The response to a time of crisis is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. Rather, a crisis amplifies what is already there. Things like disasters, deaths, or any other life-altering situations tend to strip away the veneer and make clear how things exist below the surface. Families and communities that have strong ties will be brought closer together, whereas families and communities with fractures, even unseen on the surface, will widen and deepen.
This is the kind of thing that we are experiencing now, and like other crises, what this does is amplify what is already there. And I want to take this letter and share some of what I am seeing as our church navigates this time of crisis. To be forthright, I have been astounded by the amazing ways that you all who make up the extended ARC family have responded to this.
When we began virtual worship, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It is something that I have never done before, so it was a learning experience for me. It is an unnatural way to be together. But those uncertainties were quickly put to rest by the engagement amongst the congregation. You have been flexible and adaptable, you have been patient and gracious. You have been so patient with me as I’m trying my best to figure this all out, and I cannot tell you how much of a gift that is. I hear from other pastors that I know and some have congregations that are patient and gracious and supportive, but there are others for whom this is not at all the experience. And I want to express my deep gratitude for how you have shown up, for how you have engaged and contributed, for how you have encouraged one another and for how you have encouraged me.
Another amazing way that you have all responded to this is the virtual choir. When pastors talk about what they are doing for virtual worship, I always mention the really great virtual choir (and maybe I brag a little bit about it). Not only have Stephanie and Ryan done such amazing work at organizing it and stitching and mixing everything together, but also for all those who contribute to that virtual choir. It has been a learning curve for all of you but yet you were open to trying this new thing, overcoming difficulties and challenges with technology to contribute to our shared worship in this way. I want you to know that everyone who I talk with is so impressed by this, particularly with this being done by our little church in our tiny village on the edge of the country.
I was reflecting just the other day about many of the things which we typically think draw people in, be it the organ, or the beautiful church building, or the stained glass windows, or the live choir, or whatever else. But our virtual worship time has shown that while all those things are very nice, none of those are the things that really make our church so great. What makes our church great is the people, and the love that you all have for one another. This has come through so abundantly clear in such a time as this.
I know that the technology adjustment has not been easy, and I know that there are hiccups and things that don’t work quite right. I know that you have been working hard to figure things out—and I am so glad that we can figure this all out together with such grace.
Your response to the need for giving to continue has been amazing. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I did expect our church to have a very difficult financial season. And because of you, that has not yet happened. So many continued giving, some made extra gifts if they were able to do so, and this has helped us to be able to meet our commitments to our staff, and has allowed us to continue to maintain our building for when we are able to gather again. I don’t know how long this will go on and I don’t know how the length of it will impact financial situations for everyone, but for right now, I am so incredibly grateful for your response, for everyone doing what they can.
So, thank you. I’m grateful to be here, and grateful to be your pastor.
With deep and abiding love,
The Rev. Matthew J. van Maastricht
Pastor and Teacher