There is a little song we learn in Sunday School that says - “The church is not the walls. The church is not the steeple. The church is the people.”
Though we teach this sentiment to our children, it is often the adults who need the lesson most. Despite this proclaimed sentiment most of us associate our religious life with a space, a sanctuary and a building. We have memories all connected to a certain piece of property. During the last 10 weeks we have been challenged to re-think the essence of church. We have been challenged to claim this central tenet of faith - that while we love our real estate, the essence of a faith community is always its people.
We have had to do our worship online, and while you gain admission to the sanctuary you have bee deprived of the feeling of the pews on your backs, or the ability to gaze a different windows around our worship space. You have been unable to hear our choir sing or exchange a greeting with friends.
So that’s the bad news. But the good news is that you have been remarkably flexible! You have tuned into our worship services online on Sundays and again on Wednesdays in large numbers. Well over 200 viewers tune into the services most weeks. At Holy Week we topped 450 views with people finding us from all over New England and across the nation.
After worship we have had 12-20 families each week joining us to catch up, share stories of the pandemic and just see each other. The Coffee Hour has been a place to welcome one another, to celebrate birthdays, and last week we greeted our newest member - Sophia Grace Scinto - the daughter of Matt and Cara, who was 8 days old.
I also created 10 PODS of 8-10 families in each, and recruited 10 POD captains. (POD stands for Pilgrim Outreach Districts.) Over 65 of you have joined a POD and you meet weekly online. PODS have shared stories, shared the purchase of scallops from boats in Saquatucket, created book mobiles, taken care baskets to people. The POD captain for the Family Worship crowd recorded a special greeting from the Coffee Hour to share. These PODS have been so creative in making connections and sharing community. These PODS have been fun for you and a huge help to me, because they give me a better way to organize feedback and really keep track of who needs a pastor week to week.
Through the PODS we have been able to minister to one another - to pray for the sick, support folks who carry a heavy load and to celebrate the ways that life is still so vibrant all around us. Through the PODS we are building strong ties that bind us, creating deeper friendships, listening and sharing as God’s people.
So, while none of us expected this spring to unfold as it did, God has indeed worked through this time of social distancing. We have learned that Pilgrim Church is not the building, much as we love it; at its heart it is indeed the people. I hope that is a lesson we can hold onto as we imagine how to emerge from this time.