I pray you have recently seen God’s presence, even in the soupy humidity of a midwestern summer. I deeply hope that you are doing well physically, emotionally, and spiritually – at least as well as we all can be. We are all doing the best we can to find our way through this experience together, and I give thanks to God for each of you, and the ways you have creatively and compassionately stuck with one another, cared for your neighbors, and stood with your faith community.
I see God’s presence each and every time I see your name pop up on a comment of the worship experience on Facebook and our website. I see God’s presence when I receive a card of prayers for my family and their health concerns. I see God’s presence when our OPCC Food Pantry and OPCC Coronavirus Committee continue to share resources with our wider community in need. I see God’s presence every time our OPCC leadership meet virtually to discern next steps and what these coming months at OPCC look like.
As OPCC looks to our future, our OPCC Board named a task force to help guide these decisions. Dr. Kathy Kinder, Emerson Hartzler, Alan Felton, and Lee Sprinkle have faithfully considered best practices as advised by public health policies, other worshiping communities, and our local authorities. Your OPCC Board also continues to meet virtually for its regular monthly meetings, along with additional weekly check-ins to stay abreast of ever-changing information. This task force along with our OPCC Board and staff, we togetherrecommend continuing our physically distant, but spiritually connected, community through the end of November 2020.
Whew. I had to take a deep breath just writing that. Through November?
This decision was not made lightly; it was regular prayerful discernment that encouraged us to stop waiting for when we get “do things the way we used to,” and instead move forward in hopeful expectation, together.
Beginning August 3, our church will revisit the Unraveled worship theme that we used in September. These six NEW stories of Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart, certainly seems relevant these days! When the world around us has unraveled into strands, when we lay threadbare, vulnerable, and anxious about what it means to be church when we can’t be at the church building, we need a word of hope woven into our lives. Not only do these stories in our Bible remind us of the hope found even when their Biblical world Unraveled, these stories remind us that the hopeful question has never been “how do we go back?” The hopeful, faithful question has always been, “how do we move forward?”
The way that we move forward is rooted in our 70-year history of building and supporting community; OPCC will continue growing into the new future that God has planned for us, but our grief at being unable to worship as we were for the time being has prevented us from faithfully moving forward. Taking this bold step in continuing with a physically distant, but spiritually connected, community through November, and looking for this newness to which God is calling us for the rest of this year, is the most faithful response we can have.
There is a time, a period of acknowledgment and grief that there is no going back to the way that things were. Just like for the early church following Jesus crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, there’s no going back to what it was like to be with Jesus in Galilee. There is a time for grief, and a time to acknowledge the intensity of all that we’ve been through, but even with these moments of pause and reflection, we look forward with hope, because we know God continues to do a new thing within us, and continues to resurrect new life in completely unexpected ways.
The anxiety of “week-to-week” and “month-to-month” is incredibly taxing on staff and leadership, and this new approach allows for more creative energies to bring us together in new ways, rather than just waiting, waiting, waiting. Planning to worship as a physically distant, but spiritually connected community, into the future opens up the opportunities to explore more options as they safely and responsibility become possible:
- In-person, outside, socially-distant gatherings/worship might be organized
- Sharing and teaching of technology can make connection possible for those who had previously lacked those capabilities
- Drive-in worship experiences, reminiscent of our history become possible
- Physically distant, outdoor, congregational care or pastoral visits might be possible
Spending our energies on NEW ways of being with one another become possible when our energies are no longer spent worrying about getting back to the way we USED TO BE.
OPCC will continue with community life in phases, much like our county and state, only when safe and with precautions. It will not look the same, but we are still the Church, and we want the community to feel just as supportive and hopeful. This decision allows us to focus our energies on creating community that may be different in many ways, but also allows you to experience many of the familiar touchstones that make OPCC feel like home.
Stay tuned for more. The newsletter, emails, phone-trees, and virtual worship experiences will continue to keep you up to date on new opportunities and what’s happening at OPCC.
Please know that you are in my prayers, the prayers of the entire staff, our officers, elders, and deacons.
Please remember: We belong to God, and we belong to one another. Our ministry will continue to reflect this.
Blessings and perseverance,
Rev. Laura Ann Phillips, and The Leadership of Overland Park Christian Church
Barb Collins (Board 2017-2020)
Jon Bivens (Board 2017-2020)
Pat Gilling (Board 2018-2021)
Alan Felton (Board 2018-2021 & Task Force)
Theresa Krebs (Board 2019-2022)
Terri Bookless (Board 2019-2022)
Gretta Earnest (Board 2020-2023)
David Collins (Board 2020-2023)
Dr. Kathy Kinder (Task Force)
Emerson Hartzler (Task Force)
Lee Sprinkle (Task Force)