From our beginnings, Woodlawn Chapel Presbyterian Church has held its doors open wide to all of God’s people. Many of us remember the warm and genuine welcome we experienced when we first attended Woodlawn Chapel—a welcome enhanced by these words, often repeated in worship:
Whoever you are, or are not,
Wherever you have been,
Or wherever you are going,
You are welcome here.
Welcoming of all people has been part of our congregational DNA ever since our chartering families banded together to form the church. This encourages me to think about two important ways our mission continues during the pandemic.
First, our virtual worship has served an important purpose and has also attracted a wide-variety of persons from across our area and even across the country. Our attendance has actually grown since we have been live streaming worship. Last week, in fact, more than 209 people “attended” worship online. This is an encouraging number, and a reminder of why investments in technology are essential. Because it is unlikely that we will be in person anytime soon, we are exploring new and better ways to stay in touch. I’m open to suggestions you might have on how we can stay in touch. One important way that we’ll be staying in touch is by offering special Lenten packets which will be delivered to all church members. Special Lenten faith formation kids will be sent to families with children and youth. These packets will provide guided learning and spiritual growth activities that you can pursue on your own time.
Second, we know that our mission and witness as a church continues during Covid-19. Part of this means that we are learning to become a church which reflects the diversity of our community as well as a church that rejects racism. Our recently completed statistical report shows that our members are largely white and aging. As a welcoming congregation, we are learning what it means to welcome all in our community, including those of differing ethnicities and races. About 13% of Wildwood’s population is non-white. Even more interesting are statistics that show that the number of foreign-born persons in Wildwood is increasing. To enhance our mission, a group of members have formed an anti-racism learning and action team. We are reading about racism and praying about the steps we can take individually and as a church to dismantle the barriers between all God’s people. This group is open to all, and we invite you to join us on Tuesday evenings.
Woodlawn Chapel’s doors have remained open—even though the building may be closed. It is hard being the church during Covid-19. We miss seeing our friends. But God is with us – and God goes before us. Let us cling to that hope in our living, loving, and learning.
On February 14, we’ll celebrate the 22nd anniversary of my tenure as your pastor. I continue to rejoice in God’s call, and am thankful for the Spirit’s leading each season of our life together. God continues to bring us new challenges and opportunities! I guess that is what happens if we leave the doors open so that together we can become God’s beloved community.