Dear Members and Friends of Wayzata Community Church,
Today marks 4 weeks of physical and social separation… but we’ve already begun to see evidence that that doesn’t need to mean spiritual separation… either from God or from one another. I’m so proud of our staff and lay leaders…so inspired by your generosity and your grace… and I remain hopeful that our efforts will combine with people around the globe for the healing of the world.
Yesterday our Governor extended the Executive order to “stay or shelter at home” until Monday, May 4. Accordingly, our building will remain closed and all worship and programming moved to online platforms. That’s at least 4 more Sundays apart from one another—including this Sunday, Easter Sunday… the day of resurrection.
3 ½ more weeks of quarantine is no doubt disappointing to everyone, but in different ways. So let me take this chance to remind you of a critically important spiritual truth: OUR JOYS ARE DIFFERENT, BUT OUR PAIN IS THE SAME. That is to say regardless of the source or the form of our pain, we experience it universally in the same way. Loss is loss. Grief is grief. Pain is pain.
So, remember as you go about this life in all new ways… that EVERYONE is carrying something heavy… everyone is grieving that something has ended before they were ready for it to end… and that it’s not ultimately about WHAT we do… but how we do it, following in the way of Jesus — to love.
Speaking of following Jesus, today is Maundy Thursday. Our online worship experience will go Live at 7 p.m…. a powerful compilation of last year’s service in the Sanctuary. If you’ve never experienced this service before… have a candle, some bread and juice for communion, on hand… I’m certain you’ll be glad you did.
Our Good Friday service tomorrow, will also go Live at 7 p.m., as we remember the 7 last words of Jesus spoken from the cross.
Our Easter experiences are ALL online with our normal times and styles at 8, 9, and 10:45 a.m…. and of course the inspiration of Parables on their Facebook page at 10:30 a.m.
Finally… I’ll be somewhere on the shores of Lake Minnetonka at 6:30 a.m… so please don’t come to the Wayzata Beach. Our service will be Live online…and in compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order. So, if you want to experience WCC’s sunrise service this year, your best bet is to grab a cup of coffee, a comfy spot, a blanket, maybe a dog or two… and the laptop, tablet, or phone of your choice… and join me online.
Although the building is closed, our spirit remains open to what we are learning. Although events have been canceled, hope continues to burn in our hearts.And although we have been told to stay home, our hearts go out to a hurting world.We are in this together… the greatest most noble effort in the human endeavor: the healing of the world.
March 25, 2020
Just a few moments ago our governor asked us to “stay at home” beginning this Friday, March 27 at midnight. This elevates all of Minnesota to the next level of physical distancing and our church will fully comply… for in this moment, this is how we can best participate in the healing of our world. Following the CDC recommendation to adhere to local leadership and guidelines, WCC will NOT be planning any in-person gatherings at the church or elsewhere until further notice— including any of our Easter Sunday celebrations.
But once again I want to remind you that we can close the building, but we can’t ever close the church because WE are the church— you and me. In this time of physical disconnection, our commitment is to maintain and build new spiritual connection. Our priorities are these: to CARE, to COMMUNICATE, and to KEEP THE CHURCH RUNNING.
Our call to CARE is strong, particularly toward our vulnerable populations. A majority of our membership are elderly who may not even get this message and are living in isolation. We’re making an unprecedented effort to personally telephone EVERY household of the church, with special focus not only on the ailing and elderly, but also on those living with special needs. The opening line of our mission statement is to be a caring community— tonight, our first group of Caring Community Lay Ministers is continuing their training through in an online class… a group of 14 new caregivers ready to join our clergy in answering the call to care. If you, or someone you know, is in a moment of need, PLEASE call the church (952-473-8877) or go to our website today.
Second, is our commitment to COMMUNICATE. We will continue to focus on Sundays and Wednesdays as days when you can expect to hear from us. Sundays with online worship at all the normal times, and Wednesdays with a midweek message of inspiration and information. Thanks to the quick thinking of our staff, we were able to get way out ahead of social distancing and record enough original content to bring you fresh and new online experiences for several weeks— including those of Holy Week beginning on Palm Sunday, April 5.
Part of what it means to care AND communicate in a time such as this is to be creative. All of our ministry areas are working hard to connect with and reinforce people’s sense of belonging— each in their own age-appropriate ways. I hope you’ll access and engage in those creative, online ways for us to BE the church.
Finally, after we’ve done all WE can to CARE and COMMUNICATE, we need all of YOU… to keep the church running. Like many of you, we’re learning as we go— like building an airplane while we’re flying it. If this church mattered to the world before all this happened, I have to believe it matters even more NOW… and in the days to come. If you have any margin of health and wealth, please keep your giving current or increase as others are forced to decrease, so that our ministries aren’t diminished in this time of growing needs.
You know, I’ve really been missing my mom a lot lately. When things were scary or hard or unknown, she always had the right thing to say. Whenever we were apart from one another as a family, like we all are right now… she’d always say, “Remember the Wheel” and we knew immediately what she meant. She told us our family was like a wheel with spokes that joined together in the middle… at the hub. She reminded us that when we keep God at the center of our lives— the hub— then the closer we were to God, the closer we would be to one another…. So, as our time apart intensifies and extends… I would say to you: Remember the WHEEL… stay close to God and we will remain close to one another— no matter the distance.
As the sign out front of our church shines for all to see: We are IN THIS TOGETHER… Be well.
March 18, 2020
Insight from Rev. Dr. John F. Ross
Last Wednesday, less than a week ago, we were still actively planning for worship as usual, with just a few changes like no hugs/handshakes, no Communion, offerings collected at the doors… but things began to change rapidly. By Thursday morning, believing that the church should lead in moments of crisis, we made the hard decision to cancel in-person worship, offering online worship only. That decision was hard because in times of trouble people have always flocked TO church— not away from the church— for comfort, care, and for community. But in that moment, the right thing was to stay away…and it still is.
So, we got to work imagining what an online worship experience might look like… and I hope you found it to be a meaningful way to stay connected with each other and with God. Our online worship remains available on our website and Facebook page. We watched in real time on Sunday morning the closure of schools and universities… hospitals and nursing homes… next were restaurants and bars, and a CDC-recommended restriction of any gathering of 50 or more people… for 8 weeks… so we did the next right thing, and closed our building until Monday, March 30.
I’ve often said that clarity of vision drives clarity of response… but right now clarity of vision is in short supply, so our clarity of response is clouded. Even so, here’s what I can tell you about what’s next in our response:
First, Staff and lay leaders are working remotely, and a core group of Staff and Pastors are taking turns being in the building for essential activities to keep the church running. Our pastoral efforts are continuing with the same intention and effort as ever before.
Second, EVERY household of our church family will receive a telephone call in the next several days. We think it’s more important than ever to stay connected and to reinforce our sense of belonging. We look forward to checking in with each other.
Third, our ministry team is hard at work creatively imagining ways to keep serving, learning, and caring for every age and stage of life. Everything from online crafts, dance parties, singing, and poetry…to Instagram messages and phone trees. Watch for more of that to roll out over time.
Again, you can cancel meetings…but you can’t cancel the church because WE are the church–you and me.
So what can you do?
- First, continue to pray for the healing of our world…and do your part to help with the effort. We know this is not a life-threatening virus for the VAST majority of us…so let us be a non-anxious presence in a world wrought with fear. If you yourself have a pastoral need, please call the church right now–we want to be there for you.
- Second, keep the faith but don’t forget to give it away! As we’ve been saying all along, social or physical distance doesn’t have to mean spiritual distance. Set aside time EVERYDAY to do something you wouldn’t have done except for this time of separation. Write a note of gratitude— on paper— to a friend or family member; send a text or email to someone you haven’t talked to in at least 6 months; take a walk on your street picking up any trash you find along the way; and be sure to limit the time you spend taking news or being on social media. This is a time when many people are looking for hope and peace and love… tell them about what God is up to here at WCC.
- Third, be faithful in worship. Worship is the WHY of Wayzata Community Church. We are using these videos to communicate logistics with you so that we can preserve the Sabbath for rest and worship. Join us for online worship at all 4 of our regular worship times: 8, 9, 10:45 a.m., and 10:30 a.m. for our Parables worship. I used to say that unless you’re sick or out of town you should be in worship… and although the details of that invitation have changed the spirit is the same.
- Finally, to the very best of your ability, please keep your giving consistent. At this moment I’m very optimistic that we will weather this storm financially, but only if we all keep our giving current. If you haven’t yet made the move to electronic and recurring giving, this would be a great time to do so. Just visit our website and you’ll find links and information right on our homepage. No doubt some of you will have to cut back on your financial giving, so hopefully others of you will step up so we don’t have to reduce our mission work or diminish the ways we’re answering God’s call to inspire the world with the inclusive love of Jesus.
The psalmist gives us a great closing word for today 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.
I’ll see you in church… online… Sunday morning. Be well.
March 15, 2020
WCC Building Closure Notice
Members and Friends of Wayzata Community Church,
Today was a historic day in ways we would never wish for, as we chose to not gather together for worship in our building. But this isn’t about us. We are keeping distance, changing our behavior, and learning new ways to live… for the healing of our world.
We offered what many found to be a meaningful online worship experience this morning, and that experience will remain posted on our website and Facebook page for your access at any time. But over the hours of just this MORNING, our world and our own neighborhood has continued to change and we must change with it.
Our building is now closed to the public and will remain so until Monday, March 30, 2020. This includes both church and outside groups. But just as canceling worship in the building didn’t stop us from worshipping together, closing the church building won’t stop us from being the church. Remember: we are the church… and this is our calling in this moment… to be a non-anxious presence… to control the things that we can control… and to leave the rest to God. And, God willing, before too long this threat will be gone and we’ll be reunited.
Until that time, all of our Pastors remain available to you, and will continue calling on those in need. If you have an emergency pastoral need, please call the church office at 952-473-8877, extension 245. Our staff, boards, and committees will begin working remotely to keep the essential functions of the church running.
Below you will find some helpful resource links. I’ll be back in touch with you in the next few days with updates as needed. Until then, please continue to hold in prayer all those who have been impacted by this disease, and let’s join hearts and minds in changing behaviors… all for the healing of our world. Be well.
John F. Ross
March 13, 2020
Friends and Members of Wayzata Community Church,
If you haven’t yet viewed our video message from yesterday, March 12, please view it above.
Below is more information and details about our response to the COVID-19/Coronavirus.
WHAT WE ARE DOING:
- Offering online Sunday worship only. 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. on our website and Facebook for March 15 and March 22. (See details below.)
- Suspending all church meetings and ministries that involve 20 or more people— including all Wednesday programs and choirs, until Thursday, March 26.
- Following guidelines set forth by the MN Department of Health as it relates to visiting our sick and vulnerable members.
- Continuing to monitor the situation, and communicating as much as necessary. We will reevaluate our next steps no later than Wednesday, March 25.
- Postponing the Big Fish musical until May 20-24, and the High School Mexico Mission Trip until August 5-10.
- Keeping the church offices open and a Pastoral presence during regular hours.
- If you have needs or questions, please email or call the church office at 952-473-8877.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Pray. As people of faith, we believe in the importance of prayer–especially for the most vulnerable among us who are being most negatively affected by the virus.
- Be safe. Together we can make a difference in the spread of the virus. When in doubt, don’t go out. And if you have a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.
- Worship. Join us Sunday morning for online worship. It will be new and different for all of us, but God is full of surprises and lessons! (See details below.)
- Give. Please continue to support God’s work through WCC.
Gifts can be mailed in, made online at www.wayzatacommunitychurch.org, or texted to 952-800-9300.
- Lead. Show others by your attitude and actions that your life won’t be dictated by fear, but instead by faith. Be the non-anxious presence you hope to see in others.
We will join you in praying for our world. Join us, in imagining ways we can reach out to and care for those most negatively impacted. And let us not become victims of fear, but instead find new forms of faith in God as we continue to inspire the world with the inclusive love of Jesus.
Choosing faith over fear,
John F. Ross
March 12, 2020
A Message from John Ross, Senior Minister
Thanks for giving me a few minutes to bring you an important update about our church’s plans in the midst of the growing threat of COVID-19/Coronavirus.
First, once again we hold in prayer all who suffer as a result of this pandemic— particularly those in vulnerable conditions based on age, or health, or employment.
We find ourselves in a moment of leadership: who will do what… and when… to help reduce and eventually eliminate this very real threat among us. In a moment such as this, I believe the church is called to lead.
And at this moment we know enough from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and the Minnesota Department of Health… we know enough to know that at least for a period of time, we need to change our behavior and change the ways we come together.
So, for two weeks— this Sunday, March 15 and next Sunday, March 22—we will not be gathering together physically in the building for any of our regular worship services, but instead, using the technologies already available to us, we will gather together through an online worship experience at 8:00, 9:00, and 10:45 am. You simply need only go to our church website, www.
We’re not cancelling church— WE’RE the church… you and me. We’re just going to relate to one another… connect with one another in a different way for a while. SOCIAL distancing doesn’t HAVE to mean spiritual distancing.
This was a hard decision for us to make because we love to worship God— it’s what brought us together in the first place way back in 1881. AND… we love to be together… to learn, serve, and care in the example of Jesus. But this moment isn’t all about us… it’s about our community, nation, and world. If we can do this small thing to help lessen the suffering of the world, why wouldn’t we? And along the way, I bet we’ll learn some new things about the ways God works in our lives.
My two daughters are both being sent home from their colleges for a few weeks, so our whole family might be together for a few days. One of them said to me in a text message that this virus isn’t tearing us apart— it’s actually bringing us together. In a lot of ways she’s right…but that’s a choice we have to make… to come together even in ways and at times we never expected.
WCC serves a whole community of families caring for those with Special Needs through our Parables worship service, which will be suspended during this time as well. We also serve a huge population of people 70 and older so we’re postponing the Big Fish Musical until the end of May… AND we have a whole bunch of students we love very much, so we’re moving the Mexico Mission Trip from spring break to August 5-10.
Although I didn’t make any of these decisions on my own or in isolation, I can share with you the moment I knew we needed to take these steps. It occurred to me that, God willing, in a few months our nation and world might be rid of this terrible virus… and no one will remember that we didn’t hold worship as usual for a few weeks… but we WILL remember that we made a decision in the interest of others, with love of neighbor at its core… we’ll remember that in an uncertain moment the church decided to trust God… to follow Jesus… and to help lead the way.
We will continue to monitor all our sources of good information and if full quarantine and building closures become a reality, I’ll be back in touch again. Until then you should check-in with the leaders of any small groups, Boards, or Committees. Otherwise, you can expect an update from me next Wednesday in our weekly insight Email. Our staff and lay leaders are working hard to not only manage this reality as it affects our church… we’ve begun to anticipate needs in the community around us, and hope to offer meaningful support where we can.
For your part, keep making good decisions about your own behavior and points of contact. Be a non-anxious presence for those around you. And make your own preparations for an online worship experience: check your technology, make a connection to our website; set a quiet space in your home with a candle, your Bible, and a journal; and be open to what God is doing in YOU.
Let us remember in this moment… connected by electrons… the same words we speak at the close our times together in the Sanctuary… and say it with me: What does the Lord require of us? But to do justice… love kindness… and walk humbly with our God.
March 11, 2020
A Message from John Ross, Senior Minister
As we witness the increasing spread and impact of COVID-19/Coronavirus in our nation and around the world, I want to speak to the issue as it relates to us right here at home and at church.
First, we hold in prayer all those who are suffering as a result of this virus… believing that when even one member of the human family suffers, we all suffer.
Second, our building is a hub of activity— church, community, and countless outside groups. Our staff and clergy are making a variety of efforts to prepare for increased levels of threat and response— including the possibility for fully digital / online worship ONLY. We are monitoring the Minnesota department of health and local area schools, as it relates to the closing of our building and cancellation of worship services.
Until we reach that point, you can assume all normal programming continues. But, please, please, please use good judgment in coming to the building. Especially those considered at risk by the CDC–those 60+, pregnant, and immunocompromised— please use extra caution in deciding whether or not to come to church. And if anyone has a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, please get medical attention immediately.
Third, there are other things that I HOPE we will ALL do. Like getting our information and updates from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) or Hennepin County Public Health (https://www.hennepin.us/residents/emergencies/covid-19) …NOT from news outlets or opinion networks. And be measured and thoughtful in your use of social media. Our world is more connected than ever before… but that can be a blessing or a curse depending on how we choose to use it.
You’ve heard me say many times, that there are at least 365 times in the bible where we are encouraged to Be Not Afraid. So as a final note for this message, let me invite us all to lean into our faith, especially in these moments so fueled by fear… to be not afraid, to hear that as a commandment every day as we seek to be non-anxious presence in our homes, schools, places of work, and church.
In light of how rapidly things are changing with COVID-19/Coronavirus, you can expect regular communication from us via email, our website, social media platforms, and US Mail as appropriate. And for the time being… I’ll see you in church.