Healthy New Year
If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:8
As we are moving into the new year, I am painfully aware of the losses our presbytery family is facing: losses from deaths, pastoral transitions, and the constantly changing requirements of COVD. Thank God we have the assurance of eternal life, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, and we are welcoming new members into the presbytery, but the losses are grievous.
In the past month, we have heard that death has come too close to several members of the San Gabriel Presbytery family. After a few short months in Pennsylvania near her inlaws, Becca Bateman lost her mother-in-law, who died suddenly at the age of 58. Incoming Presbytery member Amy Mendez moved here to be near family, including her sister who had been battling cancer; her sister died right before Christmas. David Pak’s sister also died from cancer on Christmas Day. Nancy Moore’s husband Stan died right after New Year’s. And this weekend we just learned that Bryce Little’s wife Phyllis and San Gabriel minister member Andy Jarvis passed away. As far as I know, none of these deaths were caused by COVID, though it makes things more complicated and it restricted the time that some people could spend with their loved ones in their last days.
We also have a number of churches saying good-bye to their pastors. In the last several months, several pastors have retired or announced plans to retire: Sam Kim (Divine Light), Martha and Twining Campbell (Westminster Pasadena), Mariko Yanagihara (New Hope) and Bruce Myers (West Covina). Erik Dailey (Eagle Rock and Occidental) took another call in San Fernando Presbytery. Several associate pastors have left their churches for new chapters in ministry: Becca Bateman (San Marino), Ally Lee (Knox), and Steve Wiebe and Hyosub Lee (Pasadena).
And COVID rages on. According to the LA Times data tracker, cases in LA County are 32.7% higher than two weeks ago, and deaths are almost triple the rate two weeks ago. So we are not yet on the other side of the Omicron surge. There is a new order requiring all employers to have free respirators (N95, KN95, KF94) available for employees. Omicron spreads so quickly, several of our churches have already moved back to online worship. Thank God we are able to be agile, but the changes are dizzying.
The County is constantly updating information and infographics, such as a list of Best Practices for Communities of Faith and a handout on upgraded mask options. In the Best Practices document, there’s a list of guidelines for performers or presenters—in other words, worship leaders, choirs, and preachers:
- The presenter/performer should be fully vaccinated and boosted, if
- The presenter/performer should have a negative COVID-19 test result within 2 days prior to the service (if PCR) or within 1 day (if antigen). [free antigen tests: https://www.covidtests.gov/]
- The presenter/performer should be physically distanced at least 12 feet from all others while
- The presenter/performer must wear a mask when not actively presenting/performing.
- Only one presenter/performer may be unmasked at any given
- The presenter/performer should use a microphone to amplify their voice during the service, if possible, and should be aware that the louder they project their voice, the greater the risk of producing respiratory aerosols.
- Choirs and singers must be masked and physically distanced from each other and the audience as much as possible.
With all the stressors on us, the reasonable thing to do is to watch out for our spiritual, emotional, and mental health as well as our physical health, and to offer resources to our congregations and neighbors.
I am thankful that we will be able to offer some important information—and some practice—to help us get through this difficult time. I still believe that in 2022 we will see some relief from the pandemic, and good things are happening, but it is my hope we will be healthy enough to recognize God’s blessings as they come our way.
Like with our physical health, we can pray, and give thanks, and care for ourselves and each other—and we can also give thanks for mental health resources and expertise that God provides through therapists, academics, and mental health professionals. In our upcoming WinterFest, we will be able to learn about ways to be resilient and compassionate, for our sake and the sake of our churches. As we gain more understanding of our human vulnerabilities, we become even more able to live into the gospel, and offer Christ’s healing spirit to a hurting world.
I invite you to register for Winterfest, and block off the first week of February. WinterFest is a great way for us to connect as a Presbytery learning and caring community, and I look forward to seeing you on Zoom.
You can get more information and register through our website, or go to https://sangabpres.org/wf/ or the link in the Monday Update.
Blessings, and may you feel the peace and persistent mercy of Jesus Christ,