eNewsletter Feature Story – September 16, 2021

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton,
FPCE senior pastor.

Dear friends,

Last week, I read that one of the glaring post-pandemic challenges for the church is that the number of people who identify as Christians is far larger than the number who attend a weekly meeting, either in-person or online (See Rediscover Church).

This means that the bulk of the work of Christian serving and giving in our churches gets done by only a few. How is this possible? What risks does this pose for the future of the church?

My thoughts here are not meant to be pessimistic. In fact, I have never been more excited about God’s Spirit working in us to respond creatively to the possibilities of reaching people in fresh and innovative ways.

And it’s not as if COVID-19 suddenly convinced Christians they didn’t need the church; millions had already made that decision well before “attending church” included online registration, social distancing, and masks.

COVID-19, however, accelerated the long-trending separation between personal faith and organized religion. The shutdowns of 2020 caught all of us by surprise in their sudden onset and indefinite duration.

Since then, it’s proven hard for congregants to return to the habit of regular worship, in-person or online. However, that problem is not unique to the church. Many millions are yet to return to cinemas, restaurants, gyms, and other pre-COVID venues and routines. Add in recent mask mandates ordered by our local, county, and state health experts, and returning to active worship is an even murkier proposition.

Some churches don’t expect ever to come back to completely in-person services. So they’re launching virtual churches and hiring virtual pastors — no need to wake up early on Sunday!…

First Pres recognizes these trends, and, with God’s help and your support, plans to continue providing in-person gatherings on Sundays along with live-streaming for those unable to attend for the foreseeable future.

But the bigger challenge we anticipate involves finding ways to maintain engagement in mission and ministry for our community. For example, if the reality going forward points to fewer people attending weekly worship, what happens to our capacity for hands-on ministry?

If indeed God has given each member the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (I Corinthians 12:7), with fewer such active “members,” how do we use our gifts to teach our children classes, serve as Elders, volunteer our time in ministries of mercy?

At First Pres, we are working on making it easier to match the gifts God has given with the tasks put before us. In the coming weeks and months we will be providing more and more ways to make those connections. In the meantime, ask God to reveal to you some of the ways he might be calling you to serve this congregation and its mission to make disciples.

Our staff leaders are also available to connect with you about places and opportunities to serve.

Finally, reach out to Rosemary Mauck and members of our Nominating Committee about your interest in serving on one of our boards — Deacons, Elders, Trustees. I know they would love to talk with you.

In Christ,
Pastor Ray Hylton

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