SCC AND COVID-19


Information and Updates

Overwhelmed

and the pain of Ikea furniture

I cried today. 

Sitting in my room trying to put together a closet from Ikea with a million tiny pieces and directions that makes as much sense as hieroglyphic, I lost it. I couldn’t make a piece go where the stick figure man was pointing and the tears started to fall, big fat, red faced, snotty nose kind of tears. When I finally calmed down due to some very attentive puppies, I realized that while Ikea furniture could drive any person to tears, it wasn’t really why I was crying.

Today is the first day since our community was struck by COVID-19 that I have had moment to breathe. The past weeks were like riding the waves of a hurricane, swimming  as fast as I could to deal with the changing tides and incoming waves. As it turns out, pastoring a church during a pandemic is not covered in seminary. Trying to figure out how to do ministry without being with people, how to connect people, how to become a tech master in days, how to deal with an 80% drop in giving now that people aren’t attending in the building on Sundays… how to balance work concerns with my concerns for my parents and extended family members, many of whom have conditions that make them highly vulnerable to this disease. It has been difficult. Having spoken with many of you, I know I am not the only one feeling overwhelmed.

If I am honest it feels more often than not as though I am failing. Failing all of you, failing my family, failing myself, failing at building a closet. Like somehow I should be able to do all of this better. Do more. And I am afraid. I am afraid for my loved ones and all of you. Afraid for our economy. Afraid for my sister who is an ER doctor. Afraid for our church and its financial future if we have to stay out of our building for an extended length of time. Afraid for mission partners who may not receive the funding they need or who might find themselves unable to continue without volunteers.

My go to when things get tough or I get anxious and scared  is to do, to achieve, to fix. But this pandemic cannot be fixed by me. I cannot work us out of it or the accompanying problems it will bring. I cannot control this and I hate that. No matter how much content I create or how introspective a sermon I write – people are still going to suffer.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Israelites and Moses as they fled the Egyptians. They found themselves trapped on the edge of the Red Sea, watching as impending disaster and death raced towards them. They lashed out at Moses, why have you brought us here to die? The people wanted something to do, wanted Moses to do something; but instead Moses replied  “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

You only have to keep still.

Easier said than done when you feel like your life and  the life of your people is on the line. But maybe in this time it is an important reminder that there are some battles we cannot fight alone. That it is okay to rest in a God who will fight on our behalf. That maybe we don’t have to use every second of this time to teach our kids five new languages or 3 new skills. We don’t have to use this time to clean our homes perfectly or cook gourmet meals. We don’t have to be more productive because we are home more hours. We don’t have “to do” ourselves to death trying to regain some semblance of control.  That it is okay if we simply be still and rest in God. If we wait for God to show us the way instead of trying to solve all of problems ourselves. If we need to cry out to God for help.

Like the Israelites, I truly believe with God’s help we will get to the other side. The waves won’t crush us, we will not drown. And I wonder what our story will be on the other side. Hopefully one of kindness, generosity, love, and faith. One full of acts of bravery and sacrifice, helping our neighbors and becoming better people and better followers of Jesus.

But today I cried, and that is okay too. 

Thank God.

- Pastor Brenna

Into the Dark

Update on Campus Closures

Dear friends, the past few weeks have been strange and overwhelming to say the least. We have watched our world change right before our eyes in profound ways and with no clear path back to normal. When I was working for the Red Cross we often spoke of the “new normal” after a disaster. A recognition that in the wake of life changing events, normal as we once knew it no longer exists, but that a new version of normal can be found once again. 
 
We are currently entering in to our new normal here at SCC. The guidance from the CDC and King County Health, along with the Governor’s mandates have made it clear that our campus closure will need to go on for longer than we had hoped. We wish we could tell you exactly when we will  be able to gather as a family once more, but the truth is we don’t know. That is why tonight Session voted to suspend on campus worship indefinitely. This does not mean worship is cancelled! We will still be worshiping together every Sunday until we can meet in person again and staying connected to one another. In fact, over the next few days you can be looking for information on live bible studies coming next week, recorded children’s lessons from Esther, ways to connect with each other, and more!

It is my belief that over the next months we will be called to live into what I am calling the 3 F’s: Faith, Flexibility, and Fortitude. Times will be challenging. They will be stressful. They might cause us to question God and each other. But as people of the cross we are called to endure, to know that God is with us. In one of my favorite quotes from Lord of the Rings, Frodo turns to Gandalf and says “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. In replay Gandalf says to him “ So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”
  
We all wish this was not happening in our time, but it is. What we can do is decide how we will respond. I know that each of you will rise to occasion as you emboldened by the holy spirit. I have already seen so much good, so much more than the will of evil in all of you and how you are caring for each other and the wider community.

Finally, many of us take Psalm 23 for granted, but in a time like this it is good to remember the truth shared within it: 
 
The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
 he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths 
for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff— they protect me.
You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.

God is our shepherd and he is with us even in the darkest valley. We are not alone. We will be together again.

On Being Kind

In  A Time of Fear

Fear and anxiety are powerful things.  They can turn an otherwise kind, centered, human into something that is unrecognizable. These emotions have a way of bringing out the worst in us, or worse yet, being used to excuse the worst in us as we hurt others. In the past few weeks I have been saddened to see this happen again and again as people lash out in fear over CoVid-19. Even among Christians I have seen and heard things that grieve my heart.
 
A few days ago, I made the unfortunate mistake of going on the NextDoor website recently where I saw people advocating for yelling at people on the bus who had a cough or shaming people in their office who have a runny nose. Every day this week I have seen people on Facebook say cruel things about strangers, indulging in racist and xenophobic behavior. People have even been beaten up in the street for appearing sick. I, too have experienced the ugly side of this fear unfortunately. The other day I received a rude, anonymous, and accusing letter here at the church. A person angry with me for being at the church while coughing. Rather than approach me with their concerns in a way that could foster communication and reconciliation, instead I am left to wonder who would be so unkind and unwilling to simply speak to me directly. For many who have other, underlying health conditions, the past few weeks have been trying as people take out their own anxieties on us. I, personally, had a sinus infection back in early January that led to bronchitis, that led to asthma being triggered and long weeks of coughing. Even knowing I was not contagious, I had been visiting the doctor weekly, had my blood checked, x rays taken… all to be told that I just had to wait the cough out basically. In the meantime, where many people have been kind and understanding, a few have not, and those sadly, are the ones that stick. Luckily my years as a pastor have given me a thick skin but for many others, that is not so...  
 
This is not okay.
 
Obviously, we all know that anyone who is infected with CoVid-19 should be self-quarantining. However, we do not know what other underlying conditions a person is dealing with; allergies, asthma, a cold - the list goes on and on. We do not know if a person is one paycheck away from losing their home, not being able to feed their child, or losing it all. We do not know the weight of the choices that others must make every day.
 
While we may be afraid, we are not excused from how we treat others. As people of God we are called to rise above our circumstances to continue to follow Jesus and his call on our life no matter what. In the face of CoVid-19 and a pandemic we are still called to love our enemies and our neighbors. We are still called to be kind. We are still called to guard our tongues. We are still called to spread the Good News. We are still called to peacemakers and reconcilers. We are still called to care for the poor. We are still called to worship God.
 
When I am scared or feeling anxious, I find a great deal of comfort in Psalm 46:
 
God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble. That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.
There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city, the holiest dwelling of the Most High. God is in that city. It will never crumble. God will help it when morning dawns. Nations roar; kingdoms crumble. God utters his voice; the earth melts. The Lord of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety. 
Come, see the Lord’s deeds, what devastation he has imposed on the earth—bringing wars to an end in every corner of the world, breaking the bow and shattering the spear, burning chariots with fire.
“Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world! The Lord of heavenly forces is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety.
 
God is still God even in the face of a pandemic. God is still God in the face of our fear. God is still God in your concerns for your life. God is still God in your care for your children. God is still God in the very presence of death. God is still with us.
 
While there are many things we cannot control about CoVid-19 and life in general, we can control ourselves and the way we treat others, the way we choose to live out the gospel each and every day and in every interaction we have. As followers of Jesus, fear is not an excuse to shirk our duties to one another. I pray that as the weeks stretch on we would remember our identity as children of God, and extend the peace and grace of Jesus Christ to all those we encounter, no matter how scared we might be.

34 “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
 
In Christ,
Pastor Brenna

Walking on Water

SCC Campus Closure Updates: 3/11/20

Dear Friends, 

I hope this post finds you well, please know that you are in our staff’s hearts and prayers. One of the more frustrating things for many of us in this crisis is that information is so fluid. What we know and what is going to happen seems to change from second to second. It makes it hard for people to plan, to find some sense of calm in the midst of the storm. Here at SCC we find ourselves feeling tossed by the waves more often than not, unsure of what the best way forward to calmer waters is at any given moment. I imagine this is what Peter felt when walking on the water towards Jesus. Unsure, unbalanced, thinking he would sink at any moment, and yet longing to follow the voice that called him. 

It is for these reasons that our Session is taking it week by week when it comes to announcing campus closures for the coming Sunday. We are committed to deciding by 9pm the proceeding Wednesday so that you can plan. 

For this week, our Session has decided to continue with our closure Sunday March 15th, as we try and be good neighbors to the more vulnerable populations among us. We know this a disappointment to many of you, we too long to be back together worshiping God, but we hope you will take advantage of our home worship resources that will be made available this week. If you missed last week’s, we invite you to check it out here

One of the unseen dangers of social distancing is the way in which loneliness and disconnection can wear on the human soul and mind. In times like this it is important to remember that we are family, a community - we are called to care for one another. We want to encourage you to reach out to friends, small group members, anyone that crosses your mind. Send a card, give a call, grab an appreciably distanced cup of coffee...

Make it a goal that when we are finally back together you don't need to catch up because you have stayed in contact with each other. That new families and people want to come and worship with us because they saw how you cared for others in trying times. 

If you need an ear or a just a person to talk to, reach out to the staff, we are here to walk through this with you. 

A friendly reminder that even when you are absent from the building, we still rely on your support to help our mission partners and to continue serving God through SCC. If you haven’t tithed this week, you can do it here! 

In Christ,

- Pastor Brenna

SCC Campus Closure

Sunday March 8th, 2020

Dear friends and members,
It is with a great deal of prayer and consideration that Session has decided to cancel services at the SCC campus this coming Sunday, March 8th. Please know this is not a decision we made lightly. Worshiping God with you every Sunday is the highlight of our week and we take seriously the importance of community and corporate worship. 

However, we are also striving to love our neighbors and be good stewards in the midst of our community’s concerns and COVID-19 outbreak. Having spoken with King County Health and our Presbytery leadership, along with other pastors in the area, it seems prudent to cancel events on campus this week out of an abundance of caution and to help city health officials. 

Our hope is that as people of faith we can trust God and model Christ in our response to our community’s need. Part of what makes SCC so special is our connection to one another and the way in which our community connects over food, fellowship, worship and gathering together – all things that we look forward to doing again soon by the grace of God. In this time of being absent from one another’s presence we encourage you to reach out on the phone, online, in a text- just because we are not physically present doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. 

This Sunday, we want to encourage you not think of it as a day off from church, but a day to worship with your family. If you are not already a member of our Facebook page we strongly suggest you join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/seattlechurch/. We will be posting music, prayers, a short sermon, our online giving options, and our children’s materials for the week there for your access, as well as on the website. It is also a place to stay connected to other members and get the most up-to-date information as we have it.

In times where we are feeling anxious and afraid, worshiping God is a discipline we are called to practice faithfully as people who believe in the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Please worship with us digitally this Sunday as one body and one family and we can’t wait to see you face to face again soon. 

In Christ, 
Pastor Brenna 

A Prayer in the Midst of Anxiety

God the Father, your will for all people is health and salvation; we praise and thank you, O Lord. 
God the Son, you came that we might have life and have it abundantly; we praise and thank you, O Lord.
God the Holy Spirit, you make our bodies the temple of your presence; we praise and thank you, O Lord
Holy Trinity, one God, in you we live and move and have our being; we praise and thank you, O Lord. 
Lord, grant your healing grace to all who are sick, injured, or disabled, that they may be made whole; hear us, O Lord of life. 
Grant to all who seek your guidance, and to all who are lonely, anxious, or despondent, a knowledge of your will and an awareness of your presence; hear us, O Lord of life. 
Mend broken relationships, and restore those in emotional distress to soundness of mind and serenity of spirit; hear us, O Lord of life
Bless physicians, nurses, and all others who minister to the suffering, granting them wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience; hear us, O Lord of life
Grant to the dying peace and a holy death, and uphold by the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit those who are bereaved; hear us, O Lord of life
Restore to wholeness whatever is broken by human sin, in our lives, in our nation, and in the world; hear us, O Lord of life. 
You are the Lord who does wonders: you have declared your power among the peoples. With you, O Lord, is the well of life: and in your light we see light. 
Hear us, O Lord of life: heal us, and make us whole. 

Remaining Calm and Being Wise 

Thinking through church and disease 

At the moment our church, region, country, and world is facing a new virus. In the face of the unknown many people find themselves filled with anxiety, fear, and panic. We want you to know that we are praying for you during this time. Here at SCC we are moving forward with a sense of caution moderated by faith. 

In times like this we are reminded that every day is a gift from God, and that while we have a tendency to think that we can control our life and wellness;  illness, death, pain, and loss are all part of a broken world, one that we cannot hide from, even when we try. 

However, scripture reminds us we are not alone.  No matter how bad it seems, evil, death, and destruction are not the end of the story.  The resurrection of Jesus brings with it the promise that even from the ashes of death and loss, life can and does come. A phone call or even a kind word – each brings with it a speck of light in the midst of seemingly overwhelming darkness.

If you are feeling particularly scared or overwhelmed right now we want to encourage you to reach out. Don't walk through this fear alone. Our staff are here to lend an ear, call a friend, a therapist, a medical professional - anyone who might be able to journey with you and help give you a bit more peace of mind. 

For now, until we get directives from King County Public Health or the CDC, we will continue to hold services and meetings as normal. Below you will find a few changes you can expect and some helpful guidelines for coming to church during an illness outbreak.

Please know you are in our prayers and that the staff is keeping a close eye on official, verified medical information as it is being released. 

In Christ,
Pastor Brenna  

3/5/2020 

Hi Friends! I hope this email finds you well. I know that many of you are currently experiencing a great deal of anxiety as you hear about more cases of COVID-19 occuring in our area.  It is during times of fear and anxiety that our faith can find itself  being tested and yet, even in the midst of fear, we are still called to be followers of Jesus.
 
Throughout the ages, the Church has been on the forefront of outbreaks and illnesses, caring for those among us who are the most vulnerable. While we advise that you use common sense and caution during these times, we also pray that we would remember our neighbors  and our calling to love them as we love ourselves. If you  are not in a high risk category, this can mean asking yourself if you really need 10 bottles of hand sanitizer before you buy out the remaining stock of a store, or asking yourself if you have elderly friends or neighbors you  can buy groceries for, or if there are people who need help with child care now that certain schools are shut and they can’t afford to take time off. When we consider our whole community and the needs of others rather than letting fear drive us into a sense  of desperation and self-protection, we proclaim the Kingdom of God in powerful ways.
 
That said, we want to encourage you to make choices for yourself and your family that easy your fear and bring you peace of mind. I have been in close and continual contact with King County Health and pastors of churches throughout the region as we talk about  what to cancel and what to keep going regarding church services and meetings. Right now, we are clear to continue holding Sunday Services and will do so until further guidance changes. However, if you are concerned, we invite you to remain home and not feel  guilty. We understand that each of us has a differing level of risk and anxiety in regard to illness and Co-Vid 19 and respect any of the choices that you and your family make. That said, if you are sick, we ask that you stay home and take the time to heal  before coming back to Church.
 
Please know that you are in the prayers of myself, the staff, and the session elders constantly and that we will communicate any changes or updates we receive with you as soon we receive them. I look forward to seeing some of you Sunday and others in the coming  weeks as you feel safe.
 
In Jesus,
Pastor Brenna
 
A Few Notes:

  • If you are in a high risk category and there is anything we can do a church family to help you, please let us know! 
  • The church has been sanitized with Bleach and Lysol, including pews/door handles/children’s places/ and tables, etc.
  • During passing of the peace we will not be shaking hands, we suggest a wave or simply a greeting.
  • We will not be actively passing the offering on Sunday, instead we will have stationary drop off places or we encourage you to use online giving.
  • Please continue to give faithfully even if you do choose to self-quarantine and not attend. We cannot continue to serve God without your support!
  • All food preparation will be done with gloves and served by prescreened volunteers to reduce touching.
  • The share table is closed until further notice.
  • If you want to watch the sermon they are posted Tuesday afternoons on Youtube
  • Our children’s program has an app that can keep you and your kids up-to-date on what their friends are learning about from Teacher Esther is you can’t make it. 
  • We have access to online Lenten devotionals if you want to study at home

Guidelines for SCC 

Regarding COVID-19 and contagious diseases 

Attending Services

If you or your children are sick please stay home

God won't be mad, we promise! If you or your child has had a fever, flu-like symptoms, or other illnesses, please stay home until you have been symptom free for 72 hours or tested by a doctor. This is something we should all be doing anyways, as it is flu season. 

Travel

Follow state department and CDC guildelines 

If you are traveling out of country we ask that you follow national guidelines for self- quarantine and not attend SCC functions until that time is up. 

Passing the Peace

Using caution

During our traditional passing of the peace, we are asking that you forgo the usual handshake and hug. Instead, try an elbow bump, a wave, or simply a fun greeting. 

Hygiene

Being smart and basic tips

Make sure you are washing your hands with soap and hot water often. We suggest before and after service, as well as any time you use the restroom. Hand sanitizer is only effective if it is 60% alcohol or higher so double check yours. We have bottles throughout the church for your use. 

As for our breakfast and lunch service, we will be requiring those preparing food to be healthy and wear gloves, and will be serving food for the foreseable future. We ask that if you are not actively helping with either meal that you stay out of the kitchen.

Missing a Sunday

How to stay connected 

If you choose to stay home on Sunday, or if you are sick and cannot attend, we have ways for you to stay connected. We do not have live streaming, and won't for the forseeable future, but we do post the sermon every Tuesday on our Youtube channel. We also send out our 2 weekly newsletters that we suggest you subscribe to. Right now we are going through a new series and have 2 books that you can read along with us if you want to keep learning while at home. Also, if you have children in our program, there is an app you can download that will give you the topic and lesson that the kids are studying that week so you and your child can do a home study. Finally, if you want a Lenten devotional to help you through the season we have them available! Email Pastor Brenna for access to any of these items.

Giving

Awkward but necessary

We depend on faithful giving from our members and attenders to continue operating. Many times when people don't attend services they forget to give ( it's okay!) but we are asking that if you choose to stay home you take advantage of one of our online giving options to continue to support God's work through SCC. We have Text to Give, Pay Pal, direct deposit and more options here. Also, on Sundays we will not be passing collection bags, instead we will ask you to put your offering in baskets located near the back of the sanctuary, or use any of our online giving options. 

Building Care

We continue to sanitize our building with bleach and lysol, both CDC approved for killing COVID-19. This includes all door handles, light switches, hard surfaces, pews, bathrooms, tables, kitchen, children's areas, play equiptment, and high chairs.