I grew up going to Children’s Chapel. Each Sunday I remember following the cross into the chapel of our church with all the other children, and then singing and praying with a group of children, and then later returning to the “big church” to receive communion at the rail alongside everyone else. The lessons I learned in both places, in the community of children and in being part of an inter-generational community of people striving to follow Jesus, shaped my life in profound ways.
I found my place in the church because I found a community who loved and supported me as a young person, and I came to know people who were looking out for one another in Christ’s name. The song I remember singing most frequently in children’s chapel was “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
And as I have been welcomed into St. Barnabas these past few months, that tune keeps running through my head:
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
and we pray that all unity will one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
In a world that is increasingly divisive and polarized, St. Barnabas has cultivated a community of love.
You have shown up for each other week after week, on Zoom, online, and in person. You have reached out to each other with notes and phone calls and porch drops of all kinds.
And as we longed to be back in physical community together all of you have worn masks faithfully Sunday after Sunday as an outward and visible sign of the love you have for one another.
I have heard new members comment on how safe our community has felt and how respectful and caring our congregation has been as we have navigated these uncharted waters.
And now, we find ourselves at what is hopefully a turning point in our pandemic life. Case counts are below 10 per 100,000 and the positivity rate in Hamilton County is 3.8%.
The CDC has lifted the indoor mask mandate. Our diocesan Covid Taskforce has given us permission to make masks optional, though masks are still recommended when interacting with children under 5 years old.
I believe we are ready as a community to make masks optional once again.
I know that this news will be met by rejoicing for some of you who were ready months ago for this decision and some of our members are still rightfully concerned for their health or that of their children.
As we know, young children under 5 cannot yet be vaccinated and we have members of our community who are immunocompromised.
So, as we move forward, please know that masks are still welcome, not just for yourself but as an ongoing sign of love for our families with young children and friends struggling with health issues.
Please note: At least for this coming Sunday, we will continue to require masks for children attending Church School while we discuss ways to help keep our young children, who are unable to be vaccinated, healthy.
It may be that we keep a mask in our pocket or hand and if we are in conversation or near someone who clearly prefers masking that we can put our mask on as a sign of respect and care for that person.
At the same time, like you, I am eager to see your smiles and to share coffee and dinners and meals together as a community. So we will be gathering for coffee hour and our upcoming Lenten Series which includes dinner. You may want to stop by church during the week and have a cup of coffee with a friend again.
This coming Sunday, we will baptize a new young member of our church at the 10 a.m. service.
As we gather around the font, and offer our blessing and proclaim God’s love for this child, I ask that all of us continue to think about ways we can love our neighbor as ourselves.
What have we learned through these past years about what love looks like? How do we walk side by side honoring each other and being one in Christ? What acts of love might God invite us to in this new season?
I look forward to our journey ahead and to continuing to share God’s love with one another in new ways.