eNewsletter Feature Story – Week of July 25 thru July 31, 2021
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton,
FPCE senior pastor.
Last Sunday felt like we finally turned a corner in our efforts to “reopen the church.” Granted, the church was never closed. But, from March 15, 2020, till last weekend, we continued worshipping mainly online and outdoors, innovating, and experimenting with new meeting formats for Bible study, prayer, and outreach.
But last Sunday was different. We were together in one place, worshipping, praying, greeting, singing, and enjoying up-close, “in-the-flesh” fellowship — experiences that virtual platforms cannot deliver. And what a joy that was!
With the clusters of ever-new COVID mutations on the rise, we are unsure if our desire to worship together in one place will be hampered in days and weeks to come. But God knows.
Even though most churches are now meeting again, the difference from pre-pandemic time is extreme. Of the churches meeting in person, a third of the pastors say they are averaging only 50% of their attendance from a year before. In addition, Sunday school classes, adult ministries, children and youth ministries have all declined.
On the bright side, last Sunday, I saw faces I hadn’t seen in over 15 months. So, I had to dig deep into my foggy brain to pull up names to match some faces. Some happy confusion there, but… Yes! That’s exciting!
I want to see our entire family coming back and worshipping together in one place. Yes, I know: Some of us do not feel safe. I do respect your concerns, and would never force anyone to jeopardize their physical or psychological safety. But know that we miss you.
The road back (or maybe the road forward?) will not be easy. Some of the pre-COVID activities of our church may change.
But, rest assured, some things — even with a lingering pandemic — will not change:
- We will never stop worshipping God.
- We will never stop gathering in small groups.
- We will never stop praying for one another.
- We will never stop developing devoted disciples of Jesus who share the love of Christ with others.
- We will never stop preaching and teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
- In short, we will never stop being the Church.
We will do our best to connect with all the families of First Pres, even though some people may feel lost in this current environment and choose to leave our fellowship. If you are one of these families, I urge you to give me a call and let us talk. I encourage you to stay connected to this imperfect, but deeply God-loved community that we call the First Presbyterian Church of Evanston.
Finally, two thumbs up to our Deacons! Aren’t they amazing? Last Sunday, they pulled out the stops for our first Sunday back in our lovely church home. Thank you, Deacons, for surprising Judith and me with a warm welcome home reception after our being away on our three month sabbatical. We should sing this hymn in church someday:
- I love your church, O Lord!
Her saints before you stand,
dear as the apple of your eye
and graven on your hand.
- 2. Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
her sweet communion, solemn vows,
her hymns of love and praise.
- 3. I love your church, O God,
the people you have called,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.
Seeking deeper love for Christ and His church,
Pastor Ray Hylton
FPCE senior pastor
Photo by Sharon Williams