News for the Church, 4/2/21

O Happy Day to you Church!

The weather might still be nippy out right now, but today the sun is shining, yesterday’s snowfall is melting, and the crocuses are starting to bloom. Hallelujah!

Today I have loads of wonderful news to share with you, and I’m just about bursting at the seams I’m so excited! 🙂

PPP Loan

The first great news to share is that Sue Waters applied for us for the second round of PPP money, and we were approved for these stimulus funds from the federal Cares Act. To qualify for the forgivable loan, we had to show a 25% loss in revenue from at least one quarter in 2020. Because we met that requirement, we will be receiving $7,172 to help offset the financial burden that the pandemic has created for us in 2020. 

Free Lunch Friday returns

The next great bit of news to share with you is that starting next week, on April 9th, our Free Friday Lunch program will resume! Renee Stauffer, Sue Waters, Pat Roda, Robin Wilkinson, and Lydia, Levi, and Isaiah Stauffer will be making lunches and taking orders from people (who will wait for their pick-up orders outside in the parking lot). I know that our volunteers are delighted to be back together again and folks out in the community who have participated in Free Friday Lunch in the past are looking forward to it resuming. It’s been a long year of separation and financial hardship for many residents in Potsdam, but as more people choose to get vaccinated, we will again be able to gather together and help each other out more easily.

In-Person Worship resumes May2

Along these same lines, I have even more joyful news to share with you. Because the vast majority of us have been vaccinated–making it safe to gather together again– last night our Session met and approved returning to the sanctuary for Sunday worship. So…. barring any crazy spikes in Covid cases in our county in the next few weeks, the plan will be to return to in-person worship on MAY 2. 

Worship will not look like it did before the pandemic hit, however, which means that we will have to adjust our expectations. I think we’ve grown enough in this last year to be able to handle this though, haven’t we? Here are the details of how Sunday worship will work: We will set up the sanctuary for effective social distancing (cordoning off every other row of pews), we will continue to wear masks in the building at all times, and of course, ask that you stay home and watch online if you are not feeling well. For the time being we will also still refrain from congregational and choral singing, but when the weather is nice enough, we will gather together for coffee hour outside on the lawn. 

Can you imagine what it will be like to get together again? I can’t wait to see all of your smiling faces! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 

Making Accommodations

In addition to these changes to worship, there are a couple other things that will be different when we come back– things I need to ask you to find grace in your hearts for. You know that when I came on as pastor a year ago, I was still recovering from major back surgery and was not fully functional as an able-bodied person. I had hoped to be able to bounce back from this surgery like most people do, but in the last year, the underlying connective tissue disorder I have (called hypermobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, or hEDS for short) has made it clear that I cannot expect to be able to live as a fully-functioning, able-bodied individual all the time. I have good days, where I can walk around well enough, but I also have bad days, where the pain makes it unbearable to walk even a few steps. Some of you, who live with chronic pain, know what this is like, but for those of you whose bodies don’t give you any trouble, it may be hard to imagine living life on this yo-yo. 

As a consequence, however, I’ve needed to figure out a plan for how I will be able to physically serve as your pastor in the church building once we resume in-person worship. Thankfully, God has been paving a way! A friend of mine in Rochester is giving me an electric wheelchair, which I will leave at the church. This chair will give me the ability to freely move around the building on the days when my legs just won’t carry me. While this will be wonderful for me, it will likely be an adjustment for you. It’s not easy to see a young(er) person– especially your pastor– walking around “normally” one week, and then in a wheelchair the next week. It’s not easy to see this, I know, but I need to ask you to adjust your expectation of me in this way. My body is different from most people’s, but I’m still “me”– I’m still the same Pastor Katrina– whether I’m walking on two legs, or moving around in a wheelchair. 

The second part of my disability plan asks for your grace in another way, too. Even on my good days, it’s hard for me to stand for extended periods of time– like a person does to stand in the pulpit to preach. Most of the time I won’t be able to do this, so I will be preaching in a different way in the sanctuary. I will have a chair up on the chancel, and will preach like Jesus used to do– sitting down. I know that in our church, preachers in the past have always stood to deliver their sermons, so this will take some getting used to. And it may take a few weeks to figure out how to work all the bugs out of the system, so I need to ask for your patience in this process. But I know that you are compassionate people, and I know that you’ve gotten a lot of practice at adapting to new situations in the past year, so I’m hoping that you will be able to meet me where I’m at. 

I may not be able-bodied and look like a “normal” person all the time, it’s true, but my struggles with my body are part of what have helped me become a better pastor. I am better at dealing with crisis situations and learning to adapt to new situations because of living in this particular body; I am more aware of how painful your struggles are, after dealing with my own; I am more patient, compassionate, and open-hearted because of living with chronic pain; and most importantly, I have learned how to trust God in tough situations and step out in blind faith as a result of this body of mine. All of these skills and characteristics that I’ve gleaned over the years from dealing with disability, well, I believe that they will help us to maneuver more easily through whatever Big Shift it is that God is calling us to next in our life as a congregation. At first, you may not see these other important aspects of my disabilities when you see me riding around in a wheelchair, but over time I hope that you will come to appreciate them too. 

Dear Hearts, we serve a God of possibility– a God who takes our inabilities, our broken bits, our dead ends, our greatest mistakes, and even our hardened hearts, and out of this “terribleness,” makes beautiful, abundant life. 

As we walk our way through Holy Week this week, and as we begin to prepare our return to the sanctuary, I pray that you will look to find God’s goodness living within those broken bits, as well as in the adjustments that we have to make in order to accommodate living in this, sometimes, terrible world. 

In grace,
Pastor Katrina

p.s. Next week I have one more adjustment to talk to you about, for when we come back to the sanctuary. It will be a continuation of last week’s discussion about being a place that is welcoming of children in our midst. Stay tuned! 🙂