Letter From the Congregation's President on Reopening the Harrisena Sanctuary
God blessed Harrisena with so many things.
Every church face challenges, and this year included a pandemic. Harrisena responded by continuing our weekly services and Saturday Bible Study on-line, moving forward with our mission of supporting many local charities, initiating new ways to support our community through delivering weekly meals, re-inventing the chicken barbeque and continuing to expand ways to stay in contact with a prayer group, thoughtful phone calls, and gift bags.
And we accomplished all these things without our beautiful sanctuary!
My thanks to everyone who keeps us moving forward.
As we begin our 2020-21 Church Year, it is time to provide an update regarding in-person Sunday Services in our sanctuary. We understand everyone is eager to resume normal lives, including gathering for services in our sanctuary each Sunday.
Rev. Natalie, the Trustees, and I met this week to discuss whether opening our campus to outside groups and to in-person weekly services was possible and what would need to happen should we decide to move forward. In summary of these conversations, I am pleased to share that we believe we can worship together in person, as long as we understand and apply NYS/CDC guidelines to protect attendees from catching Covid-19. We also agreed that moving slowly is the safest path for Harrisena and our congregation.
The Trustees will provide the details of the new procedures we will be implementing. My thanks to everyone who stepped up and volunteered to help us keep our members safe.
As our lives begin to return to normal, I would like to propose we begin a conversation within our congregation. A conversation about what makes us Harrisena, and what this means for our future. In the past, it has been suggested that people come to Harrisena because of our beautiful sanctuary and Education buildings. While these are important aspects of our worship, clearly they are not essential as we were able to move forward without them over the past six months. So, what is it?
To guide our conversation, I would like to suggest we revisit the values of our Church that we publish on our weekly bulletins. The first value:
“At Harrisena, we believe diversity is a blessing.”
What does this value mean to me?
Mark 12, Verses 28 - 31
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[e] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[f] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.”
Praying and contemplating our first stated value, this scripture jumped into my mind. In this passage, Jesus sets these two commandments above all others. He does not place any qualifications on who should we love or what anyone needs to do to earn our love. First love God and then your neighbor as yourself. His words are both comforting and challenging.
It is comforting because I can expect to be loved, even if I am different or make mistakes.
It is challenging because this scripture asks us to let go, through love.
For me, understanding how this scripture empowers our stated value and provides guidance to our life at Harrisena, we need to think and discuss.
For me, embracing diversity as a core value one must offer love and acceptance to everyone regardless of any outward appearance, personal circumstance or religious philosophy. This means we need to love others even though we disagree with them or they do not look like us or they believe something we don’t like or accept.
It means letting go of judgment, the need to correct others or force them to do what we want them to do.
It means letting go of my need to micromanage my worship experience and be open to how others experience and worship God.
It means releasing my need to control everything and embrace openness to differing thoughts and ideas.
It also means freedom:
- I am free from the need to take control of everything.
- It means freedom from the need to judge others and be judged by them.
- It means freedom to celebrate our relationship with God together, with different views that enhance our understanding of this Being, not limit it.
It means learning to trust God and where he is taking me, my family, and our congregation.
What does this value mean to you?
As we prepare to reopen the sanctuary, make sure to send your RSVP by tomorrow at noon. Thank you so much.--
Out to Eat