conversation yet with him.
SMALL GROUPS AND MEETINGS
I encourage small group leaders and folks with meetings scheduled to use technology to meet remotely or meet in folks' homes. I will be asking Pastor Anna and or the HUB to reach out to leaders of growth groups and Bible studies to offer support for ways to "meet" remotely.
PASTORAL CARE AND PRAYERS
We will not be doing visits to nursing homes and similar facilities unless it's an emergency/hospice situation. If you have a pastoral care need, or want to talk, I encourage you to reach out to me, or any pastor during this time (my email, Pastor Jen's email, Pastor Anna's email). Our emergency pager will remain operational, and our pastoral care continues. If you have a prayer concern for our prayer team, please send it to Marti Windram, or to any pastor, who will forward it to our prayer team. If you have a need for food supplies and are unable to get them, let us know and we will try to help. You are not alone.
Many of you already give through online giving or electronic funds transfer. Thank you so much!! In this unusual season, if you would normally put your offering in the plate in person, please consider using our online giving option. It's safe, and easy. Your continued giving will play a crucial role in helping us keep our financial commitments to mission and ministry during this unusual time. You can set up online giving here.
GOD IS WITH US...WE ARE NOT ALONE
Friends, I am drawn to Psalm 46 in this season of tumult - "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." This is a season that will pass - and we know whatever the season, God is with us - we are not alone. "Social distancing" is not a thing that Jesus did very much, and that is hard for a church like Glen Mar to do, when we are so committed to gathering in our praising, growing and serving. But I think this is a chance for the church to model ways to care for one another in spite of and in the midst of this season. At Glen Mar, we have a way of pulling together and leaning on God and each other, through all sorts of seasons. And when we do that, God can do amazing things - like loaves and fishes for a multitude, like changing lives, like growing disciples like our amazing preachers from last weekend, like a prayer shawl in a time of crisis, like 100,000 meals for the hungry. I pray this time of "distancing" is actually a chance to grow closer - closer to each other by checking on one another, and reaching out in new ways, and closer to God in this Lenten season. A hiatus could be an opportunity to let go of all the distractions that consume us and help us listen to God.
Please join me in prayer for those who are fearful, suffering or afraid, and for all those who are responding to this situation. It's uncharted waters, but we know who calmed the storm...and I can't wait to worship with you - online or in person. I'm grateful for your patience, support and prayers as we seek to be faithful and do the right thing for everyone, and I am grateful to be one of your pastors.
See you online,
Dear Glen Mar friends,
I was visiting a friend recently who had a "House Rules" picture on her wall. This was a list of "rules of the house" for her family. Things like "Laugh often" and "Forgive quickly." It occurs to me that scripture is full of these "house rules" - from the 10 Commandments, to things like "Practice hospitality" (Rom. 12:13) and "love one another" (John 13:34).
This week, Glen Mar has hosted the Cold Weather Shelter, and welcomed our guests to the Lord's House, with hospitality and love. There have been dinners and laughter, and folks playing games, doing crafts, and watching movies together. Guests have the chance to submit prayer requests, and get a hot shower, and "make themselves at home" here at Glen Mar. I'm so grateful for the folks who have volunteered to host, and serve, and to do laundry for our neighbors. Our house rules ensure all guests receive "God's Welcome" - love, acceptance, comfort, prayer, counsel and invitation into relationship with Jesus.
It's a way we put First Things First at Glen Mar - praising God, growing disciples of Jesus as we grow as disciples of Jesus, and serving the world.
Join us this weekend as we continue our Lenten journey together - You are welcome in the Lord's house and Glen Mar, and once you are made welcome, welcome others!
I see you, I know your name, you matter!
See you in Church,
Dear Glen Mar friends,
Yesterday's Ash Wednesday services were so meaningful - I'm grateful for all who helped, planned, served, sang and attended! We had the pleasure of offering ashes to our ELC parents for part of "pickup" time too, and I got to pray with 5 parents and 1 grandma, and answer the question "What is Ash Wednesday?" for an elementary schooler. I got to put a cross on the back of a little boy's hand, who looked so proud of his new "stamp."
As we start the Lenten journey together, let us engage in those Lenten practices designed for the Divine Heart Surgeon to work on our hearts: prayer, fasting (giving up something so as to be reminded of our dependence on God), searching the scriptures, and giving to the poor. And let us turn again to God, through confession, repentance, and forgiveness and make a new beginning with God.
Sometimes Lent can seem depressing to the outsider, but for me, Lent is my favorite season of the church year. I am in need of the reminder that God is in control, that all I have is a gift from God, to be used to bless somebody - and all the "stuff" I think my life depends on, isn't as crucial as I think, because my life, too, is a gift from God's hand. What I need most is Jesus.
It's not depressing to be reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. Have you not seen what my God does with dust? God breathes animating breath into dust. God makes the wonder that is you and me out of dust.
Here's the poem I used as the benediction at last night's service, by Jan Richardson. It's called Blessing the Dust - A Poem for Ash Wednesday.
All those days
you felt like dust,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial -
did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
See you in Church - It's Lent, and we'll start a Lenten series called "First Things First."