A Letter From Pastor Scott
April 28, 2020
When will we get back in the Sanctuary?
This is a common question. People have been very supportive and receptive to livestreaming worship; however, we all miss the choir, and the feeling and awe of being in our Sanctuary for worship. We also miss the human contact, because central to our faith is the idea that the Body of Christ is community.
Until we have a vaccine, worship is going to be a very different reality. Just because the Governor makes a statement does not mean Westminster should open its doors. Our commitment to all of God’s children, young and old, is paramount to who we are as the Body of Christ. If one older person dies needlessly from COVID-19, or one younger person gets a stroke from COVID-19, because they contracted it at Westminster, I would be devastated. Westminster’s ministry needs to continue, but in a way that is safe for all its people.
Down the road we might have a “reopening” of sorts. Perhaps we will have two or three services, where people can enter the Sanctuary six to eight feet apart, with families or individuals sitting eight feet from other families, and in every other row in the pews. Westminster music will be different because the choir members will have to remain further apart. Over the next few weeks, we will begin pondering what loosening restrictions might look like.
Until we have a vaccine, “normal” will be very different from what normal used to be in worship and in the greater society. We will
continue to not only respond to changes, but look ahead to the future, in an organized and compassionate way. We will be realistic, but also trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We will work to restore community, even if that means doing it in new and unconventional ways. God’s people have always adapted and thrived in changing times. We will do likewise. Continue to pray for wisdom and for the faithful at Westminster to embrace necessary transition, so our ministry will not only survive, but thrive for generations to come.
A Letter From Pastor Scott
April 21, 2020
Sunday is our Confirmation celebration. On Monday, the Session met with the confirmands by Zoom. It is amazing how resilient the Session members and the confirmands were, getting to know each other, hearing the confirmands Statements of Faith, and talking about their faith commitment. We broke into three sub-groups. I was so impressed with the youth in my group and heard the other two sub-groups had wonderful experiences as well. It affirmed yet again that Westminster’s children and youth ministries continue to produce spiritual fruit.
A few weeks ago, at our Program Staff meeting, we reflected on how life would have been different if we had a pandemic 10 or 20 years ago. There would be no binge watching on Netflix. That would be horrific, but let’s just talk about the church impact for a moment. There would not have been Zoom, so there would not have been meetings. Live-streaming our worship would have been extremely difficult, plus our internet access would not have been able to handle it, to say nothing of how few people had the computer access necessary to watch the service.
There are still so many blessings, even in the midst of physical distancing. It has forced us to move to a new reality. I trust live-streaming will continue even after we get back to worshiping in the Sanctuary. It will change how we remain community. Our faith community may be national – or even international – with members participating online, rather than in person. Ponder for a moment, what that will mean for our church activities. How do we offer youth gatherings, when a third of our youth are online only? Adult education may have a class after worship, but it will also be live on the website. How do we provide care to people in England? The pandemic is making the opportunity to share the Good News in new and exciting ways.
Rather than just bemoan this challenge, it just may actually expand Westminster’s ministry and the greater message of Jesus Christ. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us to creatively grow amidst a quickly changing world. Further, pray that each of us who long for the way things were, are able to embrace new ways of sharing ministry.
Finally, I want to thank you for your commitment to Westminster. At least, in March, our giving was about the same as 2019. That is amazing. This expresses your love of Christ and Westminster. Together, we can continue to support one another and bring the love of God to the Des Moines area and the rest of the world. This challenging time reminds us of what is truly important in life, and that our faith remains central to who we are, which is children of the living God.
A Letter From Pastor Scott
April 15, 2020
I went into Easter with trepidation. It ended up being so meaningful for me personally. The music was wonderful and the number of people who seemed to attend the live-stream, shows that people were into the service and the Easter celebration. While different, Easter still felt like a celebration.
This coming Sunday was supposed to be Jazz Sunday, with the Killinger Big Band. Of course, we are not able to have the band with us, but we are planning on having the Killinger Big Band with us shortly after we return to worshiping in public again. Still, this Sunday we are looking forward to a Jazz emphasis. Most of the music will be jazz and I plan to use the later 1930’s Jazz as an illustration for the Scripture lesson. Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington will be emphasized. I would encourage you to listen to some of their music before Sunday, just to get a feel for the period of time and a feel for Swing music.
Along with worship, we continue to provide ministries for Youth and Children’s education. In two weeks during worship, we will honor our Confirmands during the Confirmation Celebration. Zoom and other computer options have provided a way to keep not only fellowship, but also Christian instruction and support going in meaningful ways. I am so impressed with our program staff for the new ways they have developed to provide creative ministry.
Finally, continue to go over the church prayer list and spend some time praying over each person. Please keep us updated if you have a loved one on the list. Also, add your own prayer requests on the list. Even if it appears long, there is still room for everyone to add their request. We miss you all but appreciate your continued participation.
God Bless You,
A Letter From Pastor Scott
April 8, 2020
It was Martin Luther who coined the phrase, “the Priesthood of all believers.” Throughout my ministry, I’ve worked hard to make that the cornerstone of my call. If I am “doing” ministry without guiding others to adopt and share their own ministry, I have not performed my ministry well. That is one of the reasons why this time has been so personally challenging. Usually, the staff and I work diligently to guide others in utilizing their ministries. This is particularly challenging when we are all asked to stay shut-up in our homes.
Then I realized how ministry continues to take place in our lives. It isn’t just the staff making “pastoral” calls to the members of the congregation. There are a number of people making calls and providing support. Even amidst social distancing, we are all praying for one another. Worship takes on new meaning as we work to remain in contact. Christian Education is taking place as a family, rather than in classrooms. Devotions are being read and even listened to on Facebook. Soon, the Book of Revelation bible study will be available on the website. Youth are even gathering and learning on Zoom.
God continues to work in our midst. It will take all of us praying for each other as this virus peaks in Iowa. More of us are going to get sick and we will need to rely on each other; knowing that others are praying makes a huge difference. The prayers of our church family and the presence of the Holy Spirit will guide us as we continue to be “the Priesthood of all believers.” Keep reaching out and God will guide us through to the other side.
A Letter From Pastor Scott
March, 25 2020
The last week and a half have been challenging, yet, we’ve had a number of blessings along the way. Sunday worship went well. We had a great turnout and the technology went without a hitch. To make everything go smoothly the first week had to include God’s hand. On a personal level, I was concerned that it would not feel enough like a worship experience that I could preach with meaning. While it felt strange, listening to Juli’s playing, the quartet’s singing, and Jan’s prayers made the service come alive, and I felt the movement of the Spirit and a passion to share the message. From the people I heard from, it appears that same feeling was conveyed through the live stream. God is at work in our midst.
Care is taking place, with staff and others in our church family. As we reach out by phone, we are remaining connected, helping to bridge the isolation. While we’ve worked hard to make intentional calls, I know the church family is also reaching out to one another informally as well. In some ways, all of us are reaching out more than ever, which is a wonderful consequence to this awful situation.
We are blessed to have our staff working hard. Drew and Tiffany are preparing age appropriate activities to nurture our faith life while separated. Ruth continues to keep up with donations, paying bills, payroll, and all the other parts of her job. The church is being cleaned and maintained. Many of the staff are working from home. In the last week we organized a way to have one-on-one meetings as well as larger staff meetings online. We continue to need your prayer. If any of us gets sick, or even quarantined, it will be hard to keep this level of ministry going. While we are working to set up redundancies, much of what we do cannot be addressed by volunteers or even other staff members. Please pray for your staff each day. Please know that we are praying for each of you.
Communication is primary during this time. Thank you to all who have made a prayer request. Please pray through these names and situations each week. As the list gets longer, rather than feeling despair, find strength in knowing God’s hand is responding to each prayer and bringing healing to our families, our church, our community, and our world. Reach out to each other, and reach out to God, that is the way we will get through this time. Praise God!
A Letter From Pastor Scott
Wednesday, March 18
All of us are feeling the anxiety that comes with the unknown. Thank goodness we are not going through this alone, but we have each other and the Holy Spirit’s care. There are a number of protocols we are putting in place to provide care through this challenging time. While church life will be significantly different in the short-term, it can be profoundly meaningful. We will keep each other close through phone, Facetime, email, and other forms of communication. Keeping a physical distance does not mean we must keep spiritual and emotional distance.
Let me fill you in on the process we’ve put together thus far. Things will continue to transition, but this is how we are going to begin:
The staff will be working from home and the office. With the church building closed, staff should be safe to work from home and church. When staff work from home, the church phones may not be answered immediately. We will get an email that you called, and we will return your call. The staff will be working hard, but in a unique way throughout this time. Committees and other groups can continue to meet, if necessary, but will need to do so by Zoom or another form of online communication.
During this time of distancing, staff and volunteers will make phone and Facetime calls, and send emails of support to those under their responsibility. We already have a number of church people wanting to volunteer. Please call Susan at church if you would like to volunteer to make calls or assist in some other way. We are putting together lists to provide calls to those most vulnerable and isolated, but it is also important for us to reach out to each person in the church, making sure everyone receives care. If you are struggling, please be sure to reach out and call the church.
During this time, we want to make prayer a central part of Westminster Cares. Please email Jan Scott your Prayer Requests at . You can also submit Prayer Requests through our website under Watch Live. There is an option to submit Prayer Requests. We want to remain intentional in providing confidentiality, but also prayerfully communicate with each other. Please let us know if you want your prayer request to be “pastors only,” for staff, or for public prayers. We will honor your request. If you are praying for someone else, please contact them first and get their permission before you offer them in prayer. You will save Jan and myself a lot of time contacting you, if you share the level of confidentiality with us in your prayer request
Worship Services and Other Spiritual Practices
Worship services will be streamed live over the internet. You can find them on our website, westpres.org. If you are not comfortable using a computer, please call or email Susan at , and we will add you to our DVD list and send it to you each week. You can also watch the service any time throughout the week on the Westminster website as well.
Live streaming the services will include a way to follow along with the Order of Worship and Hymns. We encourage you to say the responses and sing along with the hymns, just like you were sitting in the pew. We will continue to offer Communion the first Sunday of the month. You will just need to provide your own bread and juice or wine (just a shot!). Regarding baptisms, we are offering families the chance to baptize their children during this time at the live streaming service or wait until we are back to public worship. So far, families have chosen to wait until we can celebrate worshiping all together in the Sanctuary.
In addition to hymns and an anthem led by Aaron and the Westminster Choral Scholars, Juli will continue to play the organ and piano.
I will continue to write my Daily Devotions. You can call the church and ask to receive it by email, or access it from the website. Daily Devotions are another way to remain spiritually focused during these challenging times.
This is a challenging issue that continues to change daily, based on the information we receive from governmental reports. At this point in time, we will be offering private funerals in the Sanctuary or Chapel for those who desire them during this time. We will be limiting who can attend, keeping the numbers low. Families could decide to wait and have a Memorial Service when it is safe to invite everyone; or, we would be willing to have a private service now and a public Memorial Service when it is deemed safe.
We do not have a wedding in the next few months, so we have time to evaluate our options closer to the time.
We have temporarily closed the Preschool. We have closed it until the end of March, and then will evaluate whether it is safe to reopen. We will not open until it is clearly safe for children, family, and teachers. The Session provided additional dollars for teachers suffering financially, but we will not be able to pay them during the closure. The teachers are allowed to negotiate with parents who want to hire teachers personally or find other positions until we reopen. Preschool families will also be given the option to continue to pay their fees, during this time, with income going to the teachers. The teachers were gracious and supportive even amidst their hardships. I respect each one of them so much. It, yet again, shows how blessed we are to have these special teachers in our Preschool.
Westminster houses three homeless families, seven days a week, from about 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Then these families usually go to other churches for the evening and stay overnight. We’ve offered Family Promise the opportunity to keep the families in our church 24/7, and they will begin doing that this week. Commercially prepared food will be brought in for the families to minimize the use of volunteers. If one or more of the families get sick, they will be moved to a special government-provided shelter. We will have the rooms cleaned professionally before they are used again.
We are blessed to have Seth and Jason on staff, as our Building Supervisor and Head Custodian. They, along with our Preschool custodian, will be doing regular deep cleaning of all the church spaces. The one benefit of a shutdown is it gives the staff time to clean floors and other surfaces thoroughly.
In the coming weeks, you will be receiving a large number of requests for financial gifts from any number of desperate organizations. While they are all beneficial, this is a moment in time when Westminster’s future is in real jeopardy. Let those without faith communities to care for provide for the needs of other organizations. This is a moment when we need your pledge commitment and other gifts. Some families will be unable to give because of job loss. This crisis will require those of us who still have jobs and ongoing income to step up and provide more, in their place.
Please pray for those suffering with the virus or other health issues, and for those struggling economically, or emotionally. While this time will be challenging for all of us, it can be a rewarding time as well. Westminster will continue to be a caring community, reaching out in faith, hope, and love.
God bless each one of us and our world!