First Presbyterian Church of Merrillville
Sunday, December 05, 2021
Go and Make Disciples!

Rev. Anderson is also the Pastor at Dyer Presbyterian Church.

The year 2020 was like no other year that any of us have ever experienced and certainly like no other year in the life of our church. I remember very vividly making the decision in March to cancel the worship service as the result of the COVID-19 virus that was spreading in our midst. I thought we might cancel for a Sunday and then resume the next Sunday by using the proper precautions. The cancelation lasted over two months. We then decided to meet again on May 31st and have continued to meet every Sunday since then. We did miss one Sunday out of an abundance of caution because of possible exposure to the virus. We have been extremely pleased with the response of the congregation to the measures we have adopted to ensure the safety of the each member. Everyone has been willing to wear masks and socially-distance from each other during this time.

 

The pandemic restrictions meant that we have had to do some new things, stop doing other things, and try to adapt what we can do while adhering to the safety procedures that were put in place. The most important change was video recording of all of our services. We had to find the right video equipment for our needs, as well as determining the right access so that our members could easily view the services. This has been the most difficult and challenging aspect of having to adapt to the pandemic and its restrictions. 

 

We have been extremely blessed by the response of the congregation to our ongoing financial needs. When we shut down in March, April and May we were uncertain about the impact to our financial situation. The congregation quickly relieved our concerns by responding generously and consistently with their financial support. We are extremely pleased and overwhelmed by their response and we want to thank everyone for their support. It is important to know that we do not take this lightly and really appreciate the response of the church.

 

The ministry of Feeding The Flock has also been effected by the pandemic as we had to shut down our Saturday meals until the end of July in order support required restrictions and to provide a safe environment for those serving the meals as well as those being served. We are also dependent on the support of the partner churches which has been sporadic and continues to waver. We thought it necessary to resume operations so that the ministry would continue and not be hindered by a longer closure and difficult restart. This meant we had to make adjustments so we have not been serving dine-in meals but drive-thru and inside carry-out service only. We received permission from the health department to do this and it has worked very well, both when we did the drive through in the parking lot and now when we have them walk in and carry out. We have had to shut down for January and February due to a lack of support from the partner congregations but we hope to resume in March and believe that the congregations will be more supportive in the coming months especially in light of an available vaccine.

 

Our Christian education program had to be canceled across the board beginning in March. The Lenten bible study was stopped abruptly as well as the Passover Seder meal that we had scheduled for Palm Sunday evening. Our weekly bible study was suspended and then resumed in September. We did not have a fall bible study series because of the pandemic but we will be resuming our full educational program beginning with our Lenten study on Ash Wednesday. All of our study programs will be video recorded and available for the congregation. We also hope to be able to do some different and creative programs with the video recording possibilities.

Our worship service has remained essentially the same with a few minor adjustments. The most important was in our practice of Holy Communion. We receive the sacrament in a self-contained cup with wafer in order to be safe. This is not an ideal way of doing Holy Communion but it is a necessary adaption to our trying circumstances. We look forward to the day when we will celebrate the feast with the one bread and one cup. 

 

The pandemic has had a number of unintended consequences in terms of our life together. It has reminded us and reinforced the biblical notion that Christianity is a corporate experience and best lived in community. The Greek word that is used in the New Testament for church, ecclesia, means “gathered ones”. In other words, the New Testament idea of the church is a family gathered together in fellowship that is formed by Jesus and lives for Jesus as brothers and sisters in Christ. This means that we care for one another as members of our family, the family of Christ, and support one another by celebrating together and suffering together.   We have suffered together during this past year and look forward to being able to celebrate together in the coming year.

 

It is evident that our members love their church. They have demonstrated this by their support, concern for one another and their great desire to see one another. It is our hope that this terrible virus will be eliminated from our community and the face of the earth. Pray God that it will be so. We also pray that God will bless our congregation, lead us into greater faithfulness and unify us in our desire to serve Christ and one another, in the advancement of the Christ’s great Kingdom and to the glory of God.

 
Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory)
 
Rev. Paul R. Anderson, Pastor