May 28, 2020 – Sammamish, WA
Last week a call went out for houses of worship to open up and provide gatherings inside our sanctuaries as soon as possible. The undersigned church leaders of the Sammamish Plateau long for the day when we can safely gather again in our buildings. We long to reach out to our community, shake hands, hug, receive the Sacraments, sing our hearts out, and experience Christ in all the old, familiar ways. The Holy Scriptures tell us, “Let us not neglect meeting together…” (Hebrews 10:25). However, we hold this holy desire together in loving tension with yet another command found in the Bible, “You are to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
For the time being, we believe that we can love our neighbors best by refraining from hosting large gatherings in our church buildings. For Christians, gathering in community to worship, fellowship, and share in the celebration of the Sacraments is deep in our DNA. It is not, however, what makes us the Church. Jesus' command that we love God with our whole being and our neighbor as we love ourselves is our foundation, our cornerstone. During these strange and unusual times, we are being called to love our neighbor in new and creative ways that protect the most vulnerable among us. We pray, serve, sing, encourage, support, laugh, and cry together through the online, written, and telephonic tools that allow us to do these things safely and protect our most vulnerable members and friends and the wider community.
The day will come when we will worship and meet in person again. Until that day, the undersigned clergy of Sammamish are committed to following guidance from our various judicatories, including the Center for Disease Control and the Washington State Department of Public Health, as outlined by Governor Jay Inslee’s 4 phase plan to reopen our state (Washington’s Phased Approach). We are clergy, not epidemiologists or doctors, and we rely on wisdom gleaned through these public servants to help us know when and how to phase our own reopening in such a way that we love our neighbors best and protect the most vulnerable who will gather in our buildings.
We are living in a time in which we’re experiencing the church as so much more than a building, and God’s Spirit as truly unbounded by walls, bricks, stone, or even denomination. Our willingness to give up that which we want for the sake of protecting the most vulnerable is a witness that will last long after the pandemic is over.
These are our priorities as congregational servant leaders on the Sammamish Plateau and they will guide our decisions moving forward.
In this we are united,
Debbie Boyce, Pastor Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church
Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey, Rector, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church
Pastor Eric Hanson, Sammamish Hills Lutheran Church
Kelly Hostetler, Pastor for Care and Families, Sammamish Presbyterian Church
Rev. Alan Johnson, Pastor, Regeneration Church
Dr. Jeff Lincicome, Senior Pastor, Sammamish Presbyterian Church
Pastor Mark Meredith, Pine Lake Covenant Church
Rev. Elizabeth Ingram Schindler, Lead Pastor, Faith United Methodist
Larry E. Thomas, Interim Pastor, Sammamish Hills Lutheran Church