October 31, 2020
Dear Siblings in Christ,
Grace and peace be with you all in the name of God, our guiding hand and our firm foundation.
We are moving into our 8th month of these uncharted pandemic waters. It is hard to even find words to express all that we have traversed together in the past few months. Life is coming at us so fast and furious all we can seem to manage is to hold on tight.
And yet, I have seen astonishing beauty as well. I have seen All Peoples show up in our neighborhood with a reignited intensity; gathering around a food truck, delivering masks, finding ways to spread love even when it’s hard. I have seen All Peoples rise up to meet the rapidly growing food insecurity of our neighbors by gathering donations, sorting and sharing 3 times as many food bags each week, and by encouraging folks to take produce to share with their family or neighbor unable to stop by the produce table. I have seen this community proclaim love of God and neighbor as we worship online, protest in the streets, and march to the polls. The Holy Spirit is moving in this place in new and exciting ways, turning challenge and pain into hope for a brighter future.
In the midst of this complicated mix of emotions, I wanted to update you on decision making processes and efforts that have been happening within the church council and All Peoples staff. As I’m sure you are aware, the number of COVID cases continues to rise in Wisconsin. We anticipate seeing increased restrictions on gatherings in Milwaukee in an effort to regain control of these numbers that rival what we were seeing in May. After prayerful consideration, leaning on leaders in medical and faith communities including our own Synod, our church council has decided to continue with online worship services through February. At our council meeting that month, we will again reassess what will be the safest way for us to gather as the people of God.
There are a couple of particularly challenging implications of this pandemic reality:
- We will not be gathering in our usual capacity for Advent or Christmas worshiping this year.
- Our feeding ministries will not be able to gather inside in the winter months as we are accustomed.
If you are anything like me, both of these things feel like a blow to my body and my spirit. I promise you that neither was taken lightly and is held alongside a lot of grief for staff and council. We are committed to continue to make sure all are fed in body and spirit. We are committed to continue to create opportunity to gather together to worship and praise God. All Peoples is by no means closed!
This has not stopped us from doing what we at All Peoples do best; pivoting toward solutions and new possibilities to love God and neighbor. We have already started to lean into our Advent theme this year: “Those Who Dream”. We are on the look out for the ways the Holy Spirit is showing up and expanding our vision of faith, our vision of the church, and our vision of God’s own self. While these plans have not been solidified perfectly yet, here are a few of the different pieces that are being discussed and considered:
- Advent Dream Bags: Kits filled with goodies for each All Peoples household to spend this coming season dreaming, praying, and wondering just what Love Incarnate will look like this year.
- Deck the Streets: We can’t decorate inside, so our Christmas joy is going to spill into the streets with colorful lights, messages of hope and truth, and the promise of a love that is born into our world and cannot be stopped.
- Caroling and Cocoa: We will be exploring ways that we can spread some Christmas cheer to members/friends and enjoy our favorite Christmas songs while not risking COVID spread with a big singing group. Its gonna be a challenge but we are still excited for it!
- Online Blue Christmas Worship: A chance to gather together with a few other congregations to notice both the light and the dark of this season. A perfect place to gather if Christmas this year is holding additional pain and grief.
- Candlelight and Communion: In the stillness of Christmas Eve, we will still be gathering outside the church building for a very brief moment to be united in the holiness of candle-lit faces, the sweet melody of Silent Night, and the power of Holy Communion.
Again, this is just a little snapshot to give you a little glimmer of how the Spirit is moving at All Peoples. In the coming weeks there will be a lot more details to be shared about all of these pieces. We will keep you well informed so that you are able to participate as fully as possible. If you haven’t already signed up for our weekly newsletter, I highly suggest doing that as you will be sure not to miss any important announcements.
Even with all of these new possibilities, there is still grief. Advent and Christmas will not look like they have in years past. There will most definitely be something held dear to you that will fall short of its usual fabulousness. Please know that you are always invited to share these laments with me and with God. They are holy and important. And even when it all feels wrong, the Love of God is going to take on flesh and be born by the wrong people, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. This same Love will continue to break through the places of ‘wrong’ in our world, reminding us that nothing can stop of the Love of God!
With you in the dream and promised Love,
Pastor Lindsey Beukelman