Many years ago, I attended a continuing education event across the country. My return flight brought me home in the evening, and as we neared the airport, we heard those welcome words from the captain, “Flight attendants prepare the cabin for arrival.” As we were making our approach, something unusual happened. We banked. Ten minutes later we banked again. Then again. It was obvious we were in the proverbial “holding pattern.” I remember that experience very clearly. The anxiety among the passengers seemed to increase every second. Every time the plane banked, you could almost hear audible groans. We were all tired, we were all anxious to get home.
Holding patterns occur for one reason: safety. At some point during the day, there is a delay, usually due to weather. Arriving and departing flights start backing up. The only way to mitigate a back up is to patiently allow flights to arrive and depart as safely as possible. Delays are inevitable. Planes can’t land whenever they want to – they must do so, to borrow a timeless Presbyterian phrase, “decently, and in order.” Otherwise, it might lead to a disaster.
This past Tuesday during the July stated meeting, the session debated when or if we could safely resume in-person worship. The session was unanimous: we must continue with our holding pattern. Like planes waiting to land, this is about one thing: safety. With positive cases on the uptick, and churches, restaurants, and bars serving as the leading places where infection is occurring, the session does not wish to risk the safety of the congregation.
This is going to require continued patience on the part of the congregation. The health and well-being of each person is the number one concern of the session. We will return to in-person worship eventually, and it will be a glorious time. It is important to remember that no one suffers from virtual, on-line worship. But all of us could suffer if our in-person worship service turned out to be the source of an outbreak. The only way to ensure the level of safety we want and need is to stay in the holding pattern.
Personally, I want to applaud all of you. Over the last four months we have stayed connected through social media. We are checking up on one another and staying in touch. The Discipleship and Family Ministry committee is looking into how we can help families teach their children more about faith in Christ. We continue to feed the homeless and the food insecure on a regular basis. And of course, we are worshiping every week, albeit virtually.
Throughout all of it, the congregation has been faithful with their giving! Well done!
Again, be patient. I promise, when it is safe to do so, we will land this plane!